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Edmonton-area customers still seeking refunds 8 months after glamping trips were cancelled

Steve Capp, founder of Urban River Adventures, speaks to CBC News about the business in 2021. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Steve Capp, founder of Urban River Adventures, speaks to CBC News about the business in 2021. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

Two Edmonton-area residents say they are still trying to get their money back, nearly eight months after their reservations at a Parkland County glamping resort were cancelled.

Both customers booked stays at Urban River Adventures, southwest of Edmonton, about 30 kilometres west of the town of Devon, last year.

Edmonton resident Noelle Jaipaul said she booked a stay in mid-May in one of the resort's geodesic domes for her anniversary weekend in September, but on May 31, she received a cancellation email from the company.

The email said the company was expanding and she could either rebook in the revamped resort or receive a full refund.

Jaipaul said she requested a refund this fall, but has yet to receive the nearly $400 back.

"In our house, we really try and support local businesses and entrepreneurs and this just leaves such a bad taste in my mouth," she told CBC News in an interview on Wednesday.

John Peddle, who lives in Sherwood Park, said he booked a one-night stay at the resort for early June almost a year ago.

Like Jaipaul, he also received a cancellation email on May 31 and has yet to receive his refund.

"$240 isn't a mortgage payment, but it's money I could use," he said.

John Peddle says he's still waiting for a refund from Urban River Adventures for a trip he booked and paid for last year. The company cancelled the trip in May.
John Peddle says he's still waiting for a refund from Urban River Adventures for a trip he booked and paid for last year. The company cancelled the trip in May.

John Peddle says he's still waiting for a refund from Urban River Adventures for a trip he booked and paid for last year. The company cancelled the trip in May. (Submitted by John Peddle)

Jaipaul and Peddle showed CBC News their booking receipts and email correspondence with the company.

Both received an email on Wednesday from the company. The email said it was committed to refunding everyone and would have an announcement and firm timeline soon.

The email suggested filing a dispute with their credit card companies if they required immediate refunds.

Peddle said he tried that, but because he paid months in advance, it was too late to dispute the charge.

Edmonton resident Angela Scheck said she was able to get her money back last summer by disputing the charge on her credit card.

"I thought, well, I don't think I'm going to get my money," she recalled.

Company still promising refunds

Urban River Adventures was registered as a business in late 2020 and opened to guests in 2021. The company initially sold glamping stays on an island in the river valley near the Rabbit Hill Snow Resort.

Founder Steve Capp said the island location wasn't sustainable because everything had to be moved to and from there by boat and Alberta Parks required structures on the island to be torn down at the end of the season.

The business relocated to a Parkland County property, where it hosted guests during the 2022 season.

Capp said he wanted to add roads, parking lots, bathrooms and amenities to the property, but issues with partners and funding led to delays.

He declined to provide more details about the business's problems, but said he had put all revenue into getting the property ready for the 2023 season. Because financing and funding hadn't come through, he said, the company could not yet refund customers' money.

Capp said he is really sorry and promised to refund customers eventually.

"And we're going to do something else to also make it up to them," he said.

Expansion plans

A website for Wilderness River Eco-Luxury Glamping Adventures (formerly Urban River Adventures) mentions plans to develop a resort with 100 to 150 glamping structures.

The site says zoning approval, community support and financial support from government tourism grants were secured.

A spokesperson for Travel Alberta said the crown corporation gave Urban River Adventures a grant in 2022 through its Tourism Investment Program but is not involved in the operator's new business venture.

Capp said the Wilderness River website was just a concept, not the most up-to-date plan, and the rebranded business doesn't yet have a name.

He said he plans to start construction as soon as permits are approved this spring and hopes to welcome guests in the fall.

Steve Capp launched a new business offering glamping and activities on the shores of the North Saskatchewan.
Steve Capp launched a new business offering glamping and activities on the shores of the North Saskatchewan.

Steve Capp says he's sorry about the refund delays but promises customers will get their money back. (Scott Neufeld/CBC News)

The property's land title certificate shows a stop order from Parkland County.

Capp said it was related to some of the domes being built too close to the riverbank.

"We're taking that all into consideration now that we're moving forward," he said.

Nancy Domijan, director of planning and development services with Parkland County, said the property is still under the stop order, which was issued in August 2022.

She said the business owners met with the county in October 2023 to discuss developing the site, but no application has been submitted. The company has a development permit for an eight-site eco-campground.

Capp said he's looking to purchase the property and the company has investors and a line of credit secured.

"It's all coming together and it's actually coming together really well," he said.

Jaipaul said expanding the business seems ridiculous while customers are owed money.

"I'm going to keep tabs on whatever they rebrand their company as and certainly not book with them again," she said.