Nova Scotia

With bookings pouring in, Nova Scotia summer camps await permission to open

Kids across the province are waiting with bated breath to find out if they're actually going to be able to go to summer camps this year. Dr. Robert Strang gave them a reason to be hopeful this week.

'People want their kids to be able to get outside, be kids again'

A family canoes in Kejimkujik National Park in this undated photo. (Sheri Fresonke Harper/Shutterstock)

Kids across the province are waiting with bated breath to find out if they're actually going to be able to go to summer camps this year.

"We've been planning all winter long for camp," said Lorrie Turnbull, chief operating officer of the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth. "We were just as excited as thousands of kids and families were to hear that there's an opportunity for camp to happen this summer."

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, held a question-and-answer session this week with the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia, a group that represents non-profit organizations. During the session, he stated that he expects summer camps will be able to open.

"I expect by the time we get into July, summer day camps should be feasible," he said.

'We actually have 500 names on a wait list'

He said summer camps involving overnight stays "might be more tricky," but they could also be allowed, perhaps as early as July.

"But don't expect you can bring in campers from outside the Atlantic bubble," he said.

Turnbull said requests for Big Cove Camp and YMCA day camps have already been pouring in.

"We're full," Turnbull said. "We actually have over 500 names on a wait list, so, to us, that was a good indication that there's a good level of confidence and desire for families to send their kids to camp this summer."

Mat Whynott, president of the Camping Association of Nova Scotia and PEI, said the industry is happy to see some light at the end of the tunnel. He said kids need camping now more than ever.

"People want their kids to be able to get outside, be kids again," he said.

He said being shut down last year was a big blow to families and kids and to the camping industry itself.

Mat Whynott is the president of the Camping Association of Nova Scotia and PEI. (CBC/Rob Short)

"The camping industry is massive," he said. "It's a four-billion-dollar industry in Canada."

Whynott said up to 11,000 kids go to camp in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. each year on average. He said summer camps employ close to 1,000 people at over 40 different camps throughout those provinces, so people also lost out on employment opportunities.

Bubbles at Big Cove

Turnbull said the YMCA is prepared to open day camps as well as Big Cove Camp, in Thornburn, N.S., where campers sleep over.

But camp will look a bit different this year than most.

This year campers will be in small bubbles. The focus will be on outdoor activities.

"We know it's doable," said Turnbull. "We know we can provide kids with a great experience at camp despite being in a COVID environment."

Whynott said his organization has been working with health officials in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. and is currently drafting a reopening plan.

He said the plan would take into account all current restrictions and guidelines and include changing the way meals, games and lodging are set up.

"We certainly anticipate, based on conversations with Dr. Strang over the past couple of days, overnight summer camps in the province will be able to open up with restrictions," said Whynott.

Turnbull said they are hoping confirmation comes soon because the YMCA hopes to open Big Cove Camp the first week of July.

"It's not just the families on standby. There's also a number of staff we have to hire."

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Feleshia Chandler is a journalist based in Halifax. She loves helping people tell their stories and has interests in issues surrounding LGBTQ+ people as well as Black, Indigenous and people of colour. You can reach her at feleshia.chandler@cbc.ca

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