Bark Lake

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The Friends of Bark Lake: Ontario Camp Leadership Centre, Irondale, Ontario, Canada

Bark Lake

What was Bark Lake ?

Bark Lake is the location where the Ontario Camp Leadership Centre was held from 1948 to August 31, 1995.

Were you on staff or an LIT at Bark Lake? Please join us for our Bark Lake Reunion

In 1948, the camp at Bark Lake was started as a wilderness camp for boys and was financed through the Department of Education through the Government of Ontario. In 1953, girls were admitted, and the camp operated in July for girls, and in August for boys. In 1969 the Leadership Camp was established to teach youth leadership skills.


Ontario. Dept. of Education. Physical and Health Education Branch

From 1944 to 1965 the Physical and Health Education Branch of the Ontario Department of Education provided guidance to schools and school boards in developing and providing physical and health education programs. It also supervised the work of school inspectors in areas pertaining to physical and health education. In addition, the Branch supervised summer courses in physical and health education offered by Teachers' Colleges to certified teachers, provided youth leadership training courses at the Ontario Athletics Leadership Camp and the 'Ontario Leadership Centre summer camps, and administered grants to non-profit camps.

Source: Ontario Government Agency History


Ontario. Youth and Recreation Branch

The Youth and Recreation Branch was formed in June 1968 within the Ontario Department of Education when the Youth Branch and the Community Programmes Section (formerly the Community Programmes Branch) were amalgamated.

The new Branch was divided into the Recreation Programs Section, Resource Centre and Camps, and Community Programs Section. Recreation Programs Section consisted of a Physical Recreation Unit, Cultural Unit and Leadership Unit. Resource Centre and Camps was composed of a publications unit, Youth Consultants, a film service and reference library, and two leadership training camps: Bark Lake Camp and Couchiching Camp. Community Programs Section consisted of field offices divided into five regions: Northwestern Unit, Northern Unit, Western Unit, Central Unit, as well as Cultural Animateurs and Special Project Consultants.

In 1972 the Branch was moved to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, where in April 1973, it was replaced with the Sports and Recreation Branch (later renamed the Sports and Recreation Bureau).

In 1973, the Ontario Camp Leadership Centre at Bark Lake offered its first teacher-oriented workshop in outdoor education skills.

Source: Ontario Government Agency History (CA583)


Ontario. Sports and Recreation Bureau

The Sports and Recreation Bureau was created in April 1973 within the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, and was originally known as the Sports and Recreation Branch. It took over the functions of the Youth and Recreation Branch. In June 1974 the name became the Sports and Recreation Bureau.

The Sports and Recreation Bureau was divided into two sections. Community Programs Section, consisting of consultants in field offices, was divided into 6 units: Northwestern Unit, Northern Unit, Western Unit, Eastern Unit, Central Unit, and the Francophone Unit; along with, the Recreation Programs Section, which was divided into the Special Services Unit, the Leadership Unit, the Cultural Unit, the Physical Recreation Unit, Bark Lake Unit, and Publications and Resource Centre.

In 1975, the Bureau was moved to the new Ministry of Culture and Recreation and became the Sports and Fitness Division. However, the Bureau's Culture Unit became part of the new Community Arts Development Branch.

Source: Ontario Government Agency History (CA574)


Ontario. Recreation Branch

The Recreation Branch was established in April 1981, when the Sports and Recreation Branch was bifurcated to form the Recreation Branch and the Sports and Fitness Branch. It formed part of the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation.

In 1982, the branch was transferred to the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation and became part of the Recreation Division. The branch comprised two sections, Recreation Services and Recreation Resources. The branch also administered the Ontario Camp Leadership Centre and a program review system.

During 1990, the Sports and Fitness Branch and the Recreation Branch were dismantled, and the Recreation Policy Branch and the Provincial Recreation Programs Branch were created to replace them.

