Sunny Cove camp back in the spotlight as plans fall through

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer
kkellar@fortfrances.com

The future of Sunny Cove is once again an open question for Fort Frances Town Council.

At the Community Services Executive Committee, the town discussed a letter received from the Emo-Devlin Church group that had submitted a proposal to take over the operations of Sunny Cove from the town. The group is comprised of a number of representatives from local churches, local organizations and summer camps who make use of the property each year. Originally entering into the agreement with the town in July 2020, the group has recently notified town administration that they can no longer take on the responsibility, citing the COVID pandemic and other unexpected obstacles.

“Due to [a] number of challenging factors, the Emo-Devlin United Church Group has realized that, despite their original enthusiasm and wealth of skills, this project has ultimately proven to be beyond their capability,” Town CAO Faisal Anwar wrote in the committee report.

“The Group is requesting a withdrawal from their Sunny Cove Camp proposal.”

Anwar noted that the administration’s recommendation to council is to accept the withdrawal and to reissue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for another entity to take over the management of the property.

Coun. Andrew Hallikas noted that the Sunny Cove Camp property is “invaluable” to the community, and agreed that he would like to see another RFP go out to interested parties.

“The sooner the better,” Hallikas said.

Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft agreed with Hallikas’ desire to have another RFP issued, but he voiced his concerns with any additional work the town might be liable for as the search resumes for someone to take over the property.

“My biggest concern is: are there things that we have to do in the interim?” he asked the committee.

“Repair issues that are before us? Accessibility issues that are before us? As we are still the owner of the facility and we are going to be obligated to make those improvements for accessibility and for the safety and security of the property. We would have to do that in the interim, even while the RFP is going out, would we not?”

Anwar noted that administration could look into those requirements and determine whether the town would be liable for those types of capital repairs, or if they could be included in the RFP for the successful applicant. Coun. Mike Behan noted that the town would be put into a difficult position in a financial sense if it was required to deal with the upgrades and fixes. Any funds needed for Sunny Cove were not included in the capital budget for 2022, due to the expectation the Emo-Devlin Church Group would be responsible for any necessary upgrades.

In the event there are no applications in response to the RFP in time to have camps this year, Anwar stated they may be able to keep costs to a minimum to impact the budget as little as possible, such as by not running any programs or events at the space and only keeping up with the necessities and maintenance.

With the prospect of a new RFP going out for someone to take over management of Sunny Cove Camp, Behan took a moment to thank the Emo-Devlin Church Group for their willingness to take on the project, even as it proved to be

“I want to thank the Emo-Devlin Church Group for stepping forward to try and run the camp, and lease it to do that,” Behan said.

“I’m sorry to hear they are unable to, that’s disappointing, but I understand and I thank them for their interest initially. I agree with Councillor Hallikas and Wiedenhoeft both that this is an urgent matter. We’re rapidly approaching the start of the summer season, and I’d like to see this taken care of as quickly as possible so that hopefully we can get Sunny Cove up and running this year.”

The issue of Sunny Cove will return to council for their April 11 meeting.