The first time I met Karen Colby was last September when she was leaving a FEMA disaster relief center in Barre. As a reporter, it’s always difficult asking someone to talk to you when they’re clearly distressed and the fallen look on Karen’s face spoke volumes. She and her husband, Paul Rea, own Abel Mountain Campground in Braintree. When Tropical Storm Irene hit in August the White River laid waste to it.
Colby told me she’d just learned the only assistance available for her business was an SBA loan. “If you’ve made an investment in your business to build it and then what we’re offered for assistance is to go into debt further, I don’t know how businesses can recoup,” Colby said. She expressed a lot of anxiety about what the future held for the couple and their two children.
This week I visited the campground and discovered it’s up and running again. RVs and trailers filled many of the 132 campsites and kids were splashing in the pool.
In the office, Karen and Paul told me they managed to pull through thanks to a mild winter, which gave them time to rebuild, an understanding local bank which loaned them money at an interest rate equal to the SBA’s, but without a lot of paperwork and delay, and a base of loyal campers who come year after year and had faith that Abel Mountain would reopen.
Because they opened late and lost some of their return campers, Karen anticipates revenue will be down 15-20% this year. Paul says it also helps that he and Karen are younger and have time to rebuild, recoup and repay. I told him that the last time I’d seen Karen it had been under less happy circumstances, but now their prospects seemed much brighter. “Yea, yea,” he agreed. “We’re getting there, I think.”