A budding entrepreneur is getting into the high-end camping business in Inverness County by erecting five geodesic domes on farmland his family has owned for more than a century.
It’s part of the phenomenon known as glamorous camping, referred more commonly as “glamping.” It’s similar to camping but you’re not lying on the ground, but in a bed, and in Scott Archer’s case, the insulated domes will have electricity and water hookup.
The water, sewer and power connections are being laid in-ground, and the platforms and surrounding decks are about 60 per cent complete.
The domes themselves — a lattice-shell structure based on a geodesic polyhedron — will be shipped from the supplier, F. Domes, in Kołbaskowo, Poland, and will arrive in about four weeks, said Archer, the owner of Archer’s Edge Luxury Camping Inc.
“It’s quite upscale from a tent,” he said in an interview Thursday.
“Each of the domes will be self-sufficient. Inside each one of these domes you’ll have a small kitchenette, a queen-sized bed, a couple of chairs and a table, and around a corner in the back you’ll have a shower stall and washroom.”
Once the geodesic domes arrive — made from a synthetic plastic polymer PVC — it will take about, on average, six hours to set up each dome on its platform, Archer added.
The total project cost is estimated at $320,000, of which, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has provided a $131,585 loan with a matching contribution from a community business development corp.
Along with Archer, there are two silent partners investing in the venture, he said.
D.J. MacLean and Sons Contracting Ltd. is the general contractor doing the work on the 20-foot diameter, 12-foot high domes.
Archer, 43, lives in Dartmouth and travels to the Strait area on weekends to work on the landscaping.
He began working at the 170-acre site about a year ago after getting approval from his mother to move ahead with his idea. The property has about 700 feet of water frontage on the Northumberland Strait.
“Last year I bought a trailer and it’s been the first time I’ve seen that side of the property in about 20 years. It was pretty breathtaking.
“With the way tourism is booming in that area of Inverness County, I decided to do something about it,” said Archer, pointing to traffic created from the Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links golf courses in Inverness, about a 45-minute drive to the north of Judique, as part of the reason for taking it on.
The idea of glamping isn’t new to Cape Breton. Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort in Indian Brook, Victoria Co., opened its first geodesic dome about six years ago.
The year-round adventure resort has a main lodge, chalets, teepees, a campground, farmhouse and yurts, which are circular tent-like structures that have been used by nomadic peoples for thousands of years.
Paul Weinberg, owner of Cabot Shores, said the “treetop village” of six geodesic domes are built on raised platforms, with a lower deck that’s able to hold a portable hot tub.
These domes sit within the property’s apple orchard and are not hooked up to power. Guests have use of portable toilets stationed next to each dome and well water is made available from the main lodge.
“We’ve made it more in keeping with what we think is Cape Breton where people want to have a comfortable experience but one that’s at the edge of the wilderness,” Weinberg said.
During the summer months, the domes are fully booked and they remain busy in September and October, he said.
Because they are not insulated, the domes are typically open for the season from May to November but that could change, he said.
“We want to make it warm in the same way we have the yurts. We’re looking at different heating mechanisms, whether it be wood or something else.
“We’re just researching it now. We’ll probably have one or two pilot (domes) for cold weather this year.”
Archer is unsure whether he’ll be in operation by the end of this year’s tourism season. He is expecting to hire contractors for cleaning services and maintenance of the grounds.
At this point, there will be no food service or recreational activities on site, he said.
“Fingers crossed there’s enough revenue that we can expand, get more domes if that’s what’s working or upgrade what we have there already. Once we get busy enough, we’ll have no choice but to hire locally.”
He does plan to offer it as a year-round accommodation if there’s a demand for it.
What’s a geodesic dome?
• A geodesic dome is a hemispherical thin-shell structure (lattice-shell) based on a geodesic polyhedron. The triangular elements of the dome are structurally rigid and distribute the structural stress throughout the structure, making geodesic domes able to withstand very heavy loads for their size
• Invented by American R. Buckminster Fuller in 1954
• Fuller is most famous for his 20-storey dome housing the U.S. pavilion at Montreal’s Expo ’67