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Campground flood recovery progress ahead of Memorial Day weekend


MILTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Memorial Day weekend is almost here to kick off the Green Mountain state’s beloved camping season. But after catastrophic flooding last July, some campgrounds were severely damaged.

Vermont State Parks says day entries for activities like hiking and fishing decreased by 20% statewide last summer during the wet weather.

But some parks, like Onion River Campground and Camp Plymouth State Park, were flooded so badly that they didn’t reopen after July.

“Even the plants and trees seem to have a new life and it’s sort of a brighter existence than I’ve ever seen before,” said Jaquelyn Rieke of Onion River Campground.

Rieke says flooding caused a 120-foot crevice through the land that was 20 feet wide and 8 feet deep. It went through their water and electrical lines and septic system, leaving them without wifi or power for almost 2 months. The bridge also collapsed, leaving over 20 people on the other side looking to get out.

“When people get here in May, sometimes they plan to be here for six months and that’s their life plan. So a lot of physical repair with the land and then social repair in terms of people finding a new direction for how to live,” said Rieke.

Rieke closed the camp at the end of August and reopened this May. Now, the bridge has been repaired by the town, and the campground has been restored thanks to community support, a state grant, and FEMA and SBA loans.

“We have a lot of our sights filled for the season and we expect a busy season just like 2020, 2021, 2022,” said Rieke.

The 2023 flooding spanned all over the state, including in Plymouth.

Nate McKeen, Director of Vermont State Parks, says Camp Plymouth’s Buffalo Brook flooded off the mountain, leaving sand, silt, and water in its path – impacting cottages, concession stands, the land, and playgrounds.

“It’s gonna come down to the wire. We have a lot of work going on right now,” said McKeen.

He says it took intense design work to figure out how to repair the park, but they’re planning on a Memorial Day weekend open.

“July seems like a long time ago. We got most of our state parks open soon after the flood. There were a handful of them where they were significantly impacted,” said McKeen.

For Camp Plymouth and others impacted, McKeen says they’re optimistic for a popular and drier year of camping.

“We’re looking for a really busy year,” he said.

Other areas still struggling include the Winhall Brook camping area in Londonderry, which is closed for the summer.

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