Campground upgrades on hold to fund community programs

After a fire devastated its campground last month, the Kiwanis Club of Saint Andrews has decided to spend most of its revenue toward community programs in 2023, placing planned campground infrastructure upgrades on the back burner.

About $132,000 will be spent on community programs and organizations, while any leftover revenue will go into the campground, said Vernon Lister, president of the Kiwanis Club of Saint Andrews. A figure for the club's total revenue wasn't available.

Lister said a committee sits down at the end of each season every year and devises a plan to allocate the money in the bank. The club supports organizations like the Charlotte County Archives and the Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre, as well as school breakfast programs.

The club had planned infrastructure upgrades to the campground, but those will now have to wait due to the kitchen shelter fire, he said. Planned upgrades included putting in a new office, underground wiring and about 25 extra 50-amp outlets for larger RVs. Repairs will also need to be made to the smoke-damaged sections of the campground's electrical building, while an alternate kitchen structure will need to be created.

On Oct. 26, shortly after 7 a.m., firefighters responded to a call at the Kiwanis Club Oceanfront campground to find a standalone kitchen structure fully engulfed in flames, the Telegraph-Journal previously reported. Upon following up with Lister after the fire, the newspaper learned that the loss was "substantial," although Lister could not put a dollar figure to it.

In a Nov. 10 press release, the Kiwanis Club said due to the fire, it was "preparing to cut back the planned capital expense projects at the campground for next year. Although the planned improvements to amenities at the campground are important, there is a firm belief that the community’s needs come first."

In an interview this week, Lister mentioned that the electrical building with smoke damage on the inside will be the club's priority in terms of upgrades, followed by a new office. He said there has not yet been an assessment of how much money the building would require, but if the whole electrical component of it has to be replaced, he estimated it would cost about $100,000.

"A pretty substantial cost," he said.

He said the kitchen structure would most likely be replaced with a tent until money can be generated for repairs and upgrades.

He added that the Kiwanis has not asked the Town of Saint Andrews for help and the club is hoping to get the insurance money for the lost structure. He confirmed the campground will be open next season.

"We are just keeping our fingers crossed and everything will work out," he said.

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal