Overnight camping is a go, but not all camps in Windsor-Essex are ready

While some camps in Windsor-Essex are ready to welcome back overnight campers, others say it's too soon for them to properly prepare. 

No matter the programming, summer camps say they're in demand this year

Sunshine Point Camp says it's ready to welcome back overnight campers and has submitted a COVID-19 safety plan to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. (Submitted by Angelo Ciardella)

While some camps in Windsor-Essex are ready to welcome back overnight campers, others say it's too soon for them to properly prepare. 

As part of Step 2 in Ontario's Roadmap to Reopen plan, summer camps can now offer overnight programming, though they are asked to prepare a COVID-19 safety plan. These plans need to be in line with the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 Safety Guidelines. 

Kiwanis Sunshine Point Camp in Essex County told CBC News that it has already submitted a plan to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. 

"Basically what that entailed was all of the measures that we're taking to ensure the health and safety of our staff and campers as they relate to COVID-19," said Angelo Ciardella, secretary and first aid responder at Sunshine Point Camp.

"Also all of the activities that we would normally be planning, how we would amend them so that we're still able to offer that in a safe way."

He said that they plan to cohort cabins to a maximum of 10 campers, including a councillor. Activity staff, such as those running the pool, will be separately cohorted. 

Not all camps are ready to return to overnight camping. Some have chosen to keep it cancelled this year and focus on day camping instead. (Submitted by Angelo Ciardella)

Typically, Ciardella said they would be able to have 60 campers each week, but this year they'll have 40 to better accommodate their new rules. 

When staff are interacting with the campers or if different cohorts mix, Ciardella said masks will be worn. He said COVID-19 testing will not be required or taking place on site, but there is a plan in place if one of their campers becomes sick. 

Meanwhile, Amanda Gellman, founder of Windsor's Film Camp for Kids and Youth, says at this point they had only planned for day camp. 

"We had at this point cancelled the [overnight] camp, but we may look at reopening it now," Gellman said, adding that they usually do overnight camping in August. 

But, not everyone feels there was enough time to prepare for the new rules. 

Gesstwood Camp executive director Karen Seguin told CBC News her team decided a while ago that  they would only do day camp to ensure the safety of their staff and campers. 

"Typically one summer ends and we're already starting to plan for the next summer in terms of overnight camp and then with all the additional COVID guidelines it was going to be a lot to have to kind of get up and running in a very short time," Seguin said. 

Since the camp accommodations are small, Seguin said it also didn't make sense financially to open up their overnight bunks. Instead, they'll just be running a day camp. 

Gesstwood, she added, nearly closed during COVID-19 due to a lack of business. Seguin said they relied on a gofundme and government grants to stay afloat. 

Camps see large demand

But no matter what programming camps are taking on, each one said they've been overwhelmed with parents trying to get their kids registered. 

"I had 35 children register in 15 minutes yesterday," Seguin said.

"It's starting to fill up so I'm super happy about that ... It's been too quite around here ... I look out my window and I see the cabins, pool and our little camp store and there's been nothing for a year, it's very sad." 

Meanwhile, Ciardella said the Sunshine Point Camp email "exploded" when overnight camping registration launched on Tuesday. 

"It's very clear that our families want to send their kids to camp," Ciardella said. "We're going to do everything in our power to make sure that that's possible." 


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