- Don Heath
RYY CAMP HISTORY 1990 TO THE PRESENT
Since 1930, RKY Camp has offered summer camp experiences for young people in the Kingston region. The camp enjoys a strong reputation among its alumni and consistently ranks in the top percentile when compared to similar camps. In 2019, there were 733 summer campers and an additional 3,500 participants in the fall and spring ‘shoulder seasons.’ Out of 24 YMCA camps in Ontario, RKY Camp has rated first in both camper and parent satisfaction.
The original buildings of the camp began to show their age by the early 1990s. The dining hall, converted to the Out-trip Centre and Arts & Crafts Hall, was renovated in 1991 with the generous support of Edward and Anna Churchill. New docks and a diving tower were built with the support of the Dave Day family.
A multi-year project was started in 2010 to replace the original cabins from the 1930s. A standard design was developed that provided more space for campers while maintaining the bunk-bed arrangement in each cabin. These renovations included the winterization of several cabins to allow for their use in the early spring and late fall.
There have been numerous upgrades to the overall infrastructure. The septic system (a state-of-the-art Waterloo Biofilter system) was upgraded and expanded, and the showers and washrooms improved. Parking and roadways were improved to separate vehicular traffic from activity areas.
In 2019, a local resident on Eagle Lake, Arch Ritter, generously donated land on a nearby island to RKY Camp. This property will be used as a campsite for overnight canoe trips, a popular activity for all campers.
For 40 years, the Homestead building has been the main focal point of the camp. However, by 2015, major renovations were required. After lengthy deliberations, the RKY Board of Directors approved the RKY Revitalization Project in 2017. The most ambitious capital project in the camp’s history, this $2.5-million project includes the construction of a new staff house, a new welcome/dining centre, and the transformation of the existing Homestead building into the outdoor programming centre.
The new staff house was completed in 2018 and construction of the new Welcome Centre/Dining Hall began in the fall of 2019. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed completion, but it will be ready in time for 2021 campers, if permitted.
The new Welcome Centre is fully accessible for campers and their families. New tables and benches have been constructed from sugar maple trees located on the property. These improvements to the camp would not be possible without the tremendous support of our many donors, especially Mr. Brit Smith of Homestead Properties.
As noted in an earlier Reflection, one of the Centennial projects is a $70,000 renovation of waterfront facilities at the camp. It too will be ready for campers in 2021.
With the continued support of the community, generous benefactors, enthusiastic campers, and the camp’s founders – Rotary, Kiwanis and the YMCA - the current improvements at RKY Camp will ensure that campers will continue to enjoy a traditional camping experience for generations to come.