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By Rhonda Spivak

Brenda Tessler-Donen, the director of the B'nai Brith Jewish community camp,is very optimistic that a planned land swap deal between the municipality of Kenora, Ont., and the province of Ontario will enable the camp to operate at its current location for many years to come.

The summer camp, known as BB Camp, which serves children in the Winnipeg Jewish community and is a beneficiary of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, is located 10 miles south of Kenora on Town Island in the Lake of the Woods.

Town Island has been owned by the municipality of Kenora since 1895. BB Camp has operated on the west side of the island since 1954, when it originally sub-leased the island from the Naval Cadet Camp, which leased it from the city of Kenora.

In 1996, BB Camp was only offered a 15-year lease by the city of Kenora, which expires in May 2011. In the last couple of years, the city of Kenora, which has lost its lumber mill, has been looking to expand its tax base by allowing development on the island, a move that would jeopardize the camp's future.

The planned land swap between Kenora and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources would see the Kenora-owned Town Island traded for Crown land of equal value within Kenora or adjacent to it.

Tessler-Donen is confident that once the land swap occurs, "BB Camp would become a tenant of the province of Ontario and we would be offered a long-term lease of a minimum of 50 years".

 Kenora gave its bureaucrats the go-ahead to pursue discussions with the province on the land swap initiative at an Aug. 10 city council meeting this past summer.

"The lands swap idea would be a win- win for everybody. The city of Kenora would rather obtain land currently owned by the province of Ontario that could be accessed by road to Kenora year round. Year-round residential property could be built on it, which could garner more taxes for the city of Kenora than would development of summer cottages on Town Island," Tessler-Donen told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

She added that the province of Ontario sees Town Island as one of the last untouched pieces of Lake of the Woods,  and this proposal would enable it to preserve the lake's water quality and address the issue of excessive development on it.

Israel Ludwig, incoming vice-president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that, "Bnai Brith Camp has been making overtures to buy Town Island from the city of Kenora for the last several years, but those overtures were being rebuffed because the city wanted to develop the island to gain tax revenues. Cottage owners in nearby islands preferred the camp over new development. My friend and colleague, lawyer Bruce Ormiston of Kenora [who served on Kenora City Council for a three-year term] is the one who came up with this land swap idea. We are hoping that the swap will happen before BB Camp's lease is up, but even if not, we have received assurances that the camp's lease will be extended until the swap is in place."

 A version of this article first appeared in The Canadian Jewish News.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.