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News Article: Girl Guides community rallies in support of cherished Camp Klahanie

by on May 2, 2010

Reposted from: http://www.goderichsignalstar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2542218

Girl Guides community rallies in support of cherished Camp Klahanie

By Dominique Milburn

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A group of Guiders gathered at Camp Klahanie last Thursday, in a showing of support for their cherished little haven on Black’s Point Road. Camp Klahanie is one of many Girl Guides camps across the province that have been closed due to a provincial deficit.

It was a showing of support that touched Bayfield Girl Guides volunteer Melody Falconer-Pounder on Thursday, when a group more than 40-strong gathered at a little spot of land south of Goderich on Black’s Point Road.

Girl Guides members past and present, as well as supporters and Central Huron Council representatives rallied at Camp Klahanie on April 15, when a consultant and Girl Guides of Ontario member volunteer made a stop at the six-acre property to assess the disposal of assets.

Pounder is one of many local Girl Guides volunteers who are experiencing a bittersweet feeling as they head into the organizations’ 100th anniversary. As the result of restructuring of provincial command and ongoing financial woes, the Girl Guides of Ontario have pulled the plug on 17 of their 33 camps province-wide, two of which are located in the Goderich area.

At the top of Pounder’s woes sits Camp Klahanie, a small, six-acre piece of land donated to the local Guides in the 1970s by John Hindmarsh. Since it was signed over to the Guides of Bayfield and Goderich in 1973 for a price tag of $1, the little camp has hosted the youngest of the Guiding groups, the Sparks and Brownies, each and every year for summertime camp outs close to home.

Camp Klahanie was created as a district camp, designed specifically for the use of the local Guiding groups from Bayfield, Goderich, Clinton, and at one time Kingsbridge.

“It was created through the vision of several people,” Pounder said last week. “The Guiding community of the 60s, the Goderich Lions Club and John Hindmarsh.”

At the time of the generous land donation, though, there was no stipulation in the deed that would indicate what would happen in the case that the Girl Guides didn’t want it anymore, she added.

“Back in the 70s, no one ever thought it would be an issue.”

Now, local Guiders are feeling the sting. In 2007, a restructuring of the Guiding organization on a provincial level saw the dissolution of districts in favor of larger ‘community’ zones. It meant any property held by districts was signed over to Girl Guides of Ontario to maintain.

Goderich, Bayfield and Clinton are now in Community 5, an area that stretches from Tobermory to Central Huron.

“There are four Girl Guides Camps in [Community 5], and [three]* of those have been closed,” Pounder said.

The closest remaining camp, she said, is located in Clifford, Ontario, a two-hour drive from Goderich.

“When [we] looked after Camp Klahanie, we looked after all bookings, insurance, and maintenance,” Pounder said. “We never received any money from the Girl Guides of Ontario or the Girl Guides of Canada.”

She said prior to 2007, funds to maintain the camp came as the result of Guiding fundraisers, cookie sales, and donations from local service groups and citizens. After the camp was signed over to Girl Guides of Ontario, the bills were looked after at the provincial level.

“When we signed over the camp, we asked ‘you’re not going to sell our camp, right?’ and [Girl Guides of Ontario] told us, ‘no,'” Pounder said.

In late November of 2009, that assurance abruptly disappeared, Pounder said, when a teleconference call from Girl Guides of Ontario informed Community 5 leaders that as of December 31, 2009, [three]* of their camps would be closed, and the properties sold.

GGO are citing demographics and draining costs as factors that contributed to the closures. Pounder says, though, money-making was never the goal of the Guides, and when Camp Klahanie was in the hands of local volunteers, it at no time ran a deficit. As a result of the amalgamated insurance province-wide, Pounder said as an example, Camp Klahanie’s insurance costs soared from $380 annually to $764.

In a letter circulated to guiding leaders in November, Ontario’s provincial commissioner said operating the 33 camps in 2008 had run the organization into a $1.37-million deficit.

“As long as we continue to cover the losses of the camp properties, we must consider discontinuing other services and supports to the members,” the letter states.

The letter also includes a list of factors considered when determining which camps would be closed, including how often the camp is used, its proximity to members and its financial viability.

“That’s one of the frustrating things,” Pounder explained. “They’re saying we don’t have the membership numbers to support the camp, and that it’s not making money. That’s not why the camp was established, but until we handed it over, it was either making money or breaking even every year. The camp is there as a place our girls can go to learn new skills and develop self esteem in a safe environment that’s close to home, not two hours away.”

The problem for Girl Guides Canada Ontario Council is a decline in the number of Girl Guides. In 1999 there was one Girl Guide Camp for every 2,614 girl Guides but by 2009 there was on camp for every 876 girl Guides.

The Girl Guide organization says if it was to bring the camps back to breaking even it would have to increase each Girl Guide registration fee by $45.78 and the Ontario Council does not feel this is a prudent method of managing this problem.

Local Guiders describe Camp Klahanie as a great beginning camp for the Sparks and Brownies, whose age’s range from 5 to 8.

“It might be their first time away from home, and there is that security for them to know mom and dad are just minutes away if they need them,” Pounder said. “I think of it as an amazing little sanctuary.”

Local Guiding volunteers have raised concern through written letters to the GGO, but as of yet, say they’ve received no response. On Thursday, April 15, a consultant hired by the GGO visited Camp Klahanie to assess its assets and plan disposal of items.

“There’s not much we can do at this point except let them know we love this place,” Pounder said. “We feel very strongly that if the GGO doesn’t want the property anymore, it should go back to the John Hindmarsh Estate Environmental Trust, rather than being sold for profit.”

Pounder also agreed that if the camp were handed back to local volunteers, it was likely they could maintain Camp Klahanie at a break-even level.

“That would be lovely,” Pounder said. “We hate to see it close. My Pathfinder unit is the most attached to it, because they’ve been Guiding for seven of eight years now and spent a lot of time at Camp Klahanie … [they] even asked if they could try to fundraise enough money to buy the camp themselves. It breaks my heart. ”

Melody Falconer-Pounder has been an adult Guiding volunteer in the area since 1989. She said 2010 would mark the 50th anniversary of Camp Klahanie, and planned a community Camp Day for past and current Guiders, supporters and volunteers.

Article ID# 2542218

*corrections added May 2, 2010


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