KILDARE -- As Sharon Gallant, the president of the Alberton Community Development Corporation, was concluding the official portion of the grand re-opening celebration for Camp Kildare on Thursday, board member Paula Foley interrupted.
Foley pointed out that, for a camp that closed in 2009, there never would have been a re-opening if not for Gallant’s dogged determination.
“It would be remiss of me as a board member if I did not tell you, the real heart and soul of this project was Sharon.
“She was the energizer bunny, she was the dog with the bone; she didn’t let this go,” Foley declared of how Gallant pushed through road blocks on the way to making the re-opening of the camp on the Kildare River a reality.
Camp Kildare had operated primarily as a boy scout camp for most of its 30-plus years of existence. It was also used for reunions, retreats and other group gatherings. It was falling into disrepair by the time it closed in 2009.
The ACDC soon got involved in trying to acquire the property and that became a reality in 2011. In 2013 ACDC was successful in obtaining $87,500 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and $70,000 from the Province to help fund the $192,300 project, with the development corporation responsible for the difference.
“That’s just my personality. If I believe in something, I will not stop, and that’s what happened here,” Gallant said of her interest in bringing Camp Kildare back to life.
The lack of wheelchair accessible facilities her daughter could attend while growing up in the area became her motivation. “I saw a vision of a facility that was wheelchair accessible,” she said.
The renovated facility with bunkhouses and washrooms at either end and an industrial kitchen and common area in the middle measures 24 by 52 feet and is about one half the size of the building it replaces. It’s fully wheelchair accessible. It can accommodate up to 22 campers and has dining capacity for 36 including space in the screened-in porch.
Gallant said the ACDC is hoping the camp will see lots of use for family gatherings, reunions and other events. There’s a large open area for activities and a campfire ring on the waterfront lot. There are also walking and biking trails.
Several fundraising activities have been held to held the ACDC come up with its share of the project cost, including a successful golf tournament this spring which raised over $4,000 for the cause. Gallant said fundraising will be ongoing and the golf tournament will be an annual event.
Egmont MP and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea commended the board for its hard work on the project and pointed out Camp Kildare can become an economic generator by attracting people to the area.
“We’re dong really well so far,” Gallant said of initial bookings.
“They can’t believe the view; it’s right on the water,” she said of first impressions. They don’t feel they are three minutes from Alberton; they feel they are in wilderness and it’s very private.”
The kitchen is fully stocked with dishes, utensils and cooking supplies. All guests need to supply are their food, sleeping bags and pillows.
Board member Mark Lewis remembers using the old camp while in Boy Scouts. “It brings back fond memories from when I was a kid,” he said in describing his excitement in having the camp rejuvenated. “I didn’t want to see the place die.”
The former structure had wooden floors while the renovated facility sits on a solid concrete slab. “It was time for the old building to be fixed up.”
Alberton-Roseville MLA Pat Murphy commended the board for its belief in the project and the community members who supported it with their fundraising dollars.
On hand for the grand re-opening was Maria Hallupa. She and her late husband, Andras, had donated the property for camp use in the 1970s. She said she always enjoyed seeing people coming and going when the camp was operating, and added she is pleased it has been fixed up so nicely.