Source: Ontario Government Agency History (CA577)


Ontario. Ministry of Tourism and Recreation. Community Services Division

The Community Services Division was created in August 1992, during a major reorganization of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation. The division replaced the defunct Tourism and Recreation Operations Division and assumed responsibility for regional offices of the Ministry, and also assumed responsibility for the new Provincial Sport, Recreation and Leadership Branch (formerly the Provincial Recreation Programs Branch).

The Provincial Sport, Recreation and Leadership Branch included Bark Lake Leadership Training Camp and the Ontario Sports Centre. The regional offices were divided into 4 regions: Southern Region, Eastern Region, Northwestern Region and Northeastern Region.

In 1993, the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation was merged with portions of the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications to form the Ontario Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation. At this time the Community Services Division was disbanded.

Source: [ Ontario Government Agency History (CA587)]

31st Annual COEO Conference

The 31st Annual COEO Conference was held September 28-30, 2001 at Bark Lake Leadership and Conference Centre.

Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario has a collection of papers and artifacts in their fonds collection. View the collection here.

Evaluation Report of the Ontario Camp Leadership Centre at Bark Lake

Report ED235960
Both participants in the Ontario Camp Leadership Center at Bark Lake and their sponsoring organizations agreed on the benefits of the leadership development experience and enthusiastically endorsed the program. Researchers conducted a 19-question telephone survey of 202 program participants and a 32-question survey of 40 sponsors and 20 non-sponsors to determine the impact and value of the 3-week summer sessions in leadership training for young men and women aged 16-18. Sponsors thought the intense program helped participants develop a variety of interpersonal and leadership skills. Although most sponsors wanted more timely information, they felt the program benefited their organizations, the youth themselves, and the community at large. They intended to continue sponsoring participants. Participants enjoyed the program's challenges, felt they gained significant and enduring leadership skills, and thought the Bark Lake program was outstanding among leadership programs. Because participants were the program's best advertisement, non-sponsors missed the opportunity to learn about the program. Most non-sponsors did not send participants because of inconvenient timing or scheduling conflicts. Important elements of the successful program were the emphasis on personal orientation, the focus on leadership, the exposure to new people and ideas, and the facilities. The telephone questionnaires are appended.


57 pages

Source: ED235960 - Evaluation Report of the Ontario Camp Leadership Centre at Bark Lake

Camper Experience

What is Bark Lake?" you ask -- and if you haven't asked, you certainly ought to, because the Ontario Government is running it with your taxes. Well, Bark Lake is a wonderful camp designed "to develop leadership qualities" in teenagers who work in a "camping situation". Since I went there last summer, I am in an admirable position to describe it further. Read on. There are two, three-week sessions each summer and about fifty kids attend each. To be eligible you must be sponsored by a camp; if your application is accepted, the Government pays the entire cost.

The "leaders-in-training", otherwise known as L I T's are divided into groups of about fifteen. Each group plans its own programme completely independent of everyone else. There is an almost overwhelming choice of activities: archery, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, water polo, sailing, crafts, nature hikes, orienteering and out-tripping. Each group is also allowed to spend a certain number of days and nights away from the camp on backpacking or canoe trips.

The key to the whole programme, and the biggest challenge for the kids is having to make all the decisions; there are two counsellors assigned to each group but they are "resource counsellors" and stubbornly refuse to lead their group. If a group of L I T's decide they want to go on a canoe trip, they must divide the responsibility for organization, etc. amongst themselves.

Besides their regular activities, individual groups organize events for the whole camp. Ours staged "The Missed Bark Lake Beauty Pageant" for male contestants only. Another group set up a carnival. Others arranged dances, camp-fires, skit nights, etc. In fact, at Bark Lake, nothing is done unless the campers organize it.

Apart from all the fun we had (and there was a great deal of it), Bark Lake helped us realize our strengths and our weaknesses (and there were many) by forcing us to co-operate with each other for the good of the whole group.

Going to Bark Lake was such a wonderful experience that I thought it would surely be the best part of the summer. I was wrong though --- being a counsellor at Koinonia was even better. Honestly

Karen Bamford (Pig-pen)
Camp Koinonia