Deer Lake family, park developer butt heads over environmental concerns

·4 min read
Jean Young, left, and her daughter Sara Young walk along the recently cleared RV lots near Deer Lake Beach. They are worried the company developing this land is not taking the environment into consideration. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Jean Young, left, and her daughter Sara Young walk along the recently cleared RV lots near Deer Lake Beach. They are worried the company developing this land is not taking the environment into consideration. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)

A popular campground and park in Deer Lake is getting a substantial makeover but a local family says the company behind the renovation is damaging the environment and not following the rules.

Stirling Group acquired the land at the Deer Lake Municipal RV park in 2019 with plans to update the facilities and install hundreds of recreational vehicle lots near Deer Lake Beach and near the Humber River on Newfoundland's west coast.

But resident Sara Young says the company has developed land past the park's original footprint and the construction is affecting the salmon in the river and what she says are several species of waterfowl that depend on the nearby ponds and an island near the park.

"This feels like this is being taken from our town and our community and it's going to be utilized for commercial gain. It's going to turn into a commercial enterprise and it will no longer be a part of our community the way it's always been the way when I grew up," she said.

Young says after comparing previous images of the park to what it looks like today, she believes the company has moved construction past any buffer zones.

Sara Young says she's concerned the development of the Deer Lake RV park and campground is damaging the environment and affecting wildlife in the area.
Sara Young says she's concerned the development of the Deer Lake RV park and campground is damaging the environment and affecting wildlife in the area.(Colleen Connors/CBC)

But Stirling Group owner Jon Stirling says there is "a lot of misinformation" about the project, and redevelopment is nowhere near the water or wildlife.

"This is a 60-year-old RV park. We are in no way working near a salmon river in the footprint we are working on right now," he said.

Young says she frequently visits the construction site, and she has a problem with the type of the gravel the company is using to elevate the area and install water, sewer and power lines for 100 lots.

This area of the park used to be trees and vegetation but it's recently been cleared and filled in to make room for 80 to 100 RV lots.
This area of the park used to be trees and vegetation but it's recently been cleared and filled in to make room for 80 to 100 RV lots.(Colleen Connors/CBC)

"This used to be filled with lots of trees and alders and lots of vegetation," she said. "If unregulated quarry fill is used in this area, sediment can go into the water and contaminate the water."

This picture shows what the park used to look like in 2019, before construction started.
This picture shows what the park used to look like in 2019, before construction started.(Deer Lake Municipal RV Park/Facebook)

Her mother, Jean, calls the area a war zone. Jean Young, who's served several terms as a town councillor wants the town to stop any construction from continuing until it's clear the Stirling Group isn't damaging any wildlife habitats.

"Stop development until we know it's being done right," she said.

Construction setbacks

Since acquiring the land in 2019, the Stirling Group has experienced major construction setbacks because of flooding and COVID-19 restrictions and delays.

Because of the early spring weather, Stirling said, the company has been able to clear the land and start prepping for electricity, water and sewer installation, and hopes to have part of the park open to campers this summer.

Stirling says his wife Deidre, who's from the area, has a strong connection to the park, and he's developing it to boost tourism in Deer Lake, while staying on what he calls the green side.

"It's basically a redevelopment of an existing footprint of 40 lots that we intend to expand to a couple hundred lots and make it a destination resort for Deer Lake and the community," he said.

Expansion

While he plans to develop more land adjacent to the RV park in five to 10 years, he said, for now the project is not getting any closer to the river than it already is. A portion of the park is within 200 metres of it, and they have stopped work on that, per an agreement with a recent environmental assessment.

Jon Stirling reviews some of the designs for the Deer Lake RV park, which he purchased in 2019. He says misinformation is circulating about the development and its environmental impact.
Jon Stirling reviews some of the designs for the Deer Lake RV park, which he purchased in 2019. He says misinformation is circulating about the development and its environmental impact.(Colleen Connors/CBC )

"Once we move ahead and try to expand further we will apply for the proper assessments and or permits to more forward with that portion of the project." he said.

Stirling said he also plans to transplant several trees that had to come down during the clearing process.

"Right now the shoreline is [being] brought up to meet last year's flood levels and beyond so this year when we put our infrastructure in it's going to be protected. What you see right now is a quick fix to stop any water from getting in, but not by any means a final product," he said.

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