Dorchester, Ontario is located approximately 2 hours west of Toronto, 1 hour southeast of Grand Bend, 1 hour east of Muirkirk, and 15 minutes from London. The village of 3,900 people holds 1 grocery store, 1 high school, 1 library, and 1 Scouts Canada group. On Mother’s Day weekend though, the population more than doubles in size when Scouts groups from across North America descend upon the small community for DIBC (Dorchester International Brotherhood Camporee) at Camp BEL. And this year, campers have even more to be excited about since the 2017 OCAA Day of Service.
2017 OCAA Day of Service – Camp BEL
Scouts Canada’s operates over 125 camps across Canada for its more than 100,000 members. Camp BEL is one of them, but is unique in that it is only one of two camps, which is owned and operated by its local troop; this one being run by the 1st Dorchester Scouting group. They can thank Bert Langford for that gift. Bob Braunton approached him in the late 1980s to use his farm for Scouting activities. Bert agreed and set to work to do the paperwork needed to allow Scouts Canada to use the land. By 1990, the paperwork was complete and the first DIBC was held on his property on the shores of the Thames River. After Langford’s death in 1994, the 53-acre property was officially left to 1st Dorchester in his will.
Today, Jason Sherman is the property manager of Camp BEL, and still just as keen to see people use the space. So when Calvin McCallum from CLC Tree Services approached him to host this year’s annual OCAA Day of Service, Jason jumped at the chance to have free tree service work done. Several phone calls and site visits later, a plan was in place for crews to make their way to Camp BEL to volunteer their time, expertise, and equipment to spruce up the place.
“This means the world to us,” ~ Michelle Sherman, Co-Camp Chief for DIBC, DICC, Genesis, and Group Commissioner for Tri-Shores area
2017 Day of Service
On April 26th, 2017, five tree services companies, Mike McNairn from Universal Field Supply, and Robbin Wenzoski made their way to Camp BEL. Everyone was there to do their part to beautify, clean up, and make Camp BEL more accessible to the 7,000+ people who step on the grounds every year. Mike was there to help out where necessary and offer new gear to arborists in need. Robbin’s goal was to transform the ‘Lightning Tree’—a black walnut hit by lightning near the front entrance—into a fabulous new sign post for visitors to admire. And crews from Olympic Tree Care (4 crew members from Dorchester), Lanktree Tree Services (2 crew members from London), Tri-County Tree Service (4 crew members from Grand Bend), Kelly’s Tree Care (3 crew members from Scarborough), and CLC Tree Services (6 crew members from London) were there to do tree service work around the property.
There was plenty of work to do. Two large trees were leaning towards the barn and needed to be removed. Many old stumps were ground down to make running through the bush a little safer. 18 new campsites were cleared down on the river flats to expand camping opportunities for groups/events who use them. Ash trees affected by the emerald ash borer were felled and invasive species like hawthorn were cleared. Plus, a number of chippers turned brush into piles of mulch to be spread around the camp in the days to come.
“We rented a small wood chipper a few years ago to get rid of brush. It cost $800 and we struggled to know what we were doing with the equipment. They did more in 15 minutes than we did in a day!” ~Joel Desrosiers, Genesis Camp Chief
While volunteers at Camp BEL have done what they could over the years to keep on top of grounds maintenance, the scope of the work done during the Day of Service was beyond them. Everyone involved with Camp BEL is a volunteer. They all have families and full-time jobs outside of Scouting. None of those jobs cover the knowledge and expertise of a trained arborist. What they do have though is the will to see the camp thrive and grow. So seeing the tree service crews work around the grounds made for an emotional experience. One volunteer exclaimed that they were “just giddy” at seeing all the work done.
“When I started in the industry 30 years ago, there was no networking. Now there is a lot more camaraderie. We came to this Day of Service to support other areas who support the OCAA. And after today, I know we have different connections outside of our area who we can contact with questions or for referrals, without fear of competion.” ~ Mike Watson, Owner Kelly’s Tree Care, and ISA Ontario President
Scouts Canada is all about kindness, good turns, and giving back to your community. It is the same tenets that go into the mindset of tree service companies who take part in the OCAA Day of Services. For Camp BEL to be chosen as the site of this year’s OCAA Day of Service was therefore meaningful in so many ways. Where Scouts are all about giving back, this year they were the recipients of a good turn. And for the 4000 children, leaders, and other volunteers who will arrive at Camp BEL on May 12th for DIBC, that good turn will definitely be appreciated.
Thanks to Kelly’s, Lanktree, Olympic, Tri-County, Universal Field Supply, Robbin Wenzoski, OCAA, ISA Ontario, the many Scouting volunteers who helped out on the day of, and of course CLC’s amazing crew for making this year’s Day of Service another great success. The distance to get there counted far less than the satisfaction of a day well spent.