Charity and Not-For-Profit

Local group seeks intervenor status to stop sale of campground

By Kirsten McMahon, Associate Editor

The future of a beloved 25-acre campground and recreational property is now in the hands of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Toronto charity and not-for-profit lawyer Taras Kulish tells

A national organization for girls and women, which owns a number of campsites, made an application under s. 10 of the Charities Accounting Act to sell off all of its camp properties in the province. The application was scheduled to be heard on May 8 but was adjourned to allow affected campground committees and interested parties the opportunity to seek official intervenor status to make representations.

Kulish, a senior associate with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP, who is co-counsel for a volunteer group that operates the camp, says he is confident that the court will grant them standing as an intervenor in the application.

“The hope is that we will ultimately be successful in having the property transferred to the volunteer group — which is incorporated under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act for the benefit of the youth in the entire community,” he says. “The purpose of our intervention is to stop the sale to third parties with no connections to the camp, which would likely operate on a for-profit basis with no guarantees that the youth in the community will be considered.

“At the same time, we are optimistic that we can arrive at a negotiated settlement with the national organization before the court has to make those decisions.

“This would save costs and let everyone continue to do what they all really want to do — provide our youth with quality outdoor camping experiences and mentorship,” Kulish notes.

According to the Notice of Motion to Intervene, the land was purchased in 1992 and has been held in trust for the use, benefit and advantage of the national organization. The volunteer members have a vested interest and have supported the campground in many ways, “including financially and with sweat equity, since its inception in 1992.”

Those involved in the volunteer group are long-time members of the national organization and have been fighting to save the property since last June when it announced plans to close and sell off all 17 of its remaining Ontario campgrounds by 2020, the Windsor Star reports.

The newspaper reports the volunteer group and others across the province were told they could submit a 15-year financial plan to the Ontario council.

The council had agreed to consider each property on an individual basis so camps showing a solid prospect for an improved financial position could be saved.

“The local chapter put together a business plan last fall and awaited a February decision,” the article states. “When the national organization decided to go to court, the Ontario council opted to hold off making any case-by-case decisions.”

According to the Ontario council, the proposal states that the net proceeds received through the sale of the campgrounds will be devoted to the continued development and implementation of outdoor experiences for girls.

“Ontario council remains committed to continuing to provide wonderful outdoor experiences for girls.... That will not change. The only change would be the locations for those experiences,” says a statement on its website.

Kulish says the volunteer group he represents seeks to operate the camp on an open model to make outdoor and camping experiences available to youth groups in the Essex/Windsor community, some who previously did not have access to the campground due to current restrictions.

A hearing is set for Oct. 9, where the court will determine whether the volunteer group will act as an intervenor in the proceeding.

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