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A Guider replies to Ontario Council’s Q&As

by on June 4, 2010

A Guider replies to Ontario Council’s Q&As on camp closings:  Part 1.

1. I have already put in a booking request for 2010. When will I have confirmation of that booking?

If you have a request for a property that is being retained you will be notified of the status of that application by November 30, 2009. If your booking request is for a property that will not be operating in 2010 your booking request cannot be honoured.

We encourage you to review the provincial website to see what alternative facilities are available to you based on the list of retained camps. Booking information is found at http://www.guidesontario.org/camping/camping.htm

Reply:  If there were bookings this early, then apparently there is interest in continuing to use these camps.

2.  How was it determined which camps would remain open and which would remain closed?

When making our camp property decisions, the following factors were considered:
• Is the camp being significantly used and supported by Guiding members?
Reply:  What is your definition of “significant”?  It is unrealistic to require the property to be used every weekend of the year and all summer long.
What percentage of girl Members have used the camp in 2008 and 2009 (to date)?
What percentage of girl Members live within a reasonable distance to the property?

Reply:  By considering only percentages, obviously the biggest camps in the most populated areas come out looking the best.  This is not fair to the small camps in the small communities.
Does the camp property have the facilities to meet the needs of increased usage and to provide appropriate amenities to those renting?

Reply:  Again, this is unfair to the small camps with a small clientele, as of course they have less growth potential.  Also, if you are considering increased usage, then why are you closing camps at all?

Who defines “appropriate amenities”?  We are talking about “camps”, not resorts.  More amenities means higher costs – to the point that it becomes unaffordable for some girls.  What is wrong with keeping a few rustic settings that have minimal costs associated with them?
Does the camp property have the facilities to provide alternative uses for the site?

Reply:  We have been constantly told that we are not permitted to rent to other organizations.
Is there the opportunity to bring this property to a position of financial viability?

Reply:  When our Division had control of the financials, our camp never ran a deficit.  Ways were found locally to meet expenses.  If Province can’t achieve this same performance, then control should be returned to the Community committee.
Does the camp property require significant capital investment?

Reply:  All the camps do, because Province has not approved any capital investments for over 10 years!  Most Divisions or Areas had funds designated for this purpose, which have disappeared into the “black hole” at Province.  At the time of transformation, “internally designated funds” were not honoured.

3. Why are we not disposing of all properties?

This may become the long term solution but at this time Ontario Council is committed to retaining camp properties that show the most potential of becoming viable if we are able to increase capacity and have our Members using the facilities to the level that is required.

Reply:  Why are you closing camps because of “over-capacity”, yet looking to increase capacity?  That makes no sense.  Who gets to decide what level of use is required?  Is not weekend camping locally a laudable program activity?
4. Will there be systems put in place to ensure that the properties being retained are becoming viable?

Yes, this will not be the last time that camps will be reviewed. A system of benchmarks will be developed

Reply:  Who gets to say what benchmarks are worthy?

and analysis will be undertaken (reply: by whom? ) on an annual basis to ensure that the properties are growing in their use and becoming financially viable. Ontario Council will work with the provincial property community to develop supports, resources, practices and procedures  to provide every opportunity to help these camps reach those benchmarks.

Reply:  This looks like a make-work project for those high paid staff in Toronto, when the real way to increase usage is to retain experienced Guiders who are interested in supporting new Guiders and encouraging camping at a local level.  A pile of on-line procedures cannot replace local face-to-face networking.  Closing local camps will only reduce camping opportunities, not increase them.   We don’t need more e-mails from Province telling us how to do things.
5. Is National aware of these decisions?

Yes, as the owners of the properties, the Board of Directors is aware of the decisions and the rationale behind the decisions being made. They will work with Ontario on the disposition process of the properties.

Reply:  This is unfortunate.  We were hoping they would be a panel for “second sober thought.”

6. How long will it be before the property is sold and can we use it in the interim?

The properties will be put on the market over the next 24 months. A consultant has been hired to oversee this process and will work with each local property community to make this transition as easy as possible. As assessment, appraisal and close down needs to begin immediately on the properties so that we can minimize the operating costs in 2010. The sites will not be available for use after December 31, 2009.

Reply:  You actually expect us to cooperate with the closing of our camps?  The financial savings achieved by acting quickly come at the expense of making a potentially catastrophic and irreversible move.  Please take time to consult local people.  Several of the  camps on the list had minimal operating costs anyway.

7. Why don’t we try and get more non-Guiding users at the camp facilities in order to increase revenue?

Guiding properties are restricted from doing this based on specific definition through the Ontario Assessment Act and appropriate diligence is applied to ensure this restriction is not violated.

Reply:  Can we not rent to other charitable organizations?  We seem to be able to rent Scout and church properties.  Cross-reference this answer with your stated objective in item #2 (alternative uses.)

8. Why don’t we increase the overall GGC registration fee to help support the camps?

An option would be to increase the overall registration fee to absorb this deficit. This is not dissimilar to what some Areas, Divisions or Districts were doing prior to June 2007 by adding a ‘levy’, additional fees or mandating usage. We know from the feedback received from the membership that these were unpopular alternatives.

Reply:  If that feedback was accurate, then why are so many people enraged?

It is also not an equitable way of supporting the properties as access is not available to every Member due to either geography or affordability.

Reply:  So it makes sense to make camps even more geographically unavailable and unaffordable?

If we were to use the 2008 financial actuals in comparison to the 2009 census this would represent increasing the registration fee by $47.58 per girl Member to support only property operations. Ontario Council does not feel this is a prudent method of managing this problem.

Reply:  Why not close the real money losers like Doe Lake and Birch Avenue?

9. Where will the monies from the sale of these properties go?

The money from the sale of the properties will go to support the properties that are being retained until such time as the properties become self-sufficient.

Reply:  This is unfair to a small community that has supported its girls over the years to have its investment removed to a location which those girls will not be able to use due to distance or additional costs.  Also, some self-sufficient properties are being closed, in order to sink funds into ones that are not.

10. What will happen to all the “things” located at the camp properties?

An assessment of the inventory of each property will begin shortly. The local team will work with the consultant to define the most appropriate movement of that inventory. Where possible and needed, equipment will be re-located to another camp property. For items that are memorial or special mementos, the local property team will provide input for appropriate relocation.

Reply:  Do not expect cooperation from the “local team” in this matter.  They haven’t the heart for it.

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