The former campsite of the Dune made famous by the comedies "Campings" with Franck Dubosc in the main role of Patrick Chirac, in marcel and swimsuits, is still disfigured by the fire of the pine forest of Teste-de-Buch (Gironde) mid-July which caused nearly 8 million euros of damage.

In the middle of a pile of metal sheets and charred trees, only the reception, the supermarket and the stage of the "Bal des Flots bleus" had escaped the flames.

After clearing and remediation, 32 lodge tents and six mobile homes were installed or refurbished. More will arrive shortly.

"We rebuild identically. We redid the electricity, water and sanitation networks because 80% of the pipes had burned," says manager Franck Couderc, who defends a more eco-responsible approach with the "installation of photovoltaic panels", the "recovery of rainwater" and the "recycling of gray water".

Workers install bungalows in the Flots Bleus campsite, on March 29, 2023 in Pyla-sur-Mer, Gironde © Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

Many works - finishes, earthworks, renovation of the pool - remain to be done, as well as landscaping to find a lost plant cover.

Because holidaymakers will have a hard time recognizing the place. The road leading from the dune of Pilat to Biscarrosse (Landes) is a titanic site to extract the burnt wood and carry out the work of the four other campsites around, which intend to reopen for some "early July".

Developments without authorization

"We have experienced a trauma and today we need to turn the page," admits Franck Couderc.

The Flots Bleus campsite, ravaged by flames last summer, on March 29, 2023 in Pyla-sur-Mer, Gironde © Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

"The earlier we open, the better it is for us. We can't wait for our customers to come back, as before," says the manager, who assumes an opening "50%" a little rushed under the "positive pressure of employees and customers", with first bookings next week.

The economic stakes are high: the five starred campsites of the ocean beaches welcomed up to 6,000 holidaymakers in high season, according to the town hall of Teste-de-Buch.

"For one euro spent per person in the campsite, it is 3 euros spent in the town and the surroundings," according to the mayor Patrick Davet. "It's a category of holidaymakers who consume, go to restaurants, rent bicycles, take shuttles etc...".

Just after the fires, President Emmanuel Macron promised state aid to campsite owners to "help them rebuild".

On site, however, some deplore that the developments still do not comply with the special authorization provided for by the Environmental Code. The Ministry of the Environment has refused several permits in the past, in particular because the number of mobile homes exceeded the maximum of 35 recommended for campsites below the dune in a 2012 report.

The vegetation devastated by last summer's fires, at the foot of the dune of Pilat, on March 29, 2023 in Pyla-sur-Mer, Gironde © Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

The inexorable advance of sand

Because by moving inland, under the effect of wind erosion, the dune nibbles the surfaces of campsites that reorganize their plots to take into account silting.

This week, the Departmental Commission for Nature, Landscapes and Sites (CDNPS) issued a favorable advisory opinion for applications for future development and building permits that still need to be validated by the ministry. The only condition is to return immediately or within a few years to the conditions set by a 2012 report.

"It is regrettable that this disaster is not being used to do otherwise. We now have installations and vehicles that disfigure the classified site from the top of the dune," said Vital Baude, EELV regional councillor, calling for "the legislation to be respected now".

"All the turn signals are green, now we will be vigilant so that they comply," says Patrick Davet.

But time is running out. Due to the retreat of the coastline, campsites will be buried by sand within 10 to 25 years, according to estimates.

© 2023 AFP