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Campers east of Ottawa face a rate hike of up to 57 per cent for next season

The new owners of a campground in Alfred, Ont. have shocked members, who have been told next season's rate would increase as much as 57 per cent. The proposed rate increase has left some unhappy campers, with little time to choose whether to stay or go.

Bonnie Lacroix began camping in the summer of 2020 as a way to get away on weekends, and decompress from the pressure faced by her job in healthcare. 

"I purchased my trailer in July and moved into the campground at the end of the following month," Lacroix says. "At the time it was known as Evergreen Camping, I had found it and really loved what I saw. The campers were great and the activities that they had there is a swimming pool, there is a park they just installed and a community."

It’s a little piece of seasonal paradise which André Desjardins loves too. For more than three years, his family has been spending many summer days at the campground, about one hour east of Ottawa.

"It’s a family atmosphere," Desjardins says. "Anybody and everybody that comes over to our park says this is probably the nicest park they’ve seen in a long time. It’s well maintained and the campers take care of their lots."

From May to October, campers can enjoy all the amenities of the grounds. Many will also install decks around trailers, as well as gazebos and sheds on their property as campsites are rented year-round.

"Everything was great, the culture was great in that campground but in May of 2022 we were given a letter stating it had been purchased by Harmony Resorts," Lacroix says. "And that there would be some things that would be changing but for the most part things would be staying the same. But at the same time it made us all nervous."

In April 2022, CTV News Ottawa reported that Harmony Resorts had purchased the Reid Lake Campground in Renfrew, Ont., where campers there faced a sharp and surprising increase in rates.

"We knew there would be an increase and let's face it with the cost of living going up, we can appreciate that," says Lacroix. "In 2022, they left the rates as they were from the original owner and in 2023 they sent us a letter stating that they were going to be increasing the costs eight per cent. For me, that came to $3,450 which was very palatable.”

Lacroix and Desjardins say during a meeting with the new management of the renamed Harmony Resorts Ottawa East, they were informed the rates of long-standing clients would be 'grandfathered' and would gradually increase to the new prices. They say the company felt that was market appropriate.

"It was a gut punch to everybody"

Last week, Harmony Resorts sent out an email to clients, informing them of the next season's prices, which Desjardins calls shocking and unattainable. 

"I’m going up $1,910 and that represents a 40 per cent increase," he says. "It was a gut punch to everybody and I believe so far we’ve had 12 to 14 campers that are gone now. Everybody thought there was a resolution."

Lacroix says her rate has spiked 57 per cent.

"My price will be $5,085," Lacroix says. “Getting hit with such an increase is undue hardship and we’ve had campers that have had no choice but to start tearing down and pulling trailers out because they cannot afford it."

CTV News reached out to Harmony Resorts on Sept. 27, and has not received a response. However, in an email sent to Ottawa East clients, the company points to "unprecedented price increases" in the economy and said that it is not reasonable to keep the same rates.

"In order to operate the park to an acceptable standard and address the maintenance of the facilities, the rates needed to match our expenses. We hope that you can see the need for upgrades and funding for the parks operational well-being and your happiness for the seasons to come," the email said. "In 2024 we will continue to beautify the park as we have done this year. I think we can agree that the park management team did a wonderful job in bringing up the standard and they will continue to focus on the future projects in 2024 such as the fencing project and other projects that will be approved this winter."

"It is unfortunate for some of the people that have been there a long time and I appreciate and understand how some campers get attached to their campground, which is a wonderful thing," says Alexandra Anderson, executive director of the Ontario Private Campground Association. "Campgrounds are privately run businesses and it’s up to the owner, the operator to set the rates for their business. In some instances, some of the older owners may have given their clients rates that were not necessarily market rates and an ownership group has to make that business decision on what they are going to have as their rates for the next year."

The predicament now for campers like Desjardins and Lacroix is either to stay and pay, or tear out and leave by October 15. The latter of the options has left them with little time to remove their deck, shed and trailer as well as find a place to store it.

"I have no other place to go right now," says Desjardins. "I want to see Harmony Resorts stand up to the agreement that they made in 2022 to the campers."

"I may have no choice but to pay this year and really reconsider next year once I have the time and the information on what it is I need to do," Lacroix says. "It shouldn’t have happened this way; they could have done better as a company." Top Stories

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