4 August, 2020 Algonquin Park Q & A with the Director
Mike Sladden and Glenn Arthurs grew up at Pathfinder and worked their college summers as Pathfinder staff men, too. Their sons attended camp, while Mike and Glenn happily became alumni volunteers. Ultimately, they took over Pathfinder in 1999 with a vision to ensure camp remained the small, rustic and top-notch traditional program they loved. Sladds is the full-time managing partner and camp director. He also serves on the Ontario Camps Association board of directors and specializes in standards for camp accreditation in Ontario.
So Sladds observed the 2020 COVID pandemic from a unique perch in camping, and has been planning Pathfinder’s return to action in Summer 2021. Like his fellow Ontario camp directors, he’s backed by teams in government, health and youth leadership who support camps all across the province. Pathfinder has the special added advantage of her large, loyal and vibrant alumni-parent community.
Sladds, can camps like Pathfinder operate safely in 2021?
They can. This summer it was clearly not possible to master all the factors needed to ensure safe operation. Ontario camps and the government both recognized this. Next season is a different story. There remain many unknowns, but we do know what’s required to make things work. Even now, we're organizing to make Summer 2021 happen.
Kids and their families need camp like never before. We see a combination of emerging capabilities that will make camp possible in a year’s time. It will be a partnership between camping professionals and public health experts.
First, more sophisticated quick-testing, contact tracing, home isolation practices and pre-screening will allow us to assemble a healthy community of campers and counselors for the 2021 Pathfinder experience. It's important for U.S. campers to be able to come from south of the border. Once on the island, careful monitoring along with faithful hygiene practices will allow camp to otherwise feel and run with the mix of fun and safety Pathfinder always has. If a COVID vaccine is in place, so much the better.
Will you run the canoe tripping program? Will the older boys get their long trips?
Yes. A wilderness canoe trip appears to be a text-book ‘isolated group’. But careful preparation is what will make our trips successful. Our trippers and guides will be able to pre-screen, acclimate at camp for a time while we monitor health, then head out as a self-contained group knowing everyone is healthy.
For younger campers, trips of a few days to a week in Algonquin can carry on as ever. For the older campers, longer trips northwards to James and Hudson Bays will thrive if the group is guaranteed healthy on departure, and remains distanced from outside supports like air services and local communities as they travel.
How will Pathfinder handle everyone’s ages, ranks and sessions after a lost summer?
If you were a Mic Mac, Chippewa, Cree or Ottawa camper in 2019, you will advance to the group you would normally have reached in 2021. So, if you are 10 this summer you’ll be a Cree next season, and so on. We’ll adjust tripping and more so it’s easy for campers to catch up.
An important note is that if you were planning to be a one-week Mic Mac or a two-week Mic-Chipp or Cree in Summer 2020, you can make that choice again in 2021 even if you would be advancing to an older age group. In short, we will honor shorter session choices for boys who missed having them this summer. This is a one-season arrangement. Everything that helps make the transition back to camp smooth and happy is worthwhile.
Any boys who were to be AA campers in 2020 will be AAs in 2021. They’ll get their long trips, and so will boys who become age 15 for Summer 2021. There will indeed be a double cohort for AA trippers in ’21. Both ages will be having their career pinnacle AA trip next year. Camp will also be sure to keep ages 15 together and ages 16 together, so as to trip with their crews.
The CIT class of Summer 2020 will be CITs during Summer 2021. They’ll get their certifications and training trips as normal. This means that CITs next summer will be age 17. The second men will be the age-18 group, and the headmen will be age 19+ along with required qualifications.
Finally, if you were hired to be a second man or headman in 2020, you’ll advance in rank normally for 2021. For example, this year’s guys who would have been veteran second men will be headmen next summer. The camp directors will design the staff program to allow everyone to get the training and experience they missed in 2020, even as their camp rank advances normally.
What happens with AAs and CITs in future summers?
Going forward, Pathfinder AAs will remain age 15. The age 16 boys will be starting their leadership experiences, but will continue tripping together. The CIT Leaders program will become specific to the age 17 group.
What will Pathfinder cost in Summer 2021?
There are standard tuition rates set for Summer 2021, but the Early Bird enrollment period is happening now, until Sept. 1. Are you enrolled for Summer 2020? You are able to credit forward your son’s 2020 tuition and receive the 2020 Early Bird rate. Are you looking to enroll for the first time? You are also eligible until Sept. 1 for the Early Bird rate, a considerable savings with a great camper gift to boot.
An important plus -- If you were enrolled for Summer 2020 at the standard tuition rate, you will receive the lower rate for 2021 and your additional 2020 funds will be credited to your tuck account and refunded after the summer of 2021 with your final statement. To contact camp and set up your 2021 enrollment, fill out our form on the enrollment page to get started.