The doors are finally reopening at the Haliburton Scout Reserve.

The property, which boasts 5,000 acres set back from Kennaway Road, has been shuttered since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will welcome guests back next month, with a busy summer anticipated.

Kevin Anyon, national property operations manager for Scouts Canada, is expecting more than 800 visitors over an eight-week season, which he says is all about putting the country’s largest scouting reserve back on the map.

“We have thousands of Scouts with marvelous memories of Haliburton Scout Reserve. I want to see this space reclaim its place as the crown jewel in the Scouts Canada portfolio,” Anyon said.

Camps have been running in the area for more than 70 years. The property features 13 lakes, with 23 wilderness sites scattered around the biggest – Lake Kennabi. Programming is accessible to Scouts, Girl Guides and Outward Bound members.

Chris Bulman, camp director, said it was almost like a homecoming when he returned to the site last fall. He and a group of other employees and volunteers have been hard at work getting the facility in tip top condition, with the first group of campers set to arrive July 8.

“I have such an attachment to the Haliburton Scout Reserve – so many good memories made over the years. I feel like I practically grew up here,” Bulman told The Highlander, saying he first attended as a guest in 2012, returning as an employee for the next seven summers.

This year he’s been trusted to lead – a huge responsibility that he’s preparing to tackle head on.

“My goal is to make this the best experience for every visitor. When I first came here, I made memories and friendships that will last me a lifetime. I also learned a lot of really important skills that will be useful for the rest of my life,” Bulman said.

Camps typically last for a week, with guests engaging in activities such as archery, rifle shooting, kayaking, snorkeling, rock climbing, rappelling, and sailing. Bulman said there are also special survival camps for older, more experienced members, and introductions to things like trapping and animal spotting for younger visitors. Bulman noted there will be international visitors this year, with three groups booked from the U.S.

Lucas Nicholson is another camper-come-worker, with the 23-year-old Toronto native returning as program coordinator after a four-year hiatus.

“I’ve been camping here for as long as I can remember. It’s been a real void these past four years not being able to come up here – I was really excited when I got the call we’d be returning,” Nicholson said. “The workers here are like one big family, and whenever we have guests they just become an extended part of that family. That’s just the way things are up here.”

Michael Nebesny, 21, will be back for his fifth year, serving as coordinator of staff and training. When he’s not working, he wants to take advantage of the reserve’s vast reach, planning excursions to some of the more remote lakes on the property.

Bulman, who recently turned 25, said Scouts places a heavy emphasis on youth leadership.

“We want youth to be in the drivers’ seat, we want them to take charge. All our staff are young – I’m probably going to be [one of] the oldest ones this summer,” he said.

“It’s almost like a cycle. We bring youth in to camp and see everything this amazing part of the world has to offer, then every season we have lots who want to return as workers the following year. It’s such a great organization to get involved with.”

For more information, haliburton-scout-reserve.