Cleanup in full swing after storm rolls through LDS Church camp in Ontario

By Kenneth Sisler

For Mormon Times

Published: Monday, June 20 2011 7:30 a.m. MDT

On June 8 and in the early morning hours of June 9, a series of severe thunderstorms rolled through southern Ontario. One of the worst-hit areas was the Thomas S. Monson Camp and the surrounding area. This sparkling new campground is located near Peterborough, Ontario.

On the night of June 10, I received an email from my elders quorum president asking for help the following day in cleaning up the campground. It's possible it was a tornado that roared through the campground. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed. We were asked to bring our lunches and something to drink. Because preparations were just starting, there would be no food arrangements, and there is no place to buy food in the immediate area. I was amazed by how quickly the church had organized the cleanup.

We left Newmarket, Ontario, where I live, at 8 a.m. on June 11 and arrived at the camp two hours later. Upon our arrival, it looked like a lot of work had already been done. It was estimated that 60 trees had covered the roads and trails in the camp. Many of these trees had already been removed. However, there were still trees blocking some of the trails and the roads. Power had been off since the storm. I estimated that hundreds of trees were down in the 400-acre campground. Remarkably, there was little or no damage done to any of the campground facilities.

Some of the men had at one time or another used a chain saw in their careers and were experienced in the job. There was a very large tree hanging over the stage that was in front of the amphitheater. If the tree had been cut down, it probably would have damaged the stage floor. A rope was tied around the tree, and the other end was tied to a truck. The truck pulled the tree away from the stage with no problem. The tree was then cut up, and the wood was piled for firewood.

My job was to stack the wood and to place branches in piles off the road. Some of the fallen trees had trunks more than 12 inches in diameter. One good thing that has come out of this is that the campground will have plenty of firewood for a long time.

I ended up working with some brethren from my ward and my stake. Most of us knew one another, so it was fun. One brother had traveled down from Ottawa, Ontario, which is a three-hour drive from the camp.

There was a large group of young single adults from the London Ontario Stake who were a great help. They had camped out the night before. London is a 4 1/2-hour drive from the camp.

It was urgent that the task be done quickly because the camp will be dedicated on June 25. Another problem was that many LDS Church members in Ontario had already committed to work in Quebec to help flooding victims there at the same time we were cleaning up the campground. So we had two relief efforts going on simultaneously.

Power was restored in the afternoon of the day we were there. Most of the major work had been done by the time we left at 3:30 p.m., tired but happy we came to serve our brothers and sisters. The following day at priesthood meeting, I was asked to give a brief report about the cleanup at the camp.

I'm confident that the cleanup efforts at the Thomas S. Monson Camp will continue, and it will be ready in time for its dedication.

Ken Sisler has fond memories of growing up in Ontario and camping in many parks. He is extremely happy that the church has built a campground in Ontario for church members. His email address is ken.sisler@rogers.com.

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