Camps waiting on province to save industry from being 'decimated': association
EDMONTON -- Summer camps in Quebec and Ontario have been given the green light to operate this summer. The latest news has camp leaders and Alberta families hopeful similar guidelines could be announced in their province.
However, industry experts are concerned that if camps do not get the go-ahead from the province soon, it could mean the end of a number of provincial sites.
“We’re really looking at our industry being decimated,” Callum Monteith, president of the Alberta Camping Association, said.
“Camps are in a really tough place right now,” Gerrit Leewes, the executive director of Camp Warwa, added.
Leewes said the biggest challenge for camps face right now is preparing for “what could be this summer” and having to anticipate what the guidelines or restrictions might look like.
“The window to operate, to prepare, and plan for the summer is closing really fast,” he explained.
Camp Warwa operates year round, welcoming in close to 8,000 day and overnight campers in a normal year. Due to the pandemic, the camp has been closed now for 14 months.
“For some organizations dialing down and getting as lean as possible to ride out another lost year is becoming the only option,” he said.
If the industry does get approval to operate, Leewes told CTV News Edmonton camps have already started looking back on the 2020 camp program to help prepare. He said hiring and buying of supplies is currently well underway.
“We're committed at Camp Warwa to be there and to hang in there as long as we can.”
'THIS IS WHAT CHILDHOOD IS ABOUT'
The bulk of camps in Alberta are non-profits and parents rely on them, especially during the summer months.
“We strongly believe that camps are an essential form of childcare,” Monteith said.
Leewes said camps are an important part of child development in the early years.
“It’s not just isolation from community and friends, but isolation from trying new experiences and growing through life experiences,” he said. “This is what childhood is about, and camp can be that for kids.”
According to Monteith, the Alberta Camping Association represents 77 camps across the province, which count more than 15,000 users and roughly $23,000,000 for the economy. He said they’re working on a plan to keep operations going.
“Camps need our support right now,” he said. “They’re not going to run if it’s not safe.”
When it comes to guidelines he said: “It’s going look very similar to schools and daycares. You’re looking at the same kind of controls that we’ve all grown used to over the last 14 to 15 months.”
'WE WANT OUR CAMPS TO SURVIVE'
Monteith told CTV News that, while they’re being proactive now, camps still need an early heads up to be able to run successfully. He explained drop dates start in the middle of May and many camps are already having to make the difficult decision to not operate.
During a press conference on Thursday, Alberta’s top doctor, Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of summer camps this year.
“I know that those who operate overnight camps who weren’t able to operate last year need to have information soon to be able to make decisions about hiring staff, whether they’re going to be running programs,” she said.
“At the same time it’s very difficult to give any direction with certainty.”
Both Monteith and Leewes are optimistic about opening for the summer, adding camps could provide some normalcy for kids.
“We want our camps to survive into the future so that we can all get back to the places we love,” Monteith said.
“This is how we can help society come back from COVID,” Leewes added.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Erin Isfeld