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Replies to Q&A’s Part 3

by on June 7, 2010

A Guider replies to Ontario Council’s Q&As on camp closings:  Part 3.

New Q/A as of December 4, 2009.

15. We have had great camping experiences at our camp. Why are you taking that away from us?

The experience happens at a property but it is not the property that created the experience.

Reply: On the contrary, a “sense of place” is one of the most important themes in literature.  It provides connectedness.  The First Nations connection to the land is a good example.

The people who came together to organize and participate made those memories. The message that went out on November 20 has caused an outpouring of camping memories and how they shaped people’s lives. It is exciting to see those memories shared on Facebook, emails, MemberZone discussions and conversations across the province.

Reply: But still they are left with only memories.

Ontario Council is committed to ensuring the camping experience does continue for the girls today and those girls who will become our Members in the future. 17 camp properties will still be in operation.  Camping has been and will continue to be an important part of the Guiding program.

Reply: It sure doesn’t appear that way.

16. Where can we camp once our camp is closed?

Within each community there are different options depending on where you live. Parks, conservation areas, campgrounds or non-Guiding camp properties are all potential options.

Reply: Until now, we were always advised that these were less desirable for security reasons.  Conservation areas, Provincial parks, and private campgrounds do not have indoor facilities for Sparks and Brownies.  Church camp properties are becoming too expensive (eg $60 per person.)

You can also explore the opportunities available at the 17 camps that are remaining open. To see details on these click here http://www.guidesontario.org/camping/campprofiles.htm.

A review of what might be available in any community can be done by Guiders who want to explore other opportunities but will also be undertaken by the Council to provide resources to the Units looking for these alternatives. The Provincial Property Specialty Community will be developing resources to assist Guiders.  Exploring new venues and considering new partnerships is indeed part of the work that will be undertaken over the coming months. Watch the website in the early new year for some of these options.

Reply: So Council is planning to spend hard-earned cookie dollars to pay someone to research what Guiders can do for themselves, and can do better as they live in the regions concerned.  Is this a good use of funds?  The best resource you can give us is to return control of our local camp to local people, and involve them in developing their options.  This is best way to promote camping and keep volunteers interested and involved.  We are now half way through 2010 and still waiting to see the new options on the website.

17. This means that twenty years of volunteering are in vain.

Whether you have volunteered for a day or fifty years at a camp property, your efforts have not been in vain. During that time, you created wonderful experiences for the girls that did use your property. You can take pride in that contribution and know how meaningful those camp experiences have been to our members. You have made a difference that continues to shape the lives of those touched by your hard work as well as the lives of the young girls now being led by those women.

Reply: That assurance does not compensate for our loss.

18. The property we have always used provided very low fees so that our Unit could afford to go there. Now, our unit will have trouble paying the costs of the retained camps or a non-Guiding facility. What will we do?

Camping has been and will continue to be a special part of Girl Guides. It is a very valuable tool for delivering our program. Camperships for those in financial need are available to assist girls using Girl Guide camps and for girls living in the north. Adjustments have been made to the campership program (see question #12).

Reply: The new camperships only cover 50% of the camp fee.  If camp fees go up, and girls have to travel further, the cost of camping will be greater even if they are granted a campership.  Also, while you suggest that groups should consider Provincial Parks and church camps, you will not provide camperships for these (except in the north.)  Girls and parents need reasonable priced alternatives, not subsidies.

Also, if we had been charging slightly higher fees in the first place, many of the camps you are closing would not have run a deficit in the first place.  In the past we were always told that our events were not permitted to make any profits.  Why now the sudden change?

Camp costs can be managed in many ways. There are properties that can be rented at a low cost  point and you can investigate these opportunities or watch the website for options that will be posted in the early new year.

Reply: Where exactly are these properties that can be rented at a low cost?  Do they really exist?

When setting the goals for your Unit’s cookies sales, you can identify your camp costs and have the girls work towards offsetting their costs with the additional revenue this may generate.

