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Camp Samac may get heritage designation

City council is considering designating Camp Samac as a heritage site. (Photo by Randy Nickerson)

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

Oshawa City Council is considering designating Camp Samac as a heritage site.

The subject came to light after city staff received a letter from an Oshawa resident noting concerns for the site as well as recent damage on site, and is requesting Camp Samac be designated as a heritage property.

“The recent damage to the arch entranceway of Camp Samac on Simcoe Street has brought the need to designate Camp Samac as a heritage property to the forefront. Demolition of the archway or any portion of Camp Samac is not an option,” Oshawa resident Janet Lowes writes in her letter.

“Oshawa needs to protect its heritage for the next generation and the generations after that. This land stands as a beautiful testament to times gone by with its unique original cabins and original entrance arch from Simcoe Street,” Lowes continues.

She notes Camp Samac was generously donated by R.S. McLaughlin to Scouts Canada in 1944 and that his “good intentions of allowing this land for the use of Scouts Canada has been and will continue to be one of the most positive influences on the young population that R.S. McLaughlin made within his lifetime.”

The recommendation requests council allow staff to move forward with a heritage research report on Camp Samac. Some councillors raised concerns wanting to ensure Camp Samac be allowed to remain open and accessible for local residents.

Ward 2 City and Regional Councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri says it’s important Camp Samac remain open for public use.

“It’s time we work to protect, preserve and restore Camac Samac in a number of ways,” he says. “Local neighbours and the community as a whole want to make sure it’s protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Marimpietri made an amendment to the recommendation at the most recent city council meeting, which council carried, ensuring local residents will still have public access to Camp Samac in the event the site receives a heritage designation.  He says a heritage designation is important as he also wants to prevent Camp Samac from being sold off in the future.

“The land is worth a great deal. I think that it’s in the interest of the community that this area remains as the McLaughlin family intended it, for our community,” he says.

Council unanimously passed the amended recommendation, which includes continuing communication with Scouts Canada, the current owner of the site.

If passed, the designation would recognize Camp Samac as “an important part of our community’s history” and would allow the owner of the site “the flexibility to provide future improvements to the property for its intended purpose as a functional Scout camp for current and future generations of Canadian youth,” the recommendation continues.

However, in a letter written to the city’s development services department, Scouts Canada, who has stewarded the site for the past 76 years, says they are not in favour of the proposed designation, based on several considerations tied to their missed and past experiences from other Scouts’ sites that have heritage designations.

The letter states they have “worked closely with the City of Oshawa to ensure that the site not only meets Scouts’ programming needs, but also provides community space for the residents of Oshawa.”

“Our aim has always been, and will continue to be, using and preserving the site for its intended purpose – as a functional Scout Camp for generations of Canadian youth. We see Camp Samac as a living embodiment of the Scouting movement and the joy that it brings youth through participation in outdoor adventures; as a living entity, it needs to evolve with the times to remain relevant,” the Scouts Canada letter continues.

The letter states that while Scouts Canada is against a heritage designation, their intentions for the site remain aligned with those of the community and that a designation would “hinder our ability to most effectively provide relevant, progressive, programming at Camp Samac in the years to come.”

Once the heritage research report has been completed, city staff will continue discussions with Scouts Canada, as well as Heritage Oshawa, and report back to the develop services committee with the results.

“Areas like this need to be protected and preserved,” says Marimpietri. “Local neighbours and the community as a whole want to make sure it’s protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy.”