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Letter to Province – Camp Tewateno, April 2009

by on May 10, 2010

To:            Girl Guides of Canada, Ontario Council

From:           Local property Extreme Specialty Committee (Camp Tewateno)

Date:            April 20, 2009

Dear Ontario Council

Thank you for your letter of March, 2009, received by email Wed., March 25th.

At our recent camp meeting we reviewed your letter and the group had some questions/concerns/suggestions as you continue to seek input and consult with the Guiders on camp properties.

We would like to know what the Guiding membership is for this year. What has it been for the last five years?  Have you projected membership for the next five years? We see membership as being a very important piece to consider as you make decisions. Retention rates are a key factor in decision-making.

If you are committed to making decisions based on data collected, we urge you to look wide at the families whose girls are in Guiding and solicit feedback from the girls/parents themselves as to how often they would be involved in the camping/outdoor experience. As you note, it is important to determine whether or not camping is a “core program delivery model”. How do we know this if we don’t ask the girls and their parents?

The decision-making process should be a transparent one so that the Guiders and Extreme Specialty Committees in the field can see and understand why and how the decisions were made in regards to properties. These people are emotionally committed to the camping experience for girls and many have made Guiding and camping a part of their lives and the lives of their girls.

Camping and the out of doors is a healthy lifestyle which gives girls a taste of outdoor living and recreation. We need not take its importance lightly. In this day and age, there’s too much doing for children – kids have had enough super entertainment – they need to continue to be actively responding to life and acquiring the skills to be self -sufficient. Every girl loves to camp and we believe a core value of the organization. Engaging girls in the outdoors and fun is one of our organization’s underpinnings.

We look forward to the responses to your questions on page one. Some other points to consider are as follows:

  1. Where is the national survey that was sent out on March 27th? We would like to obtain a copy of it.
  2. Please consider location of camps in your decision. Our camp draws from as far away as St. Catharines, Brampton, Bracebridge, Ottawa, etc. Due to the specialty of our camp, groups could come back over six times and have a variety of theme-related experiences.
  3. Please provide an opportunity for camp people to respond to your questions/surveys. As well as the Unit Guider, the people who commit their time and care to the camps have a vested interest.   At times it seems that they are cut from the communication pieces as they are not a part of the cogs. Specialty Camps need to be part of the cogs so that the camps can be promoted. Communication is a key factor. Consultation should be extensive, transparent, and communicated to all.
  4. Please consider the safety factor in camping at camps other than Guide camps. Sharing with the general public comes with its own set of challenges for today’s girls. Safety cannot be underestimated. We have history on this that needs to be considered. Also, if we are thinking of the costs, Guiding camps are more feasible due to more affordable costs.
  5. Your question, “is property management a core purpose of Guiding?” is a good one. The property management piece does not stand alone. It is a means to an end, in affordable, fun camping for girls.
  6. In conversation with the camps, you need to share openly the income and expenses related to the property. Which ones are breaking even? Which ones need upgrading? What is the long-term plan? How can we sustain the camp over time? What is the commitment factor in the areas? It is our understanding that Doe Lake, itself, had a substantial amount of money (approximately $2 Million) put into it over the years. We need to make fair and equitable decisions for all, not just some.

Your question, “will the next generation of volunteers be willing or able to provide the type of commitment required to continue to support the properties over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years?” is an interesting one. As Guiders in the field many of us have daughters who have stepped up to the plate as a volunteer and are certainly carrying on in guiding. We think it is presumptuous to think that the support will/may not be there. It’s all about the girls and generativity will continue.

Your letter states, “you should make the assumption that your site will be operating in 2010, and if any requirement for changes occur as a result of the research defined below you will be notified”. We have recently inquired of you in a previous letter whether we have the green light to proceed in the building of a lodge. If we do not receive communication to the contrary, our understanding will be that our lodge construction will begin as planned for 2010.

For your information the target for construction was chosen over ten years ago because the anniversary of Guiding in Canada was 2010. We have worked towards that date to get the property, plans and services in place as well as a large portion of the funds. The approval to purchase, which Province gave us, was based on our official proposal to develop first the property and then the lodge. We have been adhering to that proposal for 22 years, through our own capital endeavours without Provincial financial help. We sought and received approvals for our professionally engineered Master Plan, which included the lodge, from all the necessary municipalities and agencies to ensure the appropriate steps were taken.

If Province decides that they will not support our final step in the building of the lodge, we would require a face-to-face meeting, not simply a letter.

Thank you, as always, for considering our thoughts. We are committed to building our dream for the Guiding population in Simcoe County and all our sisters in Guiding everywhere who love camping.

  1. Hi Joanne
    We have subsequently had a conference call with the Provincial Commissioner who now states that she did not say “Province is not in the property management business”. I beg to differ. This is just an example of the words that have been spoken off the cuff without thinking of the implications to the girls and guiders across Ontario. We were denied, yet again (6 times have asked) to be able to speak to Ontario Council face-to-face. If we are members, and there is no representation at the Ontario Council table, how do we make our voices heard?

  2. Joanne Schmidt permalink

    What a wonderful letter – clear, concise and transparent. A great example of the kind of communications that should be going back and forth between the Guider/girl side of the Guiding equation and the Guider Council/Management side.
    Your letter noted that you had been promised that you would still be open in 2010 – and you are. I wonder why the camps that were closed in 2009 were not given a warning about their closure. It is obvious from your letter that your camp committee had very little back and forth communication about the costs and benefits that a camping program, at Guiding owned camps, provides for the long term sustainability of Guiding.

    There are many sites on the internet that promote more outdoor based education and show studies of the way the body and brain are more inspired when games and activities are outdoors, compared to indoor activities. There are a variety of U.S. organizations that are promoting more outdoor activities and skills. Canadian Guiding could be in the leadership role of advocating for the same changes in school and recreational activities, instead of reducing that part of their own programme. My gut feeling is that girls who are having fun in outdoor team activities, hikes, games, are not involved in much bullying. They learn how to get along and take advantage of their own different skills and abililties.

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