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Retrofitting to Serve Community Better - Camp Scugog’s Journey to a Four-Season Building

“For so many years we've wanted to be able to make better use of our property. We have over 300 acres and only having a summer camp really didn't seem fair. To be able to expand into the colder seasons and now the winter is just like a dream come true.”                                                Carol Rhynas, Assistant Director, Camp Scugog 

United Church Fresh Air Camp, Camp Scugog, has been offering programming since 1912 to thousands of children, youth, and mothers affected by poverty and other barriers to wellbeing. Located in Nestleton, ON, on the shores of Lake Scugog and surrounded by over 300 acres of the beautiful natural landscape, the camp specializes in providing an outdoor camping experience, focused on community, stewardship, growth, play, and respect. With a dozen different programs, it aims to foster creativity and cooperation and to build a strong sense of self and community among campers.

camp-sign.jpgCamp Scugog entrance gate and main facility building




Camp Scugog is one of the oldest camps in Canada. Its buildings were not designed for all weather use. Several staff members had been suggesting that it felt wasteful for their programs to only run two to three months a year. So, with a vision to create a year-round haven for inner city kids and their families and serve their community better, Camp Scugog embarked on a long journey to renovate their property. 

Camp staff knew that in order to maximize the use of the property, and expand capacity for winter operations, a building retrofit that involved installing a heating and cooling system to their property’s main facility was not only critical but necessary. 

Farm House Reno Geothermal Project: Towards a Four-Season Building

“Our new geothermal system is going to improve the lives of our staff and campers immensely.” Gary Hoey, Assistant Director at Camp Scugog

As Camp Scugog’s first major green infrastructure build, the Farm House Reno would require the largest financial investment out of all its buildings. The staff was adamant about selecting a heating and cooling system that would be both economically and environmentally friendly.  After much research, the camp decided to install a geothermal system. Geothermal is a renewable energy source that is both environmentally and economically sustainable. The ground source system uses water circulation to convert the natural underground temperatures of the Earth to a viable source of energy to heat and cool indoor spaces, without the need for additional energy conversion. In search of additional funding for the project, Camp Scugog applied for the Faithful Footprints grant. They were successful and in 2022, the Farm House was renovated with a geothermal heating and cooling system. Because of this retrofit, after over one hundred years of service, Camp Scugog is now equipped to run programs year-round.

excavation.jpgInstallation of geothermal piping. Credits: Gary Hoey
field.jpgCamp Scugog Meadow after geothermal system installation
vent.jpgNewly installed vents in Dining Hall
ducts.jpgNewly installed ducts in basement



Growing Capacity to Serve Better

“We can use the site and offer so much more, to many more kids and families.” Carol Rhynas, Assistant Director at Camp Scugog 

With their newly transformed four-season facility, Camp Scugog is in a position to provide additional programming and establish new programs specifically designed for the colder months. For example, the camp will now be able to host events and programs like Winter Weekends, March break, and leadership camps. The updated main facility will also provide additional programming space for their Nature School campers during the summer. It will also open doors for revenue-generating opportunities like event rentals and school groups. 

campers.jpgCredits: Camp Scugog Website



Retrofitting: An Investment in the Future 

“We get to be models for our kids. We get to lead in this fashion, teaching some the younger generations, and demonstrating to our campers more efficient models of heating and cooling for the future.” Gary Hoey, Assistant Director at Camp Scugog


The property’s Farm House renovation and geothermal system represent not only an investment in the future of Camp Scugog and its campers but also, in that of generations to come. The new four-season facility symbolizes an active effort to ensure the camp’s continued safety, growth, and success in welcoming and serving under-privileged youth and families. To highlight the retrofit, Camp Scugog plans to install a permanent display outside their main facility describing the geothermal project, how the system works, and recognizing donors who contributed to the project.

Interested in more retrofit stories?

Every month, the Faithful Footprints program approves several applications and welcomes new United Churches and affiliated properties into the program, and celebrates with those congregations that complete their projects and receive their final energy reduction results. Keep up with these amazing retrofit projects by subscribing to our Monthly Newsletter and following us on Facebook and Twitter 

Faithful Footprints Program

The United Church of Canada Faithful Footprints program offers grants, tools and inspiration to help its congregations reduce their carbon footprint. With the Church’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050, this one-of-a-kind program offers up to $30,000 in grants towards energy conservation and renewable energy projects (conditions apply).

Faith & the Common Good is the delivery partner for the Church’s Faithful Footprints program.  To date, we have engaged almost 300 congregations, camps, and buildings across the country. Your participation in the program puts your faith into action and helps the Church reach its target. 

Aleyxa Gates Julien is the PR/Communications Coordinator for Faithful Footprints and can be reached at [email protected].

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