Camp Jackson at risk — Tillsonburg News

Local Scouters worried camp property may be sold

By Stephan Kleiser
Tillsonburg News, April 9, 2004.

Local Scouters are concerned about the future of Camp Jackson, the local Scouting camp near Huntsville that has been used by Tillsonburg and area Scouts for the past 40 years.

Scouts Canada is in financial trouble and there is concern the organization may try to sell off the camp, along with others, to get out of the financial bind it finds itself in.

Scout Canada says it owns about 90 properties across the country, with 30 to 40 of those potentially being considered for sale.

But the Tillsonburg Scouting movement claims it is the sole owner of Camp Jackson and Scouts Canada has no right to sell it.

Fearing Tillsonburg's camp could be on the block, they have hired a lawyer and are prepared to litigate to keep Scouts Canada from selling it.

Local lawyer Scott Campbell, who has been hired to represent local interests, said he has spoken with a Scouts Canada lawyer on several occasions, but said "they continue to hold a different view on who holds the title to the facility.

"Scouts Canada has some significant problems and big debt and although they haven't earmarked Camp Jackson for sale, we want to be proactive and clarify the situation before it ever gets to that point," he said.

"We may end up having to litigate."

Jennifer Austin, communications director of Scouts Canada's national office in Ottawa, said there is nothing unusual about the organization reviewing its facilities' inventory.

"We have hundreds and hundreds of facilities across the country," she said, "and there are just too many given our current membership which has declined over the years."

She said the number of properties need to reflect Scouts Canada's needs.

"We are reviewing our camp needs. Some camps are well used while others are under utilized. It's about using limited revenues wisely and making sure all Scouts have access to well-maintained camps.

"Perhaps some camps will be sold and that money could be reinvested into the camps we are keeping to bring them up to standards."

And according to Austin, this is not a decision that is made easily, nor from the top down.

She said the review process has been ongoing for the past two years and is still not complete. All areas and local councils have been asked for their input into the report that is expected to be ready sometime in early summer.

So far, about 200 questionnaires have been returned to them and she said they are in the process of making follow-up calls to get more.

She also said a lot of people, many of them volunteers, are involved in the process and all input received will be summarized and evaluated for the final report.

In addition to reviewing camp needs, Austin pointed out Scouts Canada is also responsible for ensuring all of their facilities meet all applicable health and safety requirements as well as environmental rules and regulations such as new drinking water regulations. And since that is an expensive proposition, Scouts Canada may not be able to afford it at all its camps.

Austin acknowledges that anything to do with local camps is an emotional decision, but said the process will take local concerns into consideration.