Neighbours, residents, cottagers and Kenora-based wilderness camps are working together to protect the environment and secure the future of youth programming for kids.
"I am writing on behalf of the Manitoba Camping Association (MCA) and one of our member camps, BB Camp, located on Town Island. We understand the City of Kenora has requested proposals for the development of Town Island and I urge the city to reconsider the process.
Having been the executive director of Luther Village Camp on Hwy #71 south of Kenora for 25 years previous to my role now with the MCA, I have seen how camp in the wilderness effects individuals – campers and staff alike. I have seen thousands of staff and campers become better people because of the experiences in undeveloped wilderness in the area. I ask you to reconsider developing on Town Island and working with BB Camp on how together, you can come up with a solution where you all can win. I would be willing to be a part of helping to find the solution to keep Town Island natural."
Kim Scherger, Executive Director, Manitoba Camping Assoc.
"Diabetes Canada has been a friend of Town Island and BB Camp since the early 1980’s when we first provided Camp Briardale there. The island and its natural surroundings play a central role in enabling our children, youth and families living with type 1 diabetes to build community, connect to their environment and gain access to outdoor environments and activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.
Type 1 diabetes is an isolating disease. When diagnosed families are bombarded with barriers, overwhelmed with perceived limitations to the future of the child in their care. Diabetes Canada provides D-Camp programs, like Camp Briardale in Kenora, in an extremely intentional way that includes the wilderness element of Town Island. Being part of a program like Camp Briardale, hosted by BB Camp, helps those living with type 1 diabetes to build confidence that they can manage their chronic illness to promote a long and healthy life in any environment – including the undeveloped wilderness of Town Island.
We urge Kenora politicians to reconsider their plan to develop Town Island and maintain its unspoiled state. In order to help Diabetes Canada promote and develop life-long healthy living habits, confidence in independent management of a chronic illness and forge the life long connections that a wilderness environment like BB Camp allows."
Ted Lockie, Director, Camp and Youth Programs, Diabetes Canada
"Kenora bought Town Island around 1893. It is a place of great natural beauty. For more than 125 years it has served residents and visitors as a public natural preserve. It serves two youth camps and has introduced tens of thousands of children to a true Lake of the Woods experience.
The City of Kenora claims its “strategic plan identifies a commitment to champion environmental stewardship recognizing the importance of the lake to our thriving existence. The City will continue to be leaders as “Stewards of the Lake”, as well as “Stewards of the Land”. The decision to sell off Town Island for development is not in keeping with the City’s Environmental Policy. The City is not a “Steward of the Lake” when they decide to sell off a public asset to fund some unknown future development.
For me, the future of Kenora and Lake of the Woods is premised on our being good caretakers of the amazing natural resource that is Lake of the Woods. That future is both our financial future our cultural future. It is extremely short sighted to sacrifice that vision for a one time capital gain. It is a decision that can never be reversed. There are alternatives.
The citizens of Kenora look to the City for leadership when it comes to land use and stewardship, and to implement its stated policies and strategic plan. If the strategic policy has changed to one which is singularly based on short term economics and book-keeping, then I would suggest we do not have the leadership we elected or deserve."
David Nelson, OAA, MRAIC (Nelson Architecture Inc.)
"I have been Lake of the Woods each year since 1976. I am grateful for the woods and waters. The wilderness gives teaches wisdom. Studies prove being outdoors gives our lives health and balance. Being responsible stewards of our irreplaceable wilderness is the greatest honour we can bestow on the world.
Town Island is one such treasured place: wild, criss-crossed with primitive trails, and rife with wilderness campsites for canoe-trippers to enjoy. It is the last sizeable natural acreage in an area growing in “made environments”. Turning this wilderness into more cottages, boat-houses and docks will ruin the treasure it is now. We must find a positive, proactive way to preserve the island's wilderness and still meet Kenora’s needs.
The lands should be put into a conservation trust. Proceeds from the transaction will assist Kenora. I have spent my life working to develop such preservation projects for the well-being of young people most of whom I will never meet. It's just like planting a tree. I know that having natural outdoor places they can visit makes them better people. For the benefit of our children, our grandchildren and those who will come long into the future I hope that all of us will take the steps necessary to make this selfless gift to the future come true."
Dyke Van Etten Williams
"The lake is where I can be with my father again. It is where we spent long hours removed from everything else and enjoyed the peace and quiet together. His ethos was always to give people their own space and never did he pull in to a fishing spot if someone else was there. After all, there was plenty of elbow room.
The lake has changed since he was a fishing guide and I never really feel that I'm “out on the lake” until I’ve run the gauntlet at the Gap. That’s where the lake opens up. That’s where there’s elbow room. A cottage development on Town Island will destroy that feeling. I don’t think that’s the kind of Lake people want.
Tom Thomson (Tom Thomson Photography)
"I am a 4th-generation summer resident of the Lake. Town Island is an important place to my children and grandchildren. They paddled to the island from Camp Stephens on their first camping trips, and camped there later on their own. BB camp and Camp Stephens have long histories on the Lake. They are wonderful stewards of the island and have taught generations of campers to treat it and the Lake with respect and care.
