Kilby campground reopens as water recedes

Damages, loss of May long weekend revenue impact non-profit

Kilby Historic Site campground has reopened after three weeks of closure, signalling the slow end of the high 2018 freshet.

The campground acts as a key revenue source for the non-profit Harrison Mills museum that a features a restaurant, buildings, relics and experiences to take visitors back in time, and puts on different events throughout the year.

The campground sits on one of the only sandy beach on the Harrison River and is popular for campers, boaters and day-users. It’s only had to close four times in the last 10 years – twice in the last five, but depending on when – and how long, the closure lasts – it can hit the museum hard.

That’s why this year’s closure over the May long weekend– from May 14 to June 5 – might have a bigger impact on revenue than other years of high water.

The May long weekend is one of the biggest camping weekends in the province, said Kilby site manager Mel Waardenburg. And he expects the total for lost revenue and restoration costs to be higher than $10,000.

“There’s not much you can do because it’s a more environmentally sensitive area,” he said. “It’s just, unfortunately, the location of the campground is in the floodplain on the other side of the dike.”

“It tends to affect your revenue and you never know what years it’s going to affect it,” he added. “You are at the mercy of nature here, that’s for sure. But we do have the beauty of nature as well when it’s not flooded.”

Mitigation is difficult too. Waardenburg said sandbags aren’t an option, and after the water recedes, Kilby has to restore the parts of the beach damaged by erosion – usually the first three or four feet

“We have to redo the edges with new gravel or cracked rock , then we top everything up and make it nice again,” he explained. “Last year, our total loss of revenue and costs involved with restoration, including gravel, was over $8,000. This year we will surpass that and be over $10,000 for sure.”

The Kilby Campground was closed from May 14 until June 5 as higher than average water levels moved in on the site. The non-profit Kilby Historic Site museum relies heavily on revenue from the campground and can be impacted financially by the spring freshet season. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Water levels have gone down significantly since the higher than average freshet this spring that saw local governments across the Valley revisiting talks about flood mitigation and kept many property owners on alert for evacuation notices.

The BC River Forecast Centre ended the high stream flow advisory for the Fraser River from Lytton, through Hope and the Fraser Valley near the end of May. In Harrison Mills, the Fraser River’s primary water level are sitting around 9.35 metres as of June 10, and the Harrison River at 9.87 – a far cry from the 13.70 metre-levels during the 1894 flood.

While there was wasn’t significant damage or very many evacuation orders around the Fraser Valley, the high water still impacts homes and businesses that assume the risks and unpredictability of water-side property.

For Waardenburg, it’s just a part of the price Kilby pays to sit next to the fish-filled flowing Harrison River.

“You do have that risk, but at the end of the day the reward is being able to supply a service to the public, whether it be camping, day use or boat launch activities that access some of the most beautiful areas of the province,” he said.

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