More than 2,200 Boy Scouts descended on Camp Barnard last summer for the Pacific Jamboree. (KevIn Laird - Sooke News Mirror)

Coronavirus restrictions will keep thousands from Vancouver Island summer camp

Scouts won’t be making traditional visit to Camp Barnard in Sooke this summer

Camp Barnard will remain closed until at least Aug. 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And it’s a devastation blow to outdoor recreation in the area as all camping events, scouting and non-scouting, along with the week-long Francophone Scout Jamboree and Girl Guide’s SOAR camp are cancelled.

The SOAR 2020 camp event was scheduled for July and would have welcomed more over 2,000 guides and women from across B.C. and other parts of Canada to Sooke. The Francophone Scout Jamboree expected more than 500 campers.

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“While we want nothing more than to have a camp filled with the sights and sounds of happy campers, the health situation is such that we need to keep social distancing and do our part to keep COVID-19 under control,” Camp Barnard officials wrote in Facebook post.

“Sadly, although safety comes first, many youth will miss out on the life-affirming experience of a summer camp this year.”

The camp has lost about 95 per cent of its annual revenue, according to the Facebook post, and camp managers are hosting online meetings to try and figure out how to move forward.

“We are looking at over $100,000 in lost revenue, and speculate it could be closer to $200,000 lost by the time everything is said and done,” said Ron Planden, chair of the Camp Barnard management committee, adding the camp has cut back costs as much as possible, but still faces significant financial trouble.

“We are not for profit, and the way Scouts Canada is structured, we haven’t been able to qualify for any relief or government assistance.”

Most of Camp Barnard’s funds come from rentals, donations, or from fundraisers such as selling Christmas trees each year through View Royal Canadian Tire. Around 12,000 youth use the camp annually.

“We are working with Scouts Canada to see what we can do moving forward, following the lead of health authorities,” said Planden. “We are looking at grants, and have applied for B.C. Hydro relief to help out with our hefty hydro bill.”

Other organizations will also not be able to hold events at the facility, and the Bernard Corporate Breakfast fundraiser was also cancelled.

Though the camp may be able to reopen on Sept. 1, Planden is unsure of what operations would look like.

“I can see it’s not going to be business as usual. It’s a lot of unknowns, and we are just going to have to figure out how to weather the storm.”

The managing committee is scrambling to find ways of raising funds, but because the managing committee is comprised of volunteers, there are limited resources and time to spend. 

“We are looking at every option, and there are several irons in the fire. I think it is going to be a difficult year in 2021 because of the loss of revenue. It’s going to take some time for things to get going again. But that is the reality of where we are with this pandemic,” said Planden.

“We are doing our darnedest to make sure we take care of business and make sure the camp continues to function. Basically, we are working our butts off to cover our bills.”

RELATED: Vancouver Island’s provincial parks ready to reopen

Camp Barnard has a long history in Sooke, dating back 76 years. What started out as just an area of wilderness where intrepid Scouts would bring everything they needed to build a campsite and look after themselves, has grown into a more developed camp facility.

Now, it’s a 250-acre facility filled with campsites, buildings, trails and recreation areas, and welcomes thousands of campers every year.

“It’s magical place for youth and anyone who has come through organization and spent time at camp would probably say same thing,” said Planden.

“Camp Barnard is a fabulous place that is held very dear to peoples hearts. It’s priceless.”

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editor@sookenewsmirror.com

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