The City wants to monetize the part of Town island which they own. That is their right. The risk of development in the unorganized territory can have major impacts on water quality and fisheries and wildlife. We have no idea of the consequences of such a decision for the Lake.
As the population on the lake intensifies, we imperil the sense of wilderness which we all love. Town Island was bought by Kenora to give its citizens access to the Lake. Privatizing the island denies the public of this opportunity. In southern Ontario It is illegal to camp or picnic on most land because it is privately owned. That is why this property is so unique. The Conservation Reserve is too far away for many, but Town Island is close to town and large enough to make an impact, both for the community and conservation.
There is considerable interest among some of the Lake community to ensure the land is lodged into a conservation trust so that its present use will be continued in perpetuity. I trust that the City of Kenora will ensure that the selling process will be open and transparent.
We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to achieve a generational win for Kenora, and a win for the Lake, wildlife, youth and the environment. Let’s seize the opportunity together."
Tanny Wells (Galt Island)
"When I think of Town Island, I hear eagle chicks every morning calling out for their parents to bring them breakfast.
When I think of Town Island, I hear young campers from Camp Stephens or BB Camp screaming with delight and excitement as they take the first plunge into the lake each June.
When I think of Town Island, I see canoers, kayakers and campers paddling at dusk looking for a suitable camp site. I see the evening paddlers from the BB Camp as they navigate their canoes around the island for the first time.
When I think of Town Island, I see the fisher people casting loud noisy lures searching for the elusive Muskie. I think about the Muskie rising from the depths to the surface like an ancient dinosaur chasing a bait like a dog would chase a ball.
When I think about Town Island, I see the greening each Spring and the cornucopia of colors each Fall.
Life at the lake would not be the same if the property were to be developed or changed from its natural state. Town Island deserves to remain green space for the pleasure and enjoyment of all."
Mike, Molly, Maddie, Noah & Ethan
"As a lifelong summer resident of Lake of the Woods ( I first came as a baby in 1933) I have experienced the joys of being at the lake and raising children and grandchildren there who have also come to appreciate its natural beauty and the appeal of its wilderness areas.
While it is right and important for others to have these experiences, not everyone can afford to buy or rent cottages at the lake. Therefore I believe it is extremely important to preserve wilderness areas such as Town Island where people can hike, picnic, swim or just appreciate nature.
I am very upset to learn that the City of Kenora is proposing to offer a large part of Town Island for development. Not only would this make it impossible for casual visitors to enjoy this beautiful island which is close enough to Kenora for easy access, but it would deprive campers such as those from Camp Stephens and B’nai Brith from using wilderness areas there to introduce young people to the joys of nature.
I hope you will reconsider your plans and investigate further the possibilities of putting the Island into a conservation or nature trust as was originally intended."
"I write to support Camp B’nai Brith in its efforts to preserve Town Island as a place of natural beauty. JCamp 180 is a North American foundation that provides grants and consulting to strengthen Jewish summer camps. We value camping as an exceptional experience to growing the skills, independence and confidence of children and young adults through their time in the outdoors. We are funders and long-time supporters of Camp B’nai Brith, and we know that its 60 years of renowned outdoors and tripping programs greatly benefit from camper and staff ability to enjoy the beautiful, nature setting of Town Island and Lake of the Woods. We hope that Town Island will be preserved for the benefits of its public and historic users for many generations to come. We add our name to those supporting these efforts to preserve the Island."
Sarah Eisinger, Director, JCamp 180, Harold Grinspoon Foundation
"I know that the people of Kenora and Lake of the Woods have a deep love for wilderness and wildlife. That wilderness has helped to shape their culture, economy, lifestyle and identity. I learned that first hand through my experiences at Camp Stephens in the 1980's and 1990's and I continue that connection by returning to the area every summer to enjoy one of the last true wilderness experiences in the area. However, the wilderness that we are so closely tied to is in grave peril. The benefits of wilderness are numerous. Wilderness provides so much more than a place to camp, hike or fish.
Why is it so imperative that we act now to protect wilderness areas?
The preservation of wilderness is essential to the preservation of biodiversity, a goal shared by Canada and most of the other countries in the world.
Wilderness areas help to maintain essential life and health benefits such as good air and clean water. They also moderate the effects of pollution.
Our recreation, spiritual renewal, and mental and physical health are all inextricably linked to nature.
I would encourage local decision makers to look past the immediate benefits of the sale of Town Island and consider the long term impact of not only Town Island, but the entire Lake of the Woods area."
"I am very disappointed to hear about the proposed sale of Town Island. As a former camper and counselor at Camp Stephens I have fond memories of my time spent at the campsites on Town Island. For many campers, a trip to the campsites on town island is their first big canoeing adventure, an experience that has brought much excitement to countless kids. Maintaining wild places for the next generation is more important than ever.
Thank you for the work that you are doing in trying to stop the development of this important island for many generations of kids."
"I was dismayed to hear Town Island is back in the City’s hands and that they will again try subdividing it. It is precious and should be left available for the recreational use of the citizens of Kenora, the camps and the kids. The land swap with the province was a brilliant solution. The island has served the public for more than a hundred years. I have said before and will say again that the island is priceless as is. Let’s find a way to keep it that way."