Reply: We already do that.  It is unrealistic to ask girls to sell more and more cookies.  Small towns have a saturation point.

You can apply for fundraising approval specific to camp.

Reply: We would rather do the painting and pruning than sell more stuff.

You can group together with another Unit and rent the facility jointly to share the costs of both rental and transportation.

Reply: This only works for small groups that are not filling a facility.  Many facilities are on a per person basis, which would not result in any savings.

19. Not all families can afford to send their kids to summer camp or the weekend camp program we provide. How can we help these families?

Girl Guides of Canada and Ontario Council believe that camping is a valuable tool for delivering the Guide program. To support girls in financial need, Ontario has two types of camperships available. Girls may apply for camperships if attending one of our provincial summer camp programs.  There is also a non-summer campership program that assists girls in financial need and who are camping at Guiding facilities. (see question #12)

Reply: 50% of $800 is $400, twice what they would pay at our (former) Division weeklong camp. Even with a campership the provincial summer camps are unaffordable for some.

20. If properties are leased and will just revert to the owner, why are we surrendering the leases? There will be no benefit to Guiding.

All properties, whether leased or owned, have costs associated with them for both ongoing maintenance and capital development. The decision to close these properties was determined by their low potential to become viable from a capacity, usage and financial perspective.

Reply: Who decides the parameters around those variables?   If the camp was leased and was in the black, why shouldn’t it continue to operate?

21. Our property always breaks even financially. Why is it being closed?

Finances did play a role in the decisions but there were many factors considered such as overnight usage by our Members, membership living within a reasonable distance of the camp, facilities available and the potential growth of the property for greater use (see question 2).

Reply: Why are those even considered – if we love our camp, use it, and can make it work, why should someone else tell us we cannot do it?

Of the 33 camps, there is not one single property that currently meets all of the factors to an acceptable level.  The 17 camps being retained demonstrate the most potential to become viable in all of these categories (see question 2) over the next few years.

Reply: Define “acceptable.”  What we had was acceptable to us.

22. Where will the properties be posted for sale?

All property sales will be overseen by real estate agents. Wherever possible, local real estate agents will be contracted as they have the best knowledge of the local real estate market. Properties will be listed through the normal means used by the agent. All reasonable offers will be considered. Whenever possible the listings will be available on our website and the section for this will be announced once this process begins.

23. When looking at offers for the sale of a property will priority consideration be given to offers that intend to retain the property as a camp operation where Guiding may still rent?

If reasonable offers are received and we can make this win-win situation work then it will certainly be a consideration.

Reply: Again, what is your definition of reasonable?  How will we know what offers were made?  We would like to be included in these discussions, as they affect us directly.

24. I was under the impression that our camp was donated to Girl Guides for the exclusive use of our organization. Is it legal to sell this property?

We are aware of restrictions that may exist on a property and will work with legal counsel to review all restrictions for adherence. As stated in question 8, all donations will be reviewed on an individual basis.

25. Why can’t we have a copy of the Property Usage consultant’s report?

The consultants had a specific task to provide Ontario Council with advice on how we could maximize usage at our properties. In the fall of 2008 when the report was received by Council, it was evident that our Membership numbers could not support the recommended maximization strategies at all the facilities we owned. Although some initial recommendations to reduce the number of properties were made by the consultants, at the time of completion of their work there was not enough financial or usage data to make firm decisions on those recommendations.

Reply: You didn’t answer the question.  You made the decision for us without even sharing the data.  Please let us see the report.

It then became the responsibility of Council to review the 2008 actual financials, usage and capacity in partnership with the 2009 January to June actual data. The 2007 data could not be used for comparison purposes as it was the year of amalgamation and the data was not consistently reported across the province.  Together these two reviews partnered to make the final decisions.

Reply: Why does Council feel it is their sole responsibility to make these decisions, without anyone else’s input, and particularly without the input of the camp committees who have done all the work in maintaining the camps over the years, and without input from the girls and Guiders who use the camps?  Council exists to support the girls and Guiders, not the other way round.

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