Kids in the Hamilton diocese will be able to enjoy the great outdoors this summer with Camp Marydale when it opens its permanent location, its first since 2003. Photo courtesy of the CYO of the diocese of Hamilton

CYO camp gets permanent home

By 
  • February 8, 2012

After years without a permanent location, the diocese of Hamilton Catholic Youth Organization’s Camp Marydale will once again have a home this summer.

A barrier-free park that’s been in the works since 2003, Marydale Park in Mount Hope, Ont., will serve the campers in the summer and be open and accessible year-round.

“When we decided to build it, we decided we weren’t going to just build a park,” said day camp director Karen Hartnett. “We were going to make sure it was accessible to everyone. In 1972, we were one of the first camps in Ontario to fully integrate children with special needs into our programs… so we decided, let’s break down another barrier.”

Founded in 1963, the diocese of Hamilton’s Catholic Youth Organization’s mission is to integrate all children regardless of their financial situation, religious or ethnic background and ability. Originally located just outside of Guelph, Ont., the camp had to move for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it would have had to upgrade its very large water system following the Walkerton water crisis, along with some other health and safety concerns.

As a result, the camp has been operating out of select-inner city schools in Hamilton. 

The new property was gifted to the Catholic Youth Organization from the diocese of Hamilton. With a total cost of $7.4 million, the park is being funded completely by donations and gifts in kind, said Hartnett.

“We’ve also been applying for and filling out grants constantly.”

The federal and provincial governments have each given $1 million, said Hartnett.

Some of Camp Marydale’s special features will include completely accessible change rooms at the pool.

“The pool deck is all accessible with lots of deck space and wide channels around the edges,” said Hartnett. “And then it’s a beach slope entry so they can just wheel themselves in or there’s also handrails along both sides so they can walk themselves in if they’re able to do that.”

The paths are going to be compact, hard surfaces so campers in wheelchairs can easily access the hiking trails, said Hartnett.

“The walls are painted different shades so if there’s somebody that has a visual impairment, they could tell by the shading of the walls ‘OK, I’m entering a different wall.’ ”

And some of the grants the CYO is applying for will purchase equipment for year-round use.

“Somebody who may not be a strong walker who needs a cane or a walker to help them get around will have adapted equipment for them to be able to use so they can go skiing or skating and access those winter activities that it’s very hard and challenging to otherwise do.”

Ultimately, they want people to visit Marydale Park and enjoy what the person next to them is enjoying, said Hartnett.

“There’s going to be no limitations.”

For more information, see www.marydalepark.ca.

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