Sioux Lookout Scouts appeal to Municipal Council

Help save our camp for local youth.

The members in Sioux Lookout continue to be concerned about the possible disposition of their camp. Support our Scouting friends in Sioux Lookout.

Presentation to the Sioux Lookout Municipal Council

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Subject: Request council to take over ownership of the Boy Scout camp property in trust for youth of Sioux Lookout.

I am here today representing a group of concerned people, from Sioux Lookout. In our group we have parents, grandparents and people who work with our youth. We are here to ask for your help as town councilors, to ensure that our Boy Scout camp is preserved, as an outdoor recreational and wilderness space for the Scouts, Guides and other youth of our town.

I would like to describe briefly, the history of this 15-acre property, and explain the current situation regarding ownership of the property.

The Sioux Lookout Boy Scouts camp is 15 acres of wilderness shore-front land, located on a peninsula in Abram Lake, accessible via Drayton Road. The camp is called "Camp Mitchell". It has been used as a place for camping experiences by Scouts, Guides and other youth groups since about 1949.

The property was given to the Scouts of Sioux Lookout by the Mitchell family to be used as an outdoor learning place for our youth. In 1973 the property was deeded to Boy Scouts of Canada who now own the property outright.

I was a Scout leader for about a decade in the 70s and 80s. The camp was a very busy place in those times with one group or another occupying it almost every weekend, winter and summer. There was a cabin on the land. In 1983 a partnership with the radar base led to the construction of a second larger cabin. This large cabin is called the Snow Hut because of the contributions to it of the radar base commander whose name was Ian Snow. Ian was also the chair of the Scout committee at that time.

On some weekends, we would have the boys in quinsy shelters, which are snow huts and the girls in the Snow Hut, which is the large wooden cabin. It was and is a really great space for the youth to have fun and learn.

There has been a decline in use over the past few years. The cabins and property today require repair. Recently, a partnership has been struck between the Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout and local Scouters. Rotary's youth incentive committee has agreed to assist local Scouters to make improvements to the existing structures and grounds of the camp so that it will be fully operational once again.

It has come to our attention recently that Boy Scouts canada were considering selling this property. Ispoke with a representative of the national office this week who informed me that the property is not .listed at present.. He would not state that the property would not be sold in the future. This is not the first time that scouts canada has tried to sell the property.

As you may have read in news reports over the decades, Scouts Canada does have a policy of selling scout camps, and many in the province of Ontario have been sold. That policy remains in effect today. As a result of phone calls from concerned citizens and journalists it appears that the selling of our scout camp is no longer a priority at this time. In speaking with a Scouting representative in ottawa, I was told that for all properties they own, the local scouts committee (in our case Winnipeg) will look at the condition, safety and usage of a property as criteria to consider to determine whether or not to sell.

We are here tonight, representing the youth of our town, to ask you in the strongest possible terms, to take over this property. Our reasons for asking this are three fold:

  1. This property was given for the benefit of youth of this town by the Mitchell family. No one has the right to sell it for private use.
    The fact remains that this land was given for outdoor experience and skills development of our youth. We must all be faithful to its designation as such.
  2. Although Boy Scouts Canada says there is no immediate threat to sell this property, we are aware that their policy of offloading land is still in existence. We also know they have actively considered selling this property on other occasions, as well as recently. If they continue to own the property, we will always be concerned that a deal will be made in private. We do not feel comfortable with the existing land-sell policy of Scouts Canada and we do not feel they are willing to abide by the trust implicit in the Mitchell family transfer of this land.
  3. The new partnership between the rotary and local scouters to improve and increase the use of the camp needs to be supported by the town and all of us. A local solution to a local issue has been developed and we are asking the town to be a partner to support it. We want all youth in our town to benefit from the legacy of a local family and we feel the town can show its belief in this by taking over the land in question.

We ask you to request Boy Scouts canada to transfer this land to the municipality of Sioux Lookout to be owned in trust for the scouts, guides and other youth of our town.

We do not seek any assistance other than this. Our local Scouts group leadership is fully prepared to work with the Rotary Club and other partners to upgrade the camp and to administer its use. We envisage a camp where any legitimate youth group may contact the Scouts to reserve time and use of the camp following the guidelines for use established by the Scouts. The local Scouts group is willing to run the camp. We just want the town to show its support for this work by owning it and designating it as a wilderness youth camp.

This most recent "sale scare" Pushes us to take action now. We have a 50-year history to uphold. We would like the town to show leadership in securing the use of the camp in trust for as long as there are youth here to benefit from it.

Thank you very much for allowing us to speak to you on this issue today.Ior anyone here would be happy to answer any questions you have at this time.

Ralph Ireland
Sioux Lookout
June 20, 2007