The Archdiocese of Edmonton has developed a business plan for its two camps, including Camp Encounter seen here in this file photo.Grandin Media

Archdiocese unveils $5M business plan to redevelop summer camps

Our Lady of Victory expected to open next summer

A new $5.6-million business plan has been approved to redevelop the Archdiocese of Edmonton’s two summer camps over the next decade to make them sustainable for the future.

The Archdiocese operates two camps, Our Lady of Victory Camp at Gull Lake, northwest of Red Deer, and Camp Encounter at Lac La Nonne, about 110 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. Between them, campers can participate in canoeing, archery, swimming and other sports as well as faith-based activities, sacraments and Catholic fellowship. In 2018, they attracted a total of 667 campers.

Our Lady of Victory Camp is expected to open as soon as next summer with some spring and fall camping possible. Registrations will open in January for parents, parishes and schools.

Camp Encounter – which is need of more cleanup and redevelopment – is expected to reopen in 2022.

In addition to new buildings, facilities and programming at both camps, the sites will be divided into zones for students and families in an effort to increase attendance and revenue. Financing the capital improvements will depend on a successful fundraising campaign.

Both Camp Encounter and OLVC were shuttered this year in an effort to look at redeveloping both, while dealing with aging infrastructure at annual deficit of approximately $100,000 for both camps.

For parents, volunteers and campers, awaiting news of the camps has been arduous.

“This is a highly emotional. It’s been a very difficult process,” said Lisa Macquarrie, coordinator of both OLVC and Camp Encounter, who has attended camp since she was 9.

“Waiting and not knowing and trusting in somebody else to put together a plan for something that means so much and has had such an impact on your life, it’s hard to be patient with that process. I’ve been to camp. I know these people and I love my camp community, and this has been a very difficult process for them.”

The business plan was developed by a 10-member Archdiocesan Camps Renewal Committee including experts in infrastructure, finance and family life, as well as clergy. It was approved by Archbishop Richard Smith late last month.

At OLVC, plans include a new multi-purpose facility, boy’s dorm, maintenance building, wash zone, as well as beachfront and programming development. Seventeen aging buildings will be cut to eight. And organizers plan to increase the number of yearly campers to more than 300.

At Camp Encounter, the plan involves improving the beachfront, adding a new dock, dining hall, washing and multi-purpose facility as well as tent and recreational vehicles sites.

Each campsite is expected to be divided into zones, one for students and another for multi-generational families, which is expected to increase usage, attendance and revenue. The second phase will include additional programming at the camps, with a particular focus on new Canadians.

“Catholic families have changed. The Catholic Church has evolved. We have waves of – every parish knows this – new Canadians,” said Steven Defer, coordinator of the archdiocesan Office of Life and Family and a member of the camps renewal committee.

“How do we invite them into the camping experience and what it means to be a Canadian, in this camping context, but also to be a Catholic? The goal is to share OLVC and Camp Encounter with the whole Catholic community.”

In terms of fees, Camp Encounter – when it opens – will cost slightly less than it did in 2018. OLVC, meanwhile, will cost a bit more, reflecting a new bus service which will be available. The fee for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese will also be slightly higher. Precise fees will be set at a later date.

In addition, under the plan, both camps will require fewer staff in an effort to cut human resources costs, which represented almost all of the estimated $100,000 deficit per year at both camps. The proposed programming has been adjusted so that it’s more self-directed.

To get to a point where both camps can open, and are sustainable, will cost an estimated $500,000.

Phase 1 of the business plan is to get the camps operational, which involves demolishing old buildings as well as cleanup, sewage and water costs at both camps, before new buildings are built.

Work on the camps will be reviewed and evaluated annually to ensure it’s meeting the needs of the community and stakeholders. Over 900 people responded to an online survey on the future of the camps. Many of them stressed the need for creating a Catholic community, connecting youth to the Church, leadership skills and finding a personal encounter with God.

An official fundraising campaign for the camps hasn’t started yet, pending the finalization of the business plan. The next phase will look at developing the best way to implement that plan. An update is expected within a few months.

“The trigger for this project isn’t time. The trigger for this project is funding,” Defer said.

Over $30,000 has already been raised for the redevelopment of the camps through the first annual Archbishop’s Dinner on Oct. 4. At the event, Archbishop Smith reiterated his commitment to both camps, noting that they have played life-changing roles of young people.

Archdiocesan Camps Renewal Committee members say they are confident in the future of the camps.

“Having a plan, and revisiting that plan annually to pick the best, next strategic move, is absolutely the right way to go. It has to be,” Macquarrie said.

“You can’t just set something on autopilot for 10 years where society changes, people’s personal costs change, the price of staff and everything else changes and make no adjustments to the course of your actions and expect a good outcome at the end of that.”

Macquarrie said that’s what was starting to happen before the Archdiocese took over direct management of Camp Encounter and OLVC from volunteer boards of directors in 2012.

