By Karla Kelly
FOR THE DIGBY COURIER
Johnston’s Christian Park on the shores of Porter’s Lake in South Range still stands ready to serve campers after 60 years of operation.
To celebrate the camping milestone, the camp hosted an open house on Sunday. Included in the events were the traditional camp activities such as canoeing, swimming, singing, vespers and campfire.
Wendy Kinney, who is celebrating 40 years as a camper, counselor and leader, was director for the day’s celebration.
“The camping experience at J.C.P. is absolutely wonderful,” Kinney said. “Everyone should come even if it is to celebrate the anniversary with this one day camping experience.”
Kinney said over 40 people took part in the event with some staying overnight in the cabins and others dropping in throughout the day.
Another long time camper and leader at the event was Douglas Hankinson, who said he began as a camper in 1965 and is still involved with J.C.P. as a committee member.
“To me, the most memorable part of being a teenage camper was the consecration or candlelight service,” Hankinson said. “It impacted me spiritually.”
Kinney said the numbers have been down in recent years, but Hankinson felt the reasonable camping fees make it financially manageable.
J.C.P. began as a week-long co-ed teen camp for 12- to 18-year-olds in July, 1954, after Rev. Roy M. Johnston, a retired minister living in South Range, sold some lakeshore property to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for one dollar the previous year.
From this action arose Johnston Christian Park, located on the southwest corner of Porter’s Lake.
In 1954, a road was built into the property, the dining hall constructed and an event was held for campers aged 12-18 in July of that year.
During the Camp Day on Sunday, one of the founders, Ken MacDougall, was presented with an outstanding achievement certificate from the Camping Association of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He was recognized for his contribution and years of service to the camp as well as children’s’ and teens’ camping in Nova Scotia.
MacDougall, who pitched in to help build and organize J.C.P., said it was pretty much a basic camping experience for the teens in the early years.
“There were no wash houses and no cabins to sleep in,” said MacDougall. “We were able to borrow army bell tents the first few summers until better facilities could be constructed.”
Over the years, the camping experience has expanded to include events for children and youth from ages seven to 15 in various groups as well as a ladies’ retreat.
When not in use, the park is available to local school groups, church picnics, 4-H groups, Girl Guides, family reunions, French camps and cadets.
Each camping event this summer is encouraged to celebrate this milestone in various ways of their own choosing.
To help conclude a season of celebrations, J.C.P. will begin a project this fall that will include a new septic system, a second well and a new and enlarged wash and shower facility.
In good physical, financial, and organizational shape after its first 60 years, J.C.P. stands ready to serve the churches, the general area and more importantly, the campers, in the years ahead.