Parks Canada is putting in new accommodations at Cavendish Campground for the 2021 season, but due to concerns raised by the local council, there will be fewer of them.
The new bunkies caused concern for those offering accommodations in the area, who say they can't take competition after being hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 as well as post-tropical storm Dorian in 2019.
During a recent council meeting of the Resort Municipality, which includes the communities of Stanley Bridge, Bayview, Hope River, Cavendish and North Rustico, representatives for the municipality suggested Parks Canada delay the development of bunkies in the campground out of consideration for area operators.
"I see both sides of it. Obviously as mayor I welcome new investment in the community and new products. On the other side of it, I realize you know it's tax dollars competing with private business," said Matt Jelley, mayor of the Resort Municipality.
"Cavendish obviously has a huge inventory from campgrounds to cabins to cottages, and so Parks' role in a community like this perhaps should be different, perhaps not, and I think council wanted to engage in that discussion."
Developments at Cavendish Campground in P.E.I. National Park represent an important investment to replace damaged visitor facilities. — Stacey Evans, Parks Canada
Parks Canada does not need a building permit from the municipality, Jelley said, but officials do ask for council's input.
"Is this the right time, and was it insensitive of Parks to [offer accommodations]?" Jelley asked.
Initial plans scaled back
In an email to CBC News, Parks Canada described its plans for new, off-grid roofed accommodations called bunkies at its campground in Cavendish, one of its most popular P.E.I. sites.
They will be three by five metres, designed for two people but able to accommodate four with a loft, and light enough to be moved if needed due to climate change.
"Parks Canada has observed an increased number of two-person camping parties, and have had feedback from campers who love the Otentik model, but feel it is too big for their needs," said spokesperson Stacey Evans.
"As traditional park users age and their children become independent, they are no longer in search of space to accommodate their entire family. A small and cozy structure such as a bunkie is more appealing to them while still providing the benefits of camping that they enjoy."
Bunkies to be built at Dalvay
Parks had originally planned to build five to seven bunkies, and said out of consideration for local operators it will build only three for 2021, delaying the remainder till 2022. Parks Canada staff will work on them over the winter at its Dalvay property.
Nightly rental cost is yet to be determined, Parks Canada said.
But it won't go so far as to cancel the plans for bunkies.
"Developments at Cavendish Campground in P.E.I. National Park represent an important investment to replace damaged visitor facilities, and to revitalize the range of visitor services and experiences offered in the park, which we hope will bring many more visitors to the region and benefit local businesses," Evans said.
Jelley said what is important to the municipality is really not the number of bunkies or when they'll go up, but rather having an overarching discussion about Parks Canada's role in the busy tourism area on an ongoing basis.
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