1st Burk’s Falls and Area Scouting
By Jennifer Lewis

It was late summer of 2016.  We were brand new in town and with our whirlwind summer coming to a close, we were ready to begin putting down some roots in our new community.  Priority number one was ensuring the health and happiness of our son Ian, then 10 years old.  Summer was over.  School was starting the next day.  His new friends on our largely seasonal road had gone home.  I confess that I felt a little lost, but tried to maintain a brave parental front.  It was then that I met Cathy Snell at her Scouting display at the Armour, Ryerson & Burk’s Falls Fair.  She provided program and registration information.  Ok. This was good.  At the very least, scouting would be a great way for Ian to meet new friends.  I wonder if she knew then what an important lifeline she was giving me – a tool which has led to so many opportunities, adventures and triumphs not only for Ian, but for our entire family.

The Scouting Movement was founded in England in 1907 by Lord Robert Baden-Powell.   What began as an effort to share his military field expertise with an eager young audience has evolved into a global movement of enormous popularity and success.  Baden-Powell’s initial goals were to instruct boys in discipline, loyalty and good citizenship and one need only look to Scouts Canada’s modern Mission, Vision and Values to see that those original tenets remain, with some enhancements, fine tuning and modernization to include not just young males, but all youth and young adults aged 5 to 26.  There are some powerful words here.  Develop well rounded youth.  Better prepared for success.  Meaningful contribution.  Better world.  Honour.   Promise.  Wisdom.   Duty to Self, Others and Spiritual Principles.

Scouting is firmly-entrenched in Burk’s Falls and the surrounding community.  1st Burk’s Falls and Area Scouting belongs to the Whispering Pines Area of the Shining Waters Council, one of eight councils in Ontario.  Scouting began here in the early 1930’s when three young residents caught wind of the movement and expressed an interest in participating themselves.  With neither leadership nor sponsorship established, they sought the guidance of Scouts in North Bay and the so began Scouting in Burk’s Falls, with Ernie “Boss” Warner as the first Scout Master.  The movement grew to include regular meetings and weeklong camps at Lake Bernard, costing each member 50 cents and a basket of fresh vegetables.

World War II changed the faces of Canadian communities and declining Scout membership resulted in the suspension of the program in Burk’s Falls until the fall of 1944.  The group reconvened with Frank “Skipper” Partridge at the helm.   In 1946, Frank convinced his father, physician Dr. A.W. Partridge, that the group needed a permanent camp to call their own.  That summer, Dr. Partridge allowed the troop to clear a site on the family’s 47 acres of land on Lake Cecebe, and Green Bay Scout Camp was born.  Tragically, in 1949, with the camp newly established and having married and started a young family, Frank succumbed to injuries suffered in a farming accident.  Green Bay Scout Camp became a tribute to “Skipper” and a lasting legacy for the community.

Scouting continues to engage and inspire Almaguin youth to this day, and a common thread that binds the early days of the Scouting movement in Burk’s Falls to the activities of today is Scouter Elwood “Addie” Addison.  Scouter Addie was an Assistant Scout Master to Frank Partridge, and was instrumental in the clearing and establishment of Green Bay Scout Camp.  Eventually assuming the role of Scout Master for over 20 years, and continuing today as an assistant to current Scouter Doug “Samwyz” Brown, Elwood is vital to the heart of Scouting in Burk’s Falls, and has generously and tirelessly given of his time and expertise for many decades.  Elwood is a true gem.  Despite his modesty and quiet demeanor, it is obvious that he carries great pride in Burk’s Falls Scouting and has set the groundwork for its continued success.   I’ve cherished our conversations and my guided tour of the Green Bay site, where he pointed out the results of what was clearly painstaking labour: a large clearing on the shore of Green Bay with meticulously built and levelled tent platforms that have stood the test of time.  His name is carved in the rock near the shore.  There is a stone cairn nearby, erected in honour of Frank Partridge on the occasion of the camp’s 50th anniversary.  The troop has a mascot, a moustachioed doll called “Little B.P.” (Baden-Powell), but the troop calls him “Little Addie”.  Scouter Addie exemplifies the Mission, Vision and Values of Scouting while recognizing and adapting to the changing motivations of Scouting youth.  He is legendary, a true community treasure.

Following in the footsteps of Elwood and his contemporaries, current Scouting leadership continues to engage area youth and provide guidance, structure and discipline while encouraging creativity, stewardship of our natural surroundings, independence, leadership and critical survival skills.

Scouters Cathy “Baloo” and Ralph “Akela” Snell take their roles as community mentors and youth leaders very seriously, and embody the qualities of their Jungle Book namesakes:  Teacher and Pack Leader.  With the invaluable support and assistance of Scouter Avril “Raksha” (Mother Wolf) Sanguinetti and Registered Parent Helper Charlene “Mang” (Bat) Watt, Cathy and Ralph lead the Burk’s Falls Cub Scouts, aged 8-10.  They have been actively involved in area Scouting since the late 1980s, and seamlessly mix fun, creativity, physical activity, learning and strict adherence to Scouting codes.  The team’s observance of the Scout Method – which includes youth engagement, involvement, education and personal development – contributes to youth who do their best and show duty and respect for themselves and others.  The entire leadership team leads by strong example in the areas of thoughtfulness, resourcefulness, discipline and respect to provide a nurturing yet challenging and enriching atmosphere for Cub Scouts to grow and thrive.

Scouter Doug “Samwyz” Brown, flanked by none other than Scouter Elwood “Addie” Addison and Scouter John “Cookie” Cook, leads Burk’s Falls Scouts (ages 11-14), Venturer Scouts (ages 15-17) and Rover Scouts (ages 18-26).  Doug’s patience and senses of both humour and adventure serve him well in his commitment to instill practical skills in his troop members.  He engages Scouting families in all manner of adventures and is unwavering and no-nonsense in his pledge to continue the original spirit of Scouting.  Burk’s Falls Scouts, Venturer Scouts and and Rover Scouts are outdoor adventurers.  They hike and camp in all seasons.  They acquire outdoor and survival skills and take on ambitious community projects.  Together, Doug, Elwood and John involve the youth in the planning of their activities, which are limited only by their imaginations.  Scouter Addie literally leads the pack in years of experience, having been involved with Scouting in Burk’s Falls since the early years.    Scouter Doug brings more than 45 years of Scouting experience, and Scouter John, with several years of Scouting leadership under his belt (which he made, by the way), brings creativity, thoughtfulness and great storytelling to the table.

Scouters Doug, Elwood and John, along with Scouter Jim Shaw (Camp Co-ordinator), Scouter Laura “Clipboard” Martin and Volunteer Brad Martin, work tirelessly to ensure that Green Bay Scout Camp continues to meet the strict standards set out by Scouts Canada, and that Burk’s Falls Scouting youth continue to take full advantage of the legacy left to them by Dr. Partridge and his family.  Green Bay is a true