Overnight camps in Ontario could reopen this summer. Premier Doug Ford confirmed the reopening during a recent stop at a Peel region vaccination centre.
“I have to say one thing about the summer camps—July 3 is usually the time they open and they’re opening up this year,” Ford said.
The announcement comes as welcome news to overnight camps across Ontario, which were forced to close last summer due to pandemic. While a firm reopening date has yet to be set, the camps do have COVID-19 reopening plans in place. These plans have been guided by the Ontario Camps Association, which held a virtual campfire on April 12 to outline its plan for reopening camps with parents and kids.
Adam Kronick, director of Camp White Pine in Haliburton, said his staff have been working tirelessly with a health care team to ensure all requirements are met and the camp can open safely. “The camps that are opening, a lot of them are like us and are hoping to start early July, like July 2—and if we have to delay a bit, we will,” he said.
Once camps get the green light, Kronick said that prior to arrival all campers and staff will be asked to limit their contact with individuals outside their household for 14 days. Both campers and staff will also require two negative PCR tests before they’re allowed to enter the camp.
Once at Whitepine, campers will not be allowed to leave the camp except for emergencies. “They’re in a bubble,” Kronick said. “No one is going out. We’re trying to keep the local community safe.”
The campers will be sorted into cabins, with each cabin acting as a cohort. “Like a family unit,” Kronick explained. “The cabins are spread out from one another and when [the campers] get close to another cabin, they mask.”
With 1,600 acres to work with, social distancing shouldn’t be difficult at White Pine, but as an added precaution, the camp has moved most of its activities to outdoor spaces. Otherwise, Kronick said camp should proceed as normal. Whitepine will offer its usual programming, and camper numbers are expected to be similar to previous years.
But not all overnight camps will have a July start date. Camp Ooch & Camp Trillium (which merged in 2020), a nonprofit oncology camp that allows kids battling cancer and their families to enjoy the experience of overnight camp, is looking at delaying its start as a precaution for its campers with medical conditions.
“We’re looking at August,” said Camp Ooch & Camp Trillium CEO Alex Robertson. “Our plan is at the very least, we’ll be returning to in-person in September.”
Camp Ooch & Camp Trillium, which has camp sites in Muskoka, Waterford, and Wellington, runs camp programs all year-round. So, while other Ontario camps spent last winter planning for the summer, Camp Ooch & Camp Trillium were adapting their programming online.
“Last March, we were about to launch March break day camps across the province in London, Toronto, and Ottawa. We quite quickly switched gears and moved it all online,” Robertson said. “To our delight, we found that families were quite enthusiastic about virtual camp, and that actually carried right through last summer.”
Despite the success of their online programming, Robertson said he recognizes the impact the pandemic-induced isolation is having on the kids and their families. “Kids with cancer are very familiar with isolation. You get diagnosed, you go and spend weeks to months living on a hospital floor. But what’s changed is that suddenly the network of support that would visit you or see you when you get out of hospital and, you know, celebrate your day off chemo day with a party, that’s all gone,” he said.