Seventy-five years ago – back when fishtraps graced the harbour and decades before Sooke became a municipality – Canadian Senator George Barnard donated his hunting lodge at Otter Point to the Scouts.
The lodge was surrounded by a vast wilderness area. But fast-forward to 2019, and you’ll find numerous campsites, 58 buildings, trails, recreation areas – and stampedes of kids making lifelong memories.
The lodge is known as Camp Barnard, and it’s one of 10 Scouts Canada camps in B.C.
Sept. 20 marked the palladium jubilee.
“It’s a quiet little gem you’ve got out there,” said Penny Hill of the Camp Barnard management committee, adding that over the years Scouts Canada has evolved the camp to become a cornerstone of the community.
A storied past
What started out as just an area of wilderness where intrepid Scouts would bring everything they needed to build a campsite and look after themselves, has grown into a more developed camp facility.
Over time, some smaller acreages have been added creating the now 250-acre facility.
There are still areas of wilderness camping, but with some niceties such as potable water and outhouses.
This year, the camp hosted more than 30,000 camper nights, including the Pacific Jamboree that saw nearly 3,000 Scouts call the camp home for a week.
“Camp Barnard provides facilities for the youngest and least experienced camper to develop skills and confidence with residential camp settings, rustic cabin circles with dining hall and kitchen, and back country tenting sites for more advanced and adventurous leave-no-trace camping,” Hill said.
Building up community
Today, Camp Barnard opens its gates to more than 120 groups, from school groups to recovery support, and rates are purposely kept low to ensure that camping is financially achievable to organizations.
The camp is also used as a muster station for community emergencies.
“We try to be a good neighbour and provide more than just a setting for camping,” Hill said.
Hill said she’s proud to be part of the organization.
“It’s a source of inspiration for people,” Hill said.
“We [the committee] all have an emotional attachment to the camp because as Scouters we all took our training out there. We spent many a night sleeping on uncomfortable cots.”
Who was Senator Barnard?
Senator George Barnard (1868-1954, a lawyer, was elected mayor of Victoria in 1904. He served two terms.
In 1908, he was elected to the House of Commons (Liberal-Conservative Party) where he promoted Victoria as a seaport resulting in the building of the Ogden Point wharves. In 1917, he was appointed to the Canadian Senate, where he served until 1945 when he retired to Victoria.