By BERNIE BELLAN For several years now we have been reporting on the uncertain future of Town Island, home to BB Camp, as a result of attempts by the City of Kenora to elicit interest in having that portion of the island that is not already owned by BB Camp sold. There have been many twists and turns in this story.
In February 2020 we reported on the attempt by the City of Kenora to elicit expressions of interest from anyone interested in buying that portion of Town Island that did not belong to BB Camp.
Back then we wrote about a proposed partnership between BB Camp and the Nature Conservancy of Canada in an attempt to eliminate once and for all the possibility that the City of Kenora might sell the 200 acres of Town Island that did not belong to BB Camp to a private developer who, in turn, could subdivide the island into private lots.
Here is some history of what led to the precarious situation for BB Camp, as sent to us by a group known as the “Friends of Town Island:”
“Over the last six decades, BB Camp has been fortunate to use this beautiful property. Historically, BB Camp leased Town Island from the City of Kenora and the land’s primary use arrangement continued until the mid-2000s. Since that time, this arrangement has been threatened with potentially negative consequences for BB Camp. The proposed partnership with the NCC provides a unique opportunity to protect Town Island in perpetuity for the continued use of BB Camp and its campers.
“In 2008, the City of Kenora proposed a potential development plan to subdivide the approximately 200 acres on Town Island into cottage properties or other developments. In 2014, through the efforts of the BB Camp Board of Directors and countless friends of the Camp, the Camp was able to secure and purchase our footprint on the Island (approximately 30 acres) while the remaining 200 acres of the Island would become Crown-owned land as the proceeds of a land swap program with the Province of Ontario, allowing BB Camp to continue operations as we had been for almost 60 years.”
As it turned out however, the proposed land swap between the City of Kenora and the Province of Ontario never led anywhere. As a result, we quoted from a communication received from the Friends of Town Island in January 2020: “In the fall of 2019, the City of Kenora was once again looking to use the approximately 200 acres of undeveloped land to generate revenue for the City. Though our main campsite will remain unharmed as of the 2008 purchase, the remaining land, including the nine camping areas on the “back side” of the Island, which are instrumental to our program and history, were being considered to be sold and redeveloped as cottage properties.”
In January 2020 we wrote, however, that the City of Kenora had failed to elictit a single expression of interest in purchasing the 200 acres of Town Island that it was interested in selling:
I wrot then that “I am now glad to report that, at least for the time being, the sale of Town Island has been averted – not because the City of Kenora dropped the idea of selling it; rather, it was because Kenora did not receive one single ‘expression of interest’ in buying the island, according to an email I received from Kenora’s Manager of Development Service, Adam Smith.”
In September 2021 we reported on a fundraising campaign embarked upon by BB Camp to raise $2.85 million by August 2022 to buy back part of Town Island from the City of Kenora on behalf of the Nature Conservancy of Canada
We noted then that the City of Kenora had issued a deadline to the Nature Conservancy of Canada of August 2022 to come up with $2.85 million to buy the rest of Town Island.
We wrote that “the Nature Conservancy has turned to BB Camp for help in raising the necessary funds. Following is part of a communication received from BB Camp which outlines the situation:”
“BB Camp has called Town Island home since 1954. The Island and BB Camp’s use have been threatened on several occasions over the past few decades. The City of Kenora has finally agreed to sell the “back side” of Town Island to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (“NCC”). BB Camp is partnering with the NCC to help raise the funds for the purchase. We are reaching out to you to ask for your financial support in our efforts.
“In the early months of 2020, the hard work and tireless efforts of the Friends of Town Island, an advocacy group made up of concerned and committed cottagers, and camp alumni (from both BB Camp, and our neighbours at YMCA’s Camp Stephens), resulted in a deal struck between the City of Kenora and the NCC for the NCC to purchase the land from the City. The NCC is Canada’s largest environmental NGO with a main mission to conserve and protect natural lands by their purchase or by the establishment of conservation easements.
“The agreement between the City of Kenora and the NCC is contingent on the NCC raising the $2.85m required for the purchase and associated administrative costs, which include funds for long-term maintenance of the property and payment of property taxes. These funds are required before August 2022 or the lands revert back to the City of Kenora. It is unlikely that the agreement can be completed without the support and assistance of BB Camp, especially in this case given the short timelines. The NCC and BB Camp are entering into a memorandum of understanding to confirm the mutual commitment and intent to work together to raise funds and protect BB Camp’s access to the Island. In the event the purchase from the City of Kenora is not completed, the NCC will return any and all donations made as part of this fundraising effort.”
The campaign to raise $2.85 million was led by Anita Wortzman and Leah Leibl.
This past week we received the news that the fundraising campaign had achieved its goal. We received this communication, which explained that the campaign had culminated in success:
“Our plans for Town Island have been realized and we are very pleased to share with you that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) finally purchased the remaining 82 hectares of Town Island from the City of Kenora on July 14, 2022!
“Thank you to everyone who supported the efforts to secure the conservation of Town Island for the future. The combined forces of the NCC, our many lake neighbours, our valued donors, including the Asper Foundation, and the community at large, were able to meet our fundraising deadline and protect Town Island for the future. It has been a long-term goal of BB Camp to secure the preservation of Town Island. We acknowledge this monumental event as a path to honouring the principle of Tikkun Olam.
“The successful purchase allows BB Camp, in partnership with the NCC, to continue to maintain and expand our current programs and provide for the education and stewardship of the Island.”