Future of Alberta summer camps up in the air as operators, families wait for word from the province

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WATCH: The window of opportunity for summer camps to still happen in Alberta is rapidly closing. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, both parents and camp operators are anxiously waiting for word from the province about the fate of camps. – May 18, 2021

Operators of summer camps in Alberta are anxiously waiting for word from the province whether camps will be allowed this season.

For Lachlan Paulhus, the best part of summer is going to Camp Cadicasu, west of Calgary.

“It’s so much fun,” said the Calgary Grade 7 student.

“You’re outside hiking and playing tag, getting messy and building dams out of mud,” Paulhus said about his previous years at camp.

But right now, families still have no idea if summer camps in Alberta will be happening.

“If we weren’t working from home, we would have to find some other arrangements. But from Lachlan’s perspective, they are really missing out if they don’t get to go. It’s such a growth experience for them. They have so much fun,” said Lachlan’s mom Christina Kutarna.

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Read more: 3rd COVID-19 wave bringing ‘the most ICU patients that we’ve ever seen in our health-care system:’ Alberta Health Services

Overnight camp operators say they need to know now what the provincial rules will be so they can go ahead with hiring and planning.

“Without that guidance, these camps aren’t going to be able to run. Day camps have a little more flexibility, but still, we are getting close to that time where if we don’t get news, camps will not be able to operate at all this summer,” said Callum Monteith, president of the Alberta Camping Association, which represents organized summer and youth camps in the province.

Under Alberta’s previous reopening plan, camps would be allowed to resume during Step 4. That means that COVID-19 hospitalizations need to be below 150. As of Tuesday, 691 people were in hospital.

Read more: COVID-19 ‘still evolving’: Canadian summer camps uncertain about opening

A committee of camp industry members from across the province submitted reopening guidelines in mid-March saying they needed answers by May 14.

“Based on the current COVID numbers across the province, they weren’t able to meet that date. But we are hoping to get guidelines as soon as possible,” said Monteith.

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“The sooner we can get them, the better because many camps have already hit their drop date. We have had many organizations already say, ‘We can’t run this summer.'”

He said his organization is optimistic for day camps but not as much for overnight camps.

“The message we’ve been receiving from Alberta Health is that overnight camps are a lot less likely,” Monteith said.

Nick Wiggins, YMCA Calgary senior director of operations, said that they are in the process of making the best decisions possible with the information they have right now.

“We are assuming the guidelines will be similar to last year,” Wiggins said.

“I think, like all camps in Alberta, it is getting incredibly hard to deliver what we would consider to be traditional overnight camping.”

A spokesperson for Alberta Health said there is still no timeline for when camps will be allowed.

Read more: Doug Ford says Ontario summer camps will be allowed to open this year

Last year, day camps were allowed but not overnight camps.

This week, Ontario’s premier announced that summer camps will be allowed to proceed. More details are expected to be provided by June 2 on whether the rules pertain to overnight or day camps.


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