Town seals deal on purchase of Sunny Cove Camp

Duane Hicks

While it still will be called Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp, the well-known site will be owned and operated by the Town of Fort Frances from now on.
Town council voted unanimously last night to authorize the purchase of Sunny Cove Camp—an agreement explained to the public at an open house last Tuesday evening.
“I think that council and administration have reviewed very diligently the acquisition of this, and I think over the next few years this will turn into a win-win situation for this community,” said Mayor Roy Avis.
“We’ve been very above board. All of the information that anyone requires is available to them,” he added, noting residents can come by the Civic Centre and pick it up or contact the town and have the information sent to them.
“Prior to the Oct. 6 meeting, and following the Oct. 6 meeting, there has been nothing but overwhelming support for council’s proceeding with the acquisition,” noted Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft.
“It’s a good thing.”
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig acknowledged he’s received a few letters and e-mails expressing concern, and that he will continue to field the public’s questions regarding the acquisition.
Under the terms of the agreement, the local Kiwanis Club is selling its Sunny Cove Camp to the Town of Fort Frances for $1, with the intent being for the town to preserve and maintain the camp for the use of district residents.
The name will stay “Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp,” and three club members will sit on a Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp Advisory Committee and work with the town to provide input and ensure the present usage will be maintained to certain camp users.
The town will adopt the current booking schedule as priority users based on historical bookings, and will maintain the primary use of the property as a camp for youth of the district, with the understanding that others uses of benefit to youths, families, and the public are encouraged, as well.
The club, which has provided subsidies to offset costs for youth groups and the like, have said they will continue to try to do so into the future.
If the town ever chooses to divest itself of the operation and ownership of the property, it then will turn it over to an organization that, as closely as possible, parallels the original intent and vision of Kiwanis Sunny Cove Camp—not to a private entity to make a profit.
The Kiwanis cited a declining membership as the main reason for being unable to operate the camp any longer.
Sunny Cove history
Rev. Ron McGregor purchased land on the shores of Rainy Lake back in 1934, which eventually would become Sunny Cove Camp as we know it.
At that time, the site was partially cleared and used for a tent camp for youth of the First Baptist Church.
Back then, it only could be reached by boat or by train to the Rocky Inlet station, followed by a hike through the woods.
In the following years, the camp was expanded, with permanent cabins built there.
When Rev. McGregor left Fort Frances in 1939, it was deeded to a board of trustees to be operated on a non-profit basis and devoted to Christian education.
In 1947, the Jaycees took it over and operated it until 1956.
The Kiwanis took over ownership in 1957 and has done so ever since.
Over the past five decades, the property was increased. And when the Noden Causeway was opened in the 1960s, a strip of land was purchased to allow for road access.
The parcel is now about 28 acres.
New buildings were erected and older ones renovated. Most prominent of all is Russell Hall, a 120’x32’ building which was named after charter member W.T. “Bill” Russell.
Other upgrades have included a well (for years the water supply was pumped and treated lake water).
Following the Walkerton E. coli tragedy, more water purifying equipment was added to meet the new standards.