PKED caught up with Camp Kawartha located in Douro-Dummer and Peterborough, Ontario to talk about how they are using the Tourism Resiliency Fund to help their business through recovery from the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Where did the idea/concept for your business come from?
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of Camp Kawartha. Started in 1921, Camp Kawartha was founded by the Rotary Club of Peterborough in order to provide boys with an experience that “was free from the artifices of city life.” Eventually, the Camp was operated by the YMCA of Peterborough as a co-ed summer camp and in 1985, became a not-for-profit charitable organization that is now open year-round. Over the years, Camp Kawartha has impacted literally hundreds of thousands of children, youth and adults, teaching them to care for each other and the earth we all share.
Today, Camp Kawartha welcomes more than 16,000 guests annually, providing camps, outdoor and environmental programming, forest school, facility rentals, teacher training and workshops on sustainability to the general public. In 2009, Camp Kawartha opened its second site at Trent University, The Camp Kawartha Environment Centre; one of Canada’s most sustainable buildings. Here we offer environmental programming and workshops on sustainable living to Trent students and other visiting groups. Our mission is to foster positive stewards of the environment. Camp Kawartha has earned 20 awards for its work in promoting environmental education and camping.
What has it been like navigating the pandemic with your business?
Like any tourism-related business, Camp Kawartha has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our education programs were cancelled and for one of the first times in 100 years, summer camp programs were cancelled as well. That meant thousands of children were left without an outdoor education or summer camp experience. Without the expected revenue of summer camp, we incurred significant debt. While we were able to take advantage of some government assistance – it did mean that close to 100 part-time staff were without employment. Camp Kawartha created a Forest School as a way to provide students with curriculum-linked programming taking place largely outside. Camp Kawartha also pivoted to offering outreach programming on school grounds as a way to encourage teachers to take their students outside. We continue to adapt.
What will you be using the TRF funding towards?
The TRF funds are supporting a vital part of our recovery – the health and safety preparations necessary for the 2021 intake of summer campers, for our outdoor education programming and facility rentals. Campers and visitors come from throughout the province and the Camp Healthcare Team is tasked with making their summer camp visit as safe as possible. With TRF funds, we will be purchasing medical equipment and supplies to outfit the examination room and isolation room in our new sustainable Health Centre. These areas’ investments are essential to the successful management of any virus outbreak.
What are your hopes for the business in the next few years?
Our hopes for the coming years are that we…
- Fully recover financially;
- Grow our programming and outreach
- Provide the best and safest camping and outdoor education experiences possible;
- Create a national environmental education leadership centre
- Construct one of Canada’s first fully certified living buildings as an exemplar of the very best in sustainable design.
What is it like owning a business in Peterborough & the Kawarthas?
We are not the owners, only the caretakers of this beautiful piece of land on the shores of Clear Lake. We hope to share this ethic with all of our visitors and to ensure that this land remains healthy and vibrant for generations to come. We want to showcase that it is possible to create spaces where both people and nature can thrive. We hope that our beautiful setting, our inspirational programming and our warm and caring staff will help to forge a lifelong connection between people and the natural environment. We are pleased to work in partnership with so many worthwhile businesses and organizations that make the Kawarthas a magical destination.
What make your business unique to our region?
While there are many camps in the Kawartha region, our organization is truly unique as it provides camping experiences, offers educational programming, demonstrates sustainable living in action and trains the leaders of tomorrow to be environmental stewards.
What is your favourite thing about living and working in Peterborough & the Kawarthas?
We love the friendly people, the sparkling lakes, the arts, culture and the heart of a bigger city, all easily accessible in a modestly populated region.
PKED is profiling several tourism-dependent businesses that were successful in receiving Tourism Resiliency Funding to support costs associated with adapting to public health measures and safety reopening, which will support the tourism industry’s recovery in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.