Bar Harbour: Time to grow or close

“We need new washrooms, because they’re not up to standards.” Verna Rock, Bar Harbour Camp

After decades of operation on the southeast shore of Buffalo Lake, Bar Harbour Camp finds itself at a crossroads.

“We either have to grow or close,” said Verna Rock, a member of the camp’s board of directors and a former Bar Harbour camper. “We’re trying to grow.”

Rock said the camp had reached the point where it needed to address some of its ongoing challenges, including the deterioration of infrastructure and buildings, financial shortcomings and a drop in the number of volunteers.

To reach the public directly, the camp is hosting an open house, dessert night and tour on Monday, Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Former campers and other friends of Bar Harbour are invited to attend, to learn about the camp’s goals for the future, and to offer input and support. Rock said the camp has sent out more than 100 invitations to the event.

Support for the camp’s campaign has already come from one former camper, author Lorraine Cathro, who has devoted a chapter of her new book, Roots and Adventures: A Prairie Childhood, to her memories of Bar Harbour.

Cathro has also posted an appeal on her website, challenging former campers and others to support the camp, either financially or by volunteering their time.

One particular need for the camp, Rock said, is to replace the existing washroom facilities, currently housed in temporary wooden buildings.

“We need new washrooms, because they’re not up to standards,” she stressed.

Other needs and goals for the camp’s future include additional board members, other infrastructure improvements, the construction of a target range and the purchase of new sports equipment.

Rock said that each year, the camp attracts children from throughout the area, as well as neighbouring provinces.

Helen Reed, another board member who also serves as the United Church minister for congregations in Oyen and Cereal, said that 185 campers attended Bar Harbour’s summer programs this year.

Adding the number of kids registered for the fall camp, offered to students in grades 10 through 12 and running from Sept. 19 to 21, the total rises to just over 200.

As indicated in the appeal letter sent to supporters, Rock has a personal connection to the camp, and to Fred Holder, who donated 100 acres of land to the United Church of Canada to establish Bar Harbour back in the 1920s.

Holder, who was known to her family as “Grandpa Holder,” lived with Rock’s grandparents in his final years.

“He did this for the children,” said Rock. “I just hate to see it close.”

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