By Steve Hubrecht
The Blue Lake Camp, run by the local nonprofit group Columbia Outdoor School, will once again be operating as a day-camp out of the CPR lodge in Invermere this summer instead of at their usual outdoor education centre west of Canal Flats.
That centre has been closed since March 2020, when the ongoing COVID-19 hit the Columbia Valley. The Columbia Outdoor School ran day camps out of the CPR lodge last summer, a move that allowed the organization to keep up its programs. Columbia Outdoor School programs director Shonna Murphy wrote to Invermere council, asking to be allowed to do the same this upcoming summer, and council discussed the request at its Tuesday, March 23 meeting.
“This has been an incredibly difficult situation for us to make it through as we are a nonprofit charity and do not hold very much cash from year to year,” wrote Murphy, adding that provincial health restrictions limiting capacity at the outdoor centre (to say 50 people on site, for instance) mean that Blue Lake Camp would not be able to afford to keep its doors open.
“We are planning to operate day camps this year to help ensure Blue Lake can be around for future campers. This is our organization’s 44th year in operation, it would be devastating for us, and the residents of the Columbia Valley to lose this local gem,” wrote Murphy, adding that 119 children from Invermere participated in the Blue Lake summer day camp program in 2020.
During discussion at the council meeting, Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young outlined “that this is in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic” and its “dramatic and negative impacts” on Blue Lake School.
Council member unanimously approved the request, with several citing the excellent programs the organization runs. “It’s a good initiative, that’s for sure,” said Invermere mayor Al Miller.