Camps pump millions into local economy
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | August 24, 2017|
Thousands of summer campers have made lifelong memories once again in Haliburton County. And, despite a rainy 2017, the economic impact of this quintessential highlands activity remains unqualified, but no doubt high.
Neither Haliburton County’s tourism arm, the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce or the Haliburton County Development Corporation, have numbers on what this industry does for our area. But, speaking to just three camps, reveals that millions of dollars likely change hands every year, whether it’s staff jobs, campers’ fees, or money spent on goods and services locally.
“Money pumped into the economy is difficult to gauge,” says Adam Kronick, director of Camp White Pine since 1987. “If you include wages paid to local people who work here, money paid by camps to local suppliers including bus lines, money spent by staff in town, money spent by visitors at hotels, it would be well over $1 million.”
He qualifies that by saying that would be from the spring to the fall, not just summer. And that is just for one camp, off of Highway 118 West, between Haliburton and Carnarvon.
“Camps have been a large and growing part of the industry and economy in Haliburton for over 60 years,” Kronick, who co-manages the camp with Dana Zosky, adds.
Figuring out how much money they bring in is tricky. And, expensive, says Autumn Wilson, chamber manager.
“Unfortunately, no, we don’t have the numbers on their impact,” she says. “Those studies have typically been out of our reach because of the cost to get a proper study done.”
She says she’s been doing some research to find out how they can get numbers more easily, but usually it means taking regional data, which isn’t just Haliburton County. It will typically include City of Kawartha Lakes or Peterborough.
“That doesn’t always give us an accurate view of the local impact,” she says.
Anecdotally, though, camps are a major economic driver.
Bruce Dunning is the executive director of Medeba in West Guildford, which just invested $1 million in a new building called Mountain Lodge that was officially opened in July.
For just summer alone, he cites fees from campers of approximately $500,000, another $100,000 for summer jobs and an unknown tally for parents and staff shopping locally.
And, that’s just part of the picture. They operate year-round with a 10-month leadership school of a dozen people. They’ve done that for 24 years, and also have school groups and group rentals, so the dollar figures grow exponentially over the course of a year.
At YMCA Camp Wanakita this summer, for example, there were 1,657 overnight campers, 400 day campers and 1,700 family campers.
“Camp was full across the board in all sessions,” says general manager Andy Gruppe.
Like the others, he has a hard time extracting summer numbers from year-round totals.
“We have a year-round, four-season team of 22 staff that resides full-time in Haliburton County. Over the course of 12 months, we employ an additional 235 seasonal contracts. Every seasonal and full-time staff, as well, spend their time and money, in the Haliburton community on time off. In terms of year-round operations, local contractors, sub trades, vendors, etc. whenever possible are sourced locally.”
Gruppe added that many out-of-town campers and staff spend a night or two on either end of their stay in local accommodation. They also eat at restaurants, buy food and souvenirs.
“Our day camp is mainly populated by Haliburton County residents who reside in the area and spend all of their hard-earned money locally. Many former campers and staff end up back in Haliburton County as cottage and vacation property owners.”
The long-term relationship that forms when a young out-of-town camper comes to experience Haliburton County for the first time is also not quantifiable but clearly impactful.
Despite the rain, Gruppe says “kids are still having the time of their lives. All activities ran as usual, other than a few hours here and there of thunder and lightning that kept us off the water.”
Medeba’s summer numbers were up.
“Besides the economic value, the impact that summer camping has in the lives of young people, campers and staff, is immense and life-changing,” says Dunning. “That’s why we do what we do.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.