Plainfield campground cut off by flood-damaged bridge

Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 6:23 PM EDT
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PLAINFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - Last week’s flooding left visitors at a Plainfield campground stranded after the raging Winooski River destroyed the bridge connecting the facility to Route 2.

“We certainly didn’t expect that the bridge was going to collapse -- It’s such a big sturdy bridge -- but it did,” said Jaquelyn Rieke, owner of the Onion River Campground.

She says without power, water, or a way out, campers were stuck in a scary situation. “I couldn’t leave the property till yesterday. So, we didn’t have a way to leave. There are 28 of us on this side of the river. There are three or four households. People have felt pretty stuck and hemmed in and that’s a challenge,” Rieke said.

Those stranded on the far side had no choice but to find another way around. “Basically, a road is forming up out the back of our property and then down the side of the school property that wasn’t there. We hope that’s basically a permanent road that the four households and 28 campsites can all be accessing,” Rieke said. And they’ve discovered ways to fix the other issues, too. “We have the generators going and so people have power with their generators all day. And then people with an RV have a septic tank so they’re filling it and then we’re finding a way to haul that septic out And the water well still works.”

Now the campground is focused on rebuilding and trying to make the most of the unfortunate situation. Rieke says there’s a lot of work to do but that they will remain open. She says she’s gotten new customers since the waters have receded. “Someone actually this morning just came in. He said ‘I’m unhoused, can I become a customer?’ I didn’t expect new customers but, you know, the campground is a place for people to go for better or worse,” she said.

People in the area say they’ve gotten no word on how long it will take to rebuild the bridge.

The bridge collapsed after getting struck by trees, branches and all sorts of debris, including Lucas Heath Howe’s tiny home.

Heath Howe, of Plainfield, says he’d just finished building the structure and had only been living in it for days before the storms hit.

It was carried away by the waters and slammed against the bridge.

“The day of the flood, when the water got to about knee high, I packed a couple bags of valuables and then left it hoping that it would stay. And then I was here at my neighbor’s house for the night and really wasn’t able to sleep was laying in bed and about 3 a.m. heard the house hit the bridge and just the metal crunching and everything essentially exploded,” Heath Howe said.

He says he’s now living in a bus parked nearby as he gathers supplies and applies for FEMA funding.

Heath Howe says his tiny home was worth about $20,000 and it will likely take him more than a year to get back on his feet.