A plan by Tim Hortons to open a youth camp in the Whiteshell has been scuttled by the province because of water concerns.
Conservation Minister Stan Struthers and the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation said Thursday they plan to look for another site in the Whiteshell for the year-round camp for underprivileged kids.
“We appreciate the support of the provincial government in working to find and evaluate alternative sites in the Whiteshell,” foundation vice-president Dave Newnham said. “We are confident another site will be found that will respect the environmental sustainability needs of the park and provide a unique experience for children and youth from economically disadvantaged homes.”
The Tim Hortons foundation had originally chosen a site adjacent to Meditation Lake for the camp, but a public outcry from campers and environmentalists prompted the province to verify concerns that the lake could not support the kind of intensive development that the camp would bring.
Ron Thiessen, executive director of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said he is very pleased the province and Tim Hortons have ditched the Meditation Lake plan.
“It is not a suitable location for the proposed facility,” Thiessen said. “It would be detrimental to the local environment and it is not a good location for the children, either.”
Thiessen said the area has a very sensitive ecosystem, and sewage and other pollutants would be harmful to the wilderness area. He also said that historically, the lake has been covered in algae for large parts of the summer and wasn’t a suitable place for the children.
“If I were a kid going to camp, I would want nice swimming conditions, not a lake covered in algae,” he said. “I hope the new location they choose is wise for the environment and for the children.”
Tim Hortons held open houses in the spring to detail its plans.
Struthers said the public input proved invaluable, adding he is confident the suggestions for alternative locations will lead to a new site within the Whiteshell.
Struthers said the province will maintain Mediation Lake as a non-development area, restricted to a walk-in camping experience only.
He said more open houses will be held later this fall as the province and Tim Hortons consider other locations.
The Tim Horton Children’s Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization providing opportunities for children to develop into positive, contributing members of their communities. It operates six camps in Canada and the U.S. and has provided unique outdoor experiences to more than 120,000 economically disadvantaged children in the past 35 years at no cost to their families.