To keep or to sell
By Jenn Watt
Published July 18, 2017
This week’s paper features two stories about special land and difficult decisions.
On one hand, we have Norah’s Island, donated to the land trust 10 years ago to be preserved in perpetuity. On the other, Camp Adelaide, likely to be sold in the coming years.
Each represents history and opportunity. For Norah’s Island, the decision was about preserving a vision Norah Carruthers had for a 23-acre property on Kennisis Lake, carried to fruition after her death by her husband Bruce and maintained by the landowners on Kennisis.
For Camp Adelaide, named for Adelaide McLaughlin in 1959, the decision is about money. The Girl Guides are selling off their Ontario camps, which they say are underutilized and will provide needed money to the organization.
Unfortunately, in order to address a financial concern, a property steeped in memories will be lost to the guiding community and the wider region.
Across the province, Girl Guides are reacting the same way to the news of 17 camp sales planned for the next three years: with profound sadness. They remember learning practical skills such as canoeing and making a fire as well as the life skills of respect, responsibility and self-confidence. The loss of the camp may be a loss of a place dear to those who grew up in the Girl Guide family, but the real loss is for those who haven’t yet experienced the place.
Summer camp, particularly those run by organizations like Girl Guides and Scouts, is an accessible way to get outside, experience nature and grow as a person. Losing the place where that has been happening for more than 50 years is a deep cut.
The sale of Adelaide hasn’t yet happened and the Guides say they are looking into how to make the camps sustainable.
While it’s unclear what plans the Guides will consider, perhaps they can take cues from rural schools, which school boards can often maintain by building partnerships. Empty classrooms can be used for day care programs, for example, keeping the space in use and providing dollars to the board.
Maybe something similar could be done with the camp. There must be money to be made with a fully outfitted piece of lakefront property in Ontario’s cottage country. A partnership with another group, or groups, could provide the dollars needed to preserve an important tradition.
Norah’s Island is like Camp Adelaide in few ways and the financial pressures on a large provincial organization are quite different than a private landowner making a decision about his own property.
However, what was apparent in the celebration of a decade of stewardship of the island Sunday was the meaning that can be attached to a place. Preserving, maintaining and working together to ensure a special place is kept up for future generations is clearly worth the effort for Norah’s Island.
For the Guides who have been to Camp Adelaide and those still to come, the feeling is likely the same.