Our Lady of Victory Camp was established in 1946 and Camp Encounter was built in 1980.

Lucy Kaakyo, chair of the camps renewal committee, said past problems will be addressed in the business plan with a new fee structure, new programming and fundraising efforts.


4 thoughts on “Archdiocese unveils $5M business plan to redevelop summer camps

  1. Thanks Andrew for clarifying the reason for the delay in posting my comment.
    There is one edit for my original comment, that must have been lost in the technical issue. The following is the edit.
    The loan from Archbishop McNeil was $50,000 of which $35,000 was forgiven.
    From my knowledge of the camp history, other than this loan, the camp from the beginning and until I left the Camp Encounter Board, was a self sustaining operation.

  2. Please, whoever the 10 member renewal committee is, what’s the subliminal message you are trying to convey in the selected building photograph of Camp Encounter, headlining this article?
    It is a total insult to all those, who with passion, commitment and love tried to establish something for our youth back in the 70’s and 80’s. The camp area at that time was a total disgrace and yes it looked like the ancient pioneering cottage that you so conveniently used to illustrate the suggested condition of the camp today. Maybe I’m just being too sensitive and upset about my imagined intentions of those who have created the new business plan.? If that is the case, my apologies to the renewal committee.

    Up until 2006, when I left the volunteer camp board, the camp had made great strides in improving its facilities, programming and service to a growing number of enthusiastic, caring, fun loving, youthful staff and campers. My understanding is that even after 2006, with Fr. Mike Mireau’s (Fr. Catfish) involvement, camp was being sustained with archdiocesan help.

    Since the first summer camp in 1985, the Camp Spirit around Camp Encounter has grown and flourished, thanks to the campers, staff and the volunteer base supporting the camp. Over this period of time and well before 1985, equipping the camp for its first summer program, thousands of volunteer hours of labour along with hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions were invested in improving the facilities and programs. Archbishop McNeil gave us a $30,000 loan to drill a well and build a washroom. $15,000 of that loan was retuned to the archdiocese.

    Through a developed and growing donor list, newsletters, bingos, casinos, government grants, Knights of Columbus Councils 1184, and 4530, generous donations from some orders of nuns, bike-a-thons, work and hustle, Camp Encounter asked for very little from the archdiocese. We were able to not only sustain the camp, the camp was maintained to Alberta Camping Association Standards and improvements were made on a yearly basis.

    What happened over the past few years? Why wasn’t the necessary effort and investment made for upkeep and improving, not only the facility but also the programming? Yes|!! Camp Encounter is not going to be a source of revenue for the archdiocese. It needs commitment! It needs investment! It needs to be a top agenda item for the archdiocese and the active engagement of young leaders, who have been a big part of the Camp Encounter Community and success over the years. They need to have a sense of ownership of the vision, mission and have a say as to what is happening out there!
    This should be a democratic exercise, built on a spirit of empowering young people rather than imposing manufactured business plans. Yes, planning is good and necessary but who is doing the planning and who is making the decisions is also most important!
    And by the way, how come one of the newest and best additions to the camp, the new kitchen and dining hall, was taken off the property and given to another user within the archdiocese? Who were the decision makers on this issue? Was the builder and supplier of this facility consulted and involved in the decision?
    I have not been out to camp since 2007, as life in old age gets in the way. What has taken place over the last year, however, has stirred my interest and I will by paying a visit to camp. Rest assured I will be monitoring events closely and will register my opinions, like it or not.
    I do so, not so much as I want to, but in the interest of the history I share with camp and all those good dedicated people who gave so much of themselves, love and commitment to a cause we all thought was for the good of our youth, the community and a better world.

    Yes, the Catholic Church and identity was also included, but as a part of a bigger vision and mission.
    This last sentence represents my own frame of mind and may not represent the thinking of the dedicated members of the church community, who identified more with the Catholic identity and cause.

    1. Hi Wilf, thanks for your comments. We appreciate your interest in the story! Some comments may have been lost in the technical issues we had. If so, please feel free to repost them. –Andrew, ed.

    2. I appreciate your comment, Wilf. You along with many others poured so much of yourselves into this place and helped ensure thousands of children and youth come to know Christ through community and creation. The Image depicted here to represent an aging Camp Encounter is almost laughable. To take a historic building loved by many that represents our history and use it to represent a decline in building maintenance is sadly what I think the aim was in posting it. It does not show the hard work by many staff and volunteers to upkeep several of the buildings. The craft shack for example had its roof replaced instead of simply tearing it down and building a new one in order to preserve the iconic handprints of staff, volunteers and campers over the past 3 decades. Yes there are several buildings in need of some rebuilding and maintenance but I believe some recognition needs to go to those who not only built this place but also to the hard work of individuals that worked towards keeping this place running with limited funding.

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