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Midnight Madness

by Suzanne Gammon
Tribune


After 65 years, the iconic Dutrisac Campground in Sturgeon Falls is shutting down. Owner Mike Stevens says he has no choice but to close at the end of this season, declaring the business has been “regulated to death.”


For generations of campers, the site along Pierre Road on the shore of Lake Nipissing has been the summer destination of choice – a place where family and friends get together and create memories. Stevens himself has been working there for 49 years, starting when he was just 8, and says the campers are like family to him, making the decision all the more heart wrenching. However, the 62-year old notes that his health is failing and he just doesn’t have it in him to keep fighting an uphill battle against rising costs and ever-changing regulations.


Stevens says over the past ten years, he’s had to invest over a million dollars to bring his water and waste systems in line with Ministry of Environment (MoE) standards. “I was okay with the water, because that’s a health precaution,” he explains of the increasingly stringent requirements after the Walkerton tragedy. However, it didn’t stop there. Stevens says he jumped through all the hoops: environmental assessments, engineering studies, inspections every three years, regular water testing and, most significantly, big infrastructure upgrades including a new water treatment plant and a costly new lagoon for wastewater. “My water is perfect, never a problem, I always did everything they asked,” Stevens sums up. “But it’s never enough.”


The last straw came this past June when he learned that the lagoon was no longer deemed acceptable by new MoE standards. Stevens was told he would have to replace the system and, while he was given several options, he says any approved alternative would cost at least half a million dollars. “The rules keep changing and every time it costs more money. Well, that money has to come from somewhere,” he deplores.


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