Many long-time residents and visitors to New Brunswick's York and Carleton counties remember spending hot summer days frolicking on the North Lake beach.
After more than a decade and a half, those summer days at the lake can continue this summer with the opening of the newly restored beach and campground at North Lake Provincial Park.
After a one-year delay, the restored beach opened for public use in early June, with plans to open the campground in early July.
The government provided summer staff for several years to oversee the beach and camping area, but eventually cut back on those services.
As early as 1998, Local Service District officials began discussing the issue with government officials, noting concerns about safety and noise at the largely unsupervised beach. A few years later, the government closed the beach.
In 2004, Partners For Youth, an organization devoted to providing programs and services for at-risk youth, began using the North Lake campground for summer programs. In 2006, the organization signed a 25-year-lease with the government to use the campground.
In the spring of 2021, the provincial government announced plans to reopen the beach and campground, arranging to sign a new lease with Partners For Youth at another spot on the lake where it now operates Tippy Canoe Camp.
In its 2021 letter to the Western Valley Regional Service Commission, the government announced plans to reopen the beach area and campground that summer. But, citing timing and budget restrictions, it put those plans on hold.
In June 2021, the River Valley Sun reported on the delay.
"Our intention at the time that the letter was sent was to move ahead with that plan, but through further discussions and as we worked with Partners for Youth, that changed," Erin Illsley, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development said in an email at the time.. "We continue to work with our partners, including Partners for Youth, for their programs as well as a plan for the future of the North Lake Beach area."
In 2021, the government directed much of its focus and funding to provide access and upgrades to the new Partners For Youth camp, delaying work on the planned North Lake Provincial Park to 2022.
In a River Valley Sun story on April 9, the New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture confirmed its plans to upgrade and open the park this summer.
"It is anticipated to have the North Lake beach area open for day use on June 4," department spokesperson Coreen Enos said. "The department is working towards having the campground open to welcoming guests by the long weekend in July."
The plans appear mainly on target. The restored beach is now open, with plans to open the campground on July 5.
North Lake Provincial Park will offer day-use amenities at the beach and a 56-site campground. Six sites have electrical (15amp), and the remainder is unserviced.
Campers can book camping spots online through the NB Parks Reservation site.
During the years it was closed to the public, the North Lake beach fell into disrepair, requiring significant upgrades. The abandoned beach saw the sand overtaken by grass and weeds. The government delivered several truckloads of sand to restore the beach.
The government appears to have delivered on most of the plans it described to the WVRSC in April 2021.
The plans included upgrading the parking and beach area, new change rooms, toilets, picnic tables and waste cans. The department was to provide daily on-site support, including ensuring the beach area was clean and maintained. Currently, the beach restoration does not include plans to provide water and sewer at the park.
While the total cost of the beach and campground restoration has not been released, the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture received $214,526 in funding from the Canada Community Building Fund to help support the project.
— With files from Judy Cole-Underhill
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun