An update on the fight to keep Camp Timken in Elgin — St. Thomas Times-Journal

By Ian McCallum
St. Thomas Times-Journal, August 28, 2004.

Referring to the outcome of a Scouts Canada appeal hearing Thursday as "marginally positive," Elgin Scouters have until Sept. 30 to formulate a five-year program plan to justify Camp Timken's continued operation.

And while the 65-acre (26.3 hectare) campground located near Iona appears to have earned a short-term reprieve, the camp's manager is not ruling out litigation as a last resort to block the sale of the property by Scouts Canada.

Insisting Camp Timken has never been a financial burden, manager Norm Carsons argues Scouts Canada has not contributed one penny to the purchase, development and maintenance of Camp Timken. Carsons, is the author of a six-page report presented to a pair of Scouts Canada officials who met this week with four local leaders at Camp Timken to hear an appeal of last month's decision by the parent organization to sell the property that has served Elgin Scouts for nearly 30 years.

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


But following a tour of the property, the Scouts Canada officials from Toronto conceded the camp offered "a lot of opportunities." "We did a walkabout of the property," explained Karen Palmer, who resigned as area commissioner in January, "and they did admit it was a very diverse, large piece of property that had a lot of opportunities."

Palmer presented Scouts Canada with a 1,700-name petition opposed to the closure of Camp Timken plus letters of support from St. Thomas Mayor Jeff Kohler and Al Riddell, president of Canadian Timken's Maple Leaf Foundation.

"Scouts Canada threw it back in our court," said Palmer. "They said, `If you want to keep the camp tell us why we should let you. You've gone down from 780 members to 440 so why do that many members need a camp?' "

As a result, Elgin leaders have until Sept. 30 to formulate a five-year business plan for Camp Timken.

"We have to develop a program plan for the next five years," said Palmer, "telling Scouts Canada how we would market the camp and how we would use it to increase growth in membership."

The bottom line is dwindling membership numbers driven by steep hikes in registration fees, stressed Palmer, and not the viability of Camp Timken.

"The issue is registration fees. I heard it right from the parents at the town hall meeting last Wednesday saying the fees are too high."

Palmer confirmed Elgin leaders will submit a five-year program plan to Scouts Canada.

"We've come this far so we can't stop now."

"We'll put together a five-year plan," agreed Carsons, "and if it looks good to you (Scouts Canada), we want five years to implement it."

If the program plan is rejected by Scouts Canada, that likely would precipitate legal action by Elgin leaders, advised Carsons.

"If we come up with a plan by Sept. 30 and they (Scouts Canada) turn it down, by Oct. 6 we could still have the notice of pending litigation in there."