Vermont Parks Recovering from 'Irene'

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May 29, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Click here to watch a video, courtesy of WCAX-TV, Burglington, Vt.

It's beginning to look a lot like summer at the Abel Mountain Campground in Braintree, Vt.

"It's coming together," owner Paul Rea told WCAX-TV.

The grass is green and the river pristine, a far cry from nine months ago. Last August Tropical Storm Irene and disaster struck this quiet campground. The third branch of the White River spilled its banks, wiping out electric hookups, entire buildings and even washing a bridge downstream. But fast forward nine months and a new day has dawned on this campground. Rea ultimately decided to fight back.

"We decided we were not going to be defined by Irene," he said.

Little by little he's restored this campground to it's original form with a few changes. The bridge is much higher. And the buildings? Well, all of them are now moveable.

"It is on wheels inside the skirting it's on three wheels. Just take it off the blocks," he explained.

Abel Mountain Campground was hit hard by Irene, but most state parks escaped the storm relatively unscathed.

"We lost a little attendance and a little revenue," Rea said.

Only one suffered significant damage — Camp Plymouth in Ludlow. That park will remain closed for another couple of weeks.

"We've hired contractors to clean it up, re-establish lawn areas," said Craig Whipple of the Vermont State Parks. "It was a real mess."

Most all of the state's other 51 state parks opened May 25. And a few opened a week earlier.

As for Rea, he plans to open his campground next week; an amazing feat.

"A ton of work. A ton of work. I've been doing 15-hour, 16-hour days, seven days a week," he said. "We're going to have a hell of a party."

And another example of what it means to be Vermont strong — a man who refused to be defeated by the storm of the century.

Rea received almost $500,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) loans to help repair the campground. Friends and family members also pitched in to help, raising more than $40,000.

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