DURHAM – For Jon and Amie Gray, their yard was a source of pride, a place for their kids to play and an enjoyable part of their property. Jon, who has lived on the property since 1985 took great care of the lawn, mowing, seeding and landscaping as necessary.
“Our two kids loved dirt biking up and down the driveway,” said Amie. “We just planted two maple trees in the yard last summer.”
But on Sept. 22, 2012, all that changed. Heavy rains and stormy conditions caused a brook on the edge of the property to overflow its banks and onto the lawn in a torrent of water.
“New culverts had just been put in place but weren’t enough to handle the flood,” said Amie, who woke up that day to a lawn that resembled a lake.
It was days before the waters finally receded but the landscape is now permanently changed. Gravel from the side of the road along with rocks and boulders now fill the Gray’s lawn. What was once lush green is now brown and rocky.
“We can’t do anything,” said Jon. “I can’t mow and every time it rains the brook that now flows through our yard fills up again. It’s an eyesore.”
A contractor went and offered an estimate of $12,000 to clean up the lawn of debris, though this doesn’t guarantee the overflowing wouldn’t happen again.
Since that fall, it has been an uphill battle for Jon and Amie to try and get the funds from provincial departments to help cover the damages.
“I called the Department of Highways since all the gravel in the yard came from the road,” said Amie. “They said they couldn’t help us.”
The pair was then directed to the Department of the Environment, which said costly permits would be needed to dam and pump the water from their lawn since it came from a brook near their house. Then, on Dec. 7, the Emergency Management Office for the Province issued a disaster financial assistance plan for those affected by the flooding on Sept. 22-24.
“We got the paperwork for this funding and talked with Charlie Parker who encouraged us to apply,” said Amie.
“We filled out the info, took pictures and even drove it to Dartmouth ourselves,” said Jon. “They called us two days later and said they couldn’t help us.”
Jon said the fund concluded the incident wasn’t a disaster, but erosion.
“I was shocked. I was under the impression a disaster happened suddenly and without warning while erosion was slow and expected.”
Stunned, they called Charlie Parker back and left a message with Peter MacKay. Neither could do much more to help.
“Why should we have to pay the $12,000?” they ask. “We didn’t do anything and the brook had never overflowed since I’ve been here,” said Jon.
Pictou West MLA Charlie Parker said he feels for the family, but because they didn’t meet the criteria for disaster relief, there’s little he can do.
“The criteria for to receive relief funding was set by the federal government,” said Parker. “It’s my understanding that there was no infrastructure damage so it didn’t qualify.”
Attempts to mitigate the damage on their own have been met with stern warnings from the Department of Environment.
“The department has told us to stay out of the brook,” Jon said. “[The Department of Environment] said if we so much as dip a tire in the brook they’d serve us a $5,000 fine. We don’t have that kind of money. We don’t know what else to do and need help.”
For now, they’re content that it has been fairly mild this winter and that there hopefully wont be a large melt to fill up the brook.
“We’re not sure we can wait until next fall,” said Amie. “Flooding may happen again; does that mean the costs will be $24,000? We can’t bear the thought.”
Parker said if some of the gravel on the Gray’s lawn came from the Department of Transportation, they may yet have a case.
“This is something that I was unaware of, but if this is the case, there may be compensation available,” he said, encouraging the family to get in touch with his office.
As for the two maple trees they planted in the yard this past summer, one has already succumbed to the brook that flows through their property.
“We’ve got a mess on our lawn,” said Jon. “We need help to get it back to right.”