Society becomes Columbia Outdoor School
June 10 was an important day for Blue Lake Camp.
The organization celebrated 40 years of operations with an open house and a big announcement about its future.
“For four decades, Blue Lake has provided fantastic experiences and memories for thousands of kids. It is a very special place,” said Executive Director, Todd Hebert, “Blue Lake Camp is incredibly popular with consistently sold out programming and waitlists to attend. The demand for outdoor education has been growing. Blue Lake has been expanding rapidly and taking on new programs and business opportunities. It is time to grow, and the best way to do that is to expand beyond the borders of camp; to bring our camp programs into communities.”
Hebert announced that Blue Lake Forest Education Society will be changing its name to Columbia Outdoor School, which will continue to operate Blue Lake Camp. “The new name better represents our organization and its vision to provide environment programming throughout the entire Columbia Basin,” said Hebert, “It is not always possible for youth from the region to make it to Blue Lake Camp. Now we can bring programming to them”.
Blue Lake Camp will continue to provide outdoor experiences for kids. Thanks to a grant by Columbia Basin Trust, a new low ropes course is being installed at camp in September and will allow for new leadership and team building opportunities.
“Year-round programming includes camp programs for ages 6-14, and teen leadership and outdoor adventure programs for ages 15-18. As Columbia Outdoor School we will increase our education program opportunities, expand our teen programs, and work with colleges, universities and school districts to develop resource use and recreation certification programs,” Hebert said.
Plans include reaching out to schools throughout the region, he added. “With recent changes to B.C. curriculum the demand for outdoor education is increasing and we are now able to bring quality environment science programs to the classroom. Partial funding through BC Hydro has enabled this to happen. Columbia Outdoor School will develop and implement classroom based programs, organize workshops and seminars for schools, teachers, and the public. Blue Lake Camp will continue to provide multi day field trips for school groups as it has for decades. The full camp experience is worth the trip to Blue Lake.”
In conjunction with several partners including the City of Cranbrook, Columbia Outdoor School has been working with the city to coordinate and implement the Joseph Creek Restoration and community education plan. The scope of work includes coordinating restoration work, replanting, wetland development, and developing and implementing community education programming.
In 2011, a grant provided funding for new facilities at Blue Lake Camp including a new lodge for family vacation rentals. Revenue from facility rentals helps support camp programs for youth.
“Camp is the perfect gathering place for groups. It provides a unique opportunity to connect through recreation and time spent talking around the campfire,” said Hebert. Facilities allow for groups up to 117 people. Blue Lake regularly hosts weddings, family reunions, corporate retreats, conferences, and youth groups.
Located 40 minutes south of Fairmont Hot Springs and 90 minutes north of Cranbrook, Blue Lake’s unique location and quality education programming have made it a top destination for summer camps and school programs for three generations.
Blue Lake opened its doors in 1977 as one of six Junior Forest Warden Camps in B.C. operated by the BC Forestry Association. In 1995, the camp was purchased by the Blue Lake Forest Education Society and has continued operations as registered non-profit charity with a mandate of providing high-quality environmental science, outdoor skill, leadership, and sustainability programming to youth. Blue Lake is the longest operating and only non-denominational summer camp in the Columbia Basin region.
“These are exciting time for Columbia Outdoor School and its Blue Lake Camp operations,” says Hebert.
Above photo: Staff unveil new name and logo. Photo by Brandy Adams