Fighting for Camp Timken — St. Thomas Times-Journal

By Ian McCallum
St. Thomas Times-Journal, August 16, 2004.

Insisting Camp Timken has never been a financial burden on Scouts Canada, local leaders will appeal last month's decision by the parent organization to sell the property that has served Elgin Scouts for nearly 30 years.

And in fact, argues Camp Timken manager Norm Carsons, Scouts Canada "has not contributed one penny" to the development of the 65-acre (26.3 hectare) campground located near Iona.

Carsons, is the author of a six-page official appeal against the closure of Camp Timken, one of six in southwestern Ontario and 20 in the province deemed surplus to needs and placed on a "disposal list" three weeks ago by a Scouts Canada property review committee.

He notes Camp Timken was purchased in 1975 "with funds generated by the efforts of the volunteer membership of Elgin" and since then 10 acres of wetland have been developed through the efforts of members and the community.

"Scouts Canada has not contributed one penny to the purchase, development and maintenance of Camp Timken," writes Carsons. "Camp Timken is not and never has been a financial burden on Scouts Canada."

In a June, 2003, properties report which assesses each of Scouts Canada's camp facilities, Camp Timken is downplayed as "a property that had very little of special significance."

In his written response to the Scouts Canada decision, Carsons challenges that assessment.

"I cannot think of any other camp that has such a wide variety of terrain, wildlife, flora, tree species and a naturally developing wetland as well as nature study opportunities."

The closure of Camp Timken will further exacerbate steep declines in Elgin membership, warns Carsons.

"(It) would mean that parents would have to incur greater traveling expenses, time on the road and higher camping fees. These extra expenses are beyond some of our youth membership."

"Scouts Canada has failed to explain how closing a viable camp such as Camp Timken will encourage more youth and volunteers to join the Scouting movement in Elgin."

And Carsons charges Scouts Canada has not developed an appropriate business plan and, instead, the parent organization is forced to sell some of its properties "to support" staff.

"The business agenda of Scouts Canada is the accumulation of money to support the staff of the incorporated body," writes Carsons.

"Scouts Canada is acting to sell Camp Timken before it has developed an appropriate business plan that sets out what it intends to do with the funds. There is no assurance ... that the funds will be used for any camp purpose or will be used to benefit the local community."

In his summary Carsons says it is apparent the campground and Elgin Scouts have met "all the criteria necessary to retain Camp Timken."

However, in his final comment, Carsons is resigned to the fact the written appeal process established by the property review committee may be "tokenism typical of Scouts Canada."

"This closure (of Camp Timken) is seen as a done deal. I have a fading hope that this might not be true."

A public meeting to discuss Scouts Canada's decision to sell Camp Timken, and the possibility of launching legal action, is to be held on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at Grace United Church, 18 Balaclava St.