British Columbia

Uncertainty clouds B.C. summer camps for kids during COVID-19 pandemic

Parents and camp providers are eagerly awaiting word from the B.C. government on whether summer camps can go on this year amid COVID-19 concerns. They are hoping for more health guidelines soon so arrangements can be made or cancelled for children and teens.

Summer camp providers look to B.C. government for health and safety guidelines

About 1,000 children and adults attend programs at Camp Fircom on Gambier Island each summer, but it's not yet clear how COVID-19 will affect programming in 2020. (Camp Fircom)

Parents and camp providers are eagerly awaiting word from the B.C. government on whether summer camps can go on this year amid COVID-19 concerns and they are hoping for more health guidelines soon so arrangements can be made or cancelled for children and teens.

With B.C. entering Phase 2 of its restart plan in the coming days, WorksafeBC laid out health protocols on Friday to guide the gradual reopening of several sectors, including schools, medical offices, businesses and service providers.

The agency says sector-specific guidelines for child care and recreation will be available this week. 

Summer camp manager Marissa Gilmore works for Camp Fircom, which offers programs for children and adults on Gambier Island, located in Howe Sound. She said families who have traditionally booked with the camp in the past have registered again this year. 

Camp Fircom will make a final decision by June 15 whether summer programs will go ahead.

"We're hoping to get some more clarification from the B.C. government on what kinds of protocols might make it possible to have overnight summer camps happen," Gilmore said.

Gilmore said she has spoken to people who want to be outside with nature and miss the sense of community at camp.

"I think there are a lot of people who have been inside for a long time and have been in the city and are really hopeful that they can have access to this beautiful space," said Gilmore.

Registration is on hold for camps organized by the cities of Surrey and Vancouver, as well as Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, several sports leagues and Science World.

Some camp providers want to review new health protocols including physical distancing measures before they decide to go ahead or, in some cases, offer alternative online programs.

There are jitters over the City of Toronto's decision last week to cancel all city-run summer camps and recreation programs.

Pear Tree Education co-owner Paul Romani expects his summer day camps in Vancouver and Burnaby will go ahead with modified programming and enrolment, but he has some financial concerns about smaller groups.

"If the government says that [groups have] to be less than 15 we'll abide by that, but there obviously has to be a minimum number to make it viable to run a camp, especially when you're trying to make prices competitive."

It's not clear precisely when the province will issue its guidelines, but the COVID-19 Joint Information Centre under the Ministry of Health said in a statement that "the guidelines are expected to be released over the coming days and weeks as we move closer to Phase 2 and 3 of B.C.'s Restart Plan."

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