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Plenty of ideas for Sunny Cove

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A campground/RV park, zip lines, developing the second beach, and other improvements were among the ideas offered during a brainstorming session on the long-term use and potential for Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp held there last Wednesday evening.

The town’s Kiwanis Sunny Cove Advisory Committee invited the public to provide their input on what they’d like to see the camp develop into.

And more than a dozen business owners, youth camp reps, and local residents turned out to have their say.

“The reason that we’re doing this in June of 2015, the Town of Fort Frances had a strategic planning session,” explained Geoff Gillon of the Rainy River Future Development Corp., who facilitated the session.

He noted one of the action items brought forth was to investigate—by this November—the long-term use and potential of the camp for youth programming and economic development opportunities.

“So that’s what has triggered this dialogue,” Gillon remarked. “We’re at the beginning of this process.

“And we think there’s a lot more comments out there that we have to garner in the next few months,” he added.

As background, Gillon indicated Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp sits on 29 acres of land and much of it is not developed.

He noted the land was purchase in 1937 by Rev. McGregor and was deeded to a board of directors in 1939.

It was taken over by the Jaycees in 1947, with the Kiwanis Club of Fort Frances taking ownership a decade later.

The camp was sold to the Town of Fort Frances in 2009, but the Kiwanis Club continues to support it through a subsidy of $400 per night for all overnight youth camps.

“In all those years, it has primarily been a youth camp in the summertime,” Gillon said.

“That’s the main driving force behind this.”

Long-time Kiwanian Dr. Bob Lidkea noted the Kiwanis Club sold it to the Town with the stipulation that it remain primarily a youth camp.

“It’s not negotiable,” Community Services manager Jason Kabel stressed. “It will always be a youth camp until those camps no longer want to be here.

“So I hope it will be a youth camp well beyond my years.”

Gillon showed the camp’s schedule for the summer, which is booked solid with youth camps through July to mid-August.

A couple of weddings and a family reunion also are scheduled there this summer.

“But you can see there are a lot of white spaces,” Gillon said, referring to the “shoulder seasons”—the times when youth camps are not booked there.

“There are openings here that the camp could be utilized.”

Gillon said town council would like to fill the spaces with activities.

He had the group answer two questions:

  • What would you like to see in regards to future infrastructure?; and
  • What do you see for future programming or uses for the facility?

Each participant wrote down two responses to each question, which then were read aloud to the group and arranged into like-minded categories.

For the first question, they came up with:

  • improvements to the site as a whole, which included things like adding wi-fi and better parking;
  • developing a campground/RV park that would be like a provincial park;
  • upgrading the washroom and shower facilities (or building a new one);
  • developing the second beach;
  • adding heating and air conditioning (heating potentially would allow for use of the camp in other seasons); and
  • general upgrades to the existing infrastructure.

Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp currently consists of the main hall (Russell Hall), which can host family reunions, weddings, and barbecues for up to 200 people, as well as MacGregor Hall, a smaller hall that often acts as an activity hall and also has kitchen facilities.

The camp can sleep 100 campers and staff in eight sleeping cabins, two of which are accessible for the physically-challenged.

There is a separate building with toilets and showers.

For the second question about programming, the suggestions included using the camp for:

  • school groups and training;
  • miscellaneous programming;
  • team/sports programming;
  • speciality retreats; and
  • meetings and conferences.

There also were some questions raised pertaining to programming, such as who would organize it and whether a lesser rate could be offered for programming not running overnight or using kitchen facilities?

“We are just brainstorming right now,” Gillon stressed. “It triggers the committee to go and investigate these issues.

“A campground is a good idea but does it work?”

Kabel also noted that when the town took over the camp in 2009, there was no capital money for this facility to run.

“It had a very meager operational budget,” he recalled. “I begged and pleaded to get some capital money from mayor and council, and for the last two years we’ve had $8,000 in capital money to spend.

“So minor upgrades are happening,” Kabel noted, although adding when he put a wish list together, it was staggering how quickly the costs started to add up.

For instance, eavestroughing recently was added on Russell Hall in order to save the foundation.

“You don’t see it but that’s $4,500 gone out of the budget last year,” said Kabel, adding they are hoping to get new flooring and countertops in the kitchen area at Russell Hall.

They also recently renovated the bathrooms in Russell Hall, purchased new mattresses for the bunks, and bought two portable heating and cooling units which will be primarily located there.

The town is looking to apply for grants and other avenues to garner money to improve Sunny Cove.

“But in order to get the grants, you have to have a plan,” Gillon said, suggesting they even could find some sponsors.

The idea of fundraising also was mentioned.

Gillon said from the brainstorming session, the advisory committee will develop a report that will be submitted to town council for its review.

While there is no timeline for that, it must be presented by November.

“Then council will discuss it over the winter, I assume,” Gillon said.

“It sets the stage for the long-term plan for the facility.”

He noted, for instance, that government programs are changing.

Gillon also said the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is undergoing a review and is scheduled to have a new set of programs in March, 2017.

“So you have to be ready, as a community, to be able to seize those opportunities when they come along,” he stressed.

“That’s what this planning is all about.”

Advisory committee chair Robin Dennis said she was pleased with last Wednesday’s session.

“We need to generate ideas for the future of the camp,” she reasoned.

Dennis added if other people have any ideas or suggestions for Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp, they can contact Kabel via e-mail at jkabel@fort-frances.com or 274-4561 ext. 11.

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