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Harmony Resorts – Crystal Beach:  A Tour Of Transition

Christine Whelan FEO, August 3, 2023, VOL. 4 ISSUE 25 

Since the old campground, Knight’s Hide-away has changed owners and names, the new Harmony Resorts – Crystal Beach is on its way, with renovations in progress, to a transformation from campground to what will begin to resemble a resort with a campground feel.

Luke Fraser is a regional manager with Harmony Resorts, working with six properties. This campground is one of six. He agreed to take us on a tour of the grounds — of what is gone, what will be going, what is new, and what is coming.

Luke grew up in Sherkston, on a farm. So, it wasn’t a surprise when he admitted his first job was at Sherkston Shores at the age of 16. “I’ve been in the industry ever since.”

And now, “I started with this company, Harmony Resorts, last year.” Harmony Resorts took over this campground at 1154 Gorham Road, known for decades as Knight’s Hide-away Campground, in June of last year.

“We kind of just let it sit last year. Just seeing to the day-to-day operations while identifying where improvements were needed, to make it a better operation.” As Fraser stated, they “put lipstick on granny” to get through the season, then during the off-season months, began the bigger projects.

Manager

Fraser gives high praise to the manager of this location, Gina Tartaglia, who was away the day of our tour. “I threw her in at the start of April and said, ‘Have fun with the clean up.'” Gina lives in Port Colborne but has a trailer on the grounds for weekend options.

As manager of these grounds, Gina is in charge of activities and has booked one a-man band, organized a bingo and hayride, to name a few, according to Luke.

Why Crystal Beach?

It’s about perspective. To some of the residents of the Greater Fort Erie area, the northeast corner of Hwy #3 and Gorham Road might be considered Stevensville. If you look up the address of the campground, you will find out it’s 1154 Gorham Rd, Ridgeway.

However, to someone coming to the area from a long distance to vacation, that corner, being only eight minutes from the beach, would be considered Crystal Beach.

Luke explained it was a compliment to Crystal Beach. “Whenever Harmony Resorts purchases a campground or resort, they like to find a town that is “in” and kind of brand it off of that town. The owners looked at Crystal Beach and knew it was up and coming. The attraction is the beach.”

In fact, if you go to the campground’s website, the first words you read are, “Welcome to Crystal Beach.”, however just below, you will read, “Located just a 7-minute drive from the bustling beach town of Crystal Beach”.

It’s all relative.

In Progress

It’s a plan of improvement and upgrades scheduled over the years, the regional manager explained. “This year, we have put a lot of our efforts into the front,” referring to the front of the park, seen from the road.

There’s new signage, a new office, and a new pool. “I’m super stoked about the pool.”

Luke’s quite pleased with the feedback they’ve received so far. He explained a key part of the business these days is online ratings and reviews. “So, we do make sure we ask our guests about their stay if they are happy.”

Why Is It Called A Resort?

Fraser admitted that, as a local, he still calls it a campground. “Under Harmony Resorts, there are marinas, resorts on water, and larger campgrounds. Harmony Resorts is the brand, the umbrella name. Crystal Beach is under that brand.”

Harmony Resorts has properties throughout Ontario. Luke remarked, “Some are older properties that need a little love.”

We began our tour. Pointing to the building in front, on the north side, “We re-did the old abandoned cottage.”

Cottages

Once inside the cottage in front, he noted, “We just re-painted it and re-did the floors,” maintaining the cozy, cottage ambiance.

The cottages will be full-sized vacation rentals offered to families, couples, and friends. They will come fully furnished with full-sized kitchens that are stocked with all the essentials needed to cook a meal. The washrooms include a shower or bathtub. Outdoors may include Muskoka chairs by a fire pit, a deck, BBQ, and an outdoor dining table.

There is more information about the cottages and cabins on their website, harmonyresorts.ca/crystal-beach

The Playground

As we walked past the outdated playground, Luke began talking about near-future plans. “We’re going to rip out the old playground. A new playground’s coming.” Then he added, “Maybe a couple of hydro updates. That’s about what we have left for 2023.”

We checked out the pool. Up to ten overnight guests of the park at a time can enjoy the brand new pool and lounge along the deck.

Off-Grid Travel Trailers

The wood-sided trailers are solar-powered. At the time of the tour, they were on the grid because the air conditioning was on but for times when the power goes out, the solar-powered option is available. The one we were in was about 250 square feet.

Luke commented some of the trailers are pet-friendly.

To read the website, one can begin to get a sense of a resort experience. The trailer “offers all the amenities you would find in a condo. Depending on the model, the trailers sleep between two to five people and have one or two bedrooms with a queen-sized bed. Some models include additional sleeping space with a fold-down sofa bed as well.

“Enjoy cooking in the full-sized kitchen that has all the cookware, dishes, glassware, and utensils that you need to create a delicious meal. The three-piece washroom includes a shower for your comfort and privacy. Natural light fills the entire space to create the feeling of being fully immersed in nature. The site includes outdoor space with two Muskoka chairs by a fire pit and a dining table so you can experience the beautiful scenery that surrounds you.”

Bunkies

What is a ‘bunkie’? It’s typically a small cabin for extra space on a cottage or home property. A bunkie is a multi-purpose building for anything you need extra space for, from a guest house to an office. According to Bunkie Life, in Canada, a bunkie is usually under 108 square feet.

The pastel-coloured bunkies at Harmony Resorts – Crystal Beach are under 100 square feet and furnished for basic needs. Using one of these is considered the new ‘glamping’ option.

And Of Course, The Guests

According to Luke, there are three types of guests. “We have the weekend warriors. They’re back every Friday and leave every Sunday. Usually, those are the ones who are coming from a bigger city. There are those who come for 183 days, which is the full season, from May 1 to October 31. Then, there are those who come out for their peace of mind, to get away. Those ones, you don’t really know when they’ll show up or for how long.”

The grounds include 90 seasonal sites, 20 transient pull-through electric sites, 20 electric water sites, and 15 tent sites.

“What we are trying to do is provide an affordable, mini vacation that gives you that campground feeling.”

The regional manager is pleased with the changes that have taken place so far and is looking forward to what is to come.

To check out the current Harmony Resorts – Crystal Beach and follow what is to come, take a tour through their website: harmonyresorts.ca/crystal-beach

You can also find them on Facebook under Harmony Resorts – Crystal Beach.

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