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Volunteers breathe new life into Mink Lake’s Camp Smitty BY KRISTA JOHNSTON For close to a century, the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa has welcomed thousands of children to the shores of Mink Lake to experience a summer they will never forget. Located just minutes from the village of Eganville – and just an hour from Scotiabank Place – Camp Smitty has become a place where children from across the province can form long-lasting friendships, gain new outdoor skills and learn a greater sense of independence. It is also a place where children, who couldn’t otherwise afford to spend their summer at camp, have the chance to experience the good life. With so much history embedded in its roots, the 28-acre property has seen its share of wear and tear, with many older buildings requiring significant upgrades and replacement. But thanks to the help of many dedicated volunteers, businesses and community groups, Camp Smitty has been graced with a number of new facilities, including six modern cabins, two winterized bathroom blocks and a 1,250 square-foot log home. “I went to Camp Smitty as a kid way back in 1980 and was a staff member there for a number of years,” says the camp’s director Tom Patrick. “Even back then, the cabins were rustic, but we were a nonprofit camp. Now, because of the community and the volunteers who have rallied around it, you can compare Camp Smitty to many of the private camps that are a lot more financially supported.” In the last 10 years, volunteer groups from Amsted Construction, Capital City Chorus, the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa, the Ottawa Senators Alumni and the Boys and Girls Club have come to the Mink Lake for annual work bees to breathe new life into Camp Smitty. Through their dedicated efforts, these volunteers have provided ongoing enhancements to the site, including beautiful finishes to the dining hall (including new flooring, insulation and a stone fireplace), a new maintenance shed, improvements to the senior staff cabin’s main floor (with a second floor added), the construction of two tree houses (which can sleep up to 10 people), a new gazebo and wrap-around decks for the children’s cabins. “There are a lot of projects going on,” says Patrick. “The kids are really excited about the camp cabins…because it will be a lot cooler and they will have decks where they can sit outside,” he explained. “With all of this work I think it sends the message that the community really cares.“ NEW LOG CABIN One of the largest undertakings for the club this year is the construction of a modernized pioneer-style log cabin situated on a beautiful isolated point of the property. With the site’s existing building now demolished and removed, the club and several generous sponsors are working steadily on this project, which will act as a major source of revenue for the club when it is rented out as a vacation home. “This new log cabin is going to be fan-

Photo by Jocelyn Umengan

Cedar logs were removed from Camp Smitty’s 28-acre property by a team of horses. Volunteers worked steadily to peel, measure and cut the logs. By using horses, the camp was able to minimally impact the forest and only take logs that would be used for the vacation rental home.

Photo by Krista Johnston Photo by Krista Johnston

This pioneer-style log home is now being built on the shoreline of Camp Smitty on Mink Lake. Once complete, the vacation home will be used to generate annual income for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, who subsidize children from the Ottawa area who attend their summer camp. tastic and it will generate revenue that will all go back to the camp,” Patrick says. “We’re relying on volunteers, but the hope is that it will be completed by this fall. It will take (about) three to four years to recoup the costs of the log cabin construction, but from there on in, it’s money being generated that will help us subsidize campers and do upkeep on the

Children who attend Camp Smitty this year will see six new sleeper cabins, three in the girl’s area and three in the boys. buildings in the coming years.” Over the course of last winter, white cedar logs were removed from the camp’s property by a team of horses with minimal impact to the surrounding forest. Now, workers from Kealey and Tackaberry Log Homes Ltd. are working to complete the shell of the log home that will soon feature radiant-floor heating, a stone fireplace (inside and out), granite countertops, an upstairs loft and wraparound deck. “The building was grandfathered. You would never be able to put a cottage that close to the water anymore,” says Paul

Kealey, whose company is donating the log home at a 65-per-cent discount. “It’s going to be a modern focal point of the camp…that will help them develop as a club, bring more income in and as a result, bring more opportunities to kids.” There are many businesses that have partnered with the Boys and Girls Club on the log-home project by providing donations and volunteer time. The partners include Doyle Homes, Deslaurier Kitchens, Marlboro Window and Doors, Astro Kitchen and Design, Faught Electric and Zito Plumbing.

Ottawa This Week - East  

May 5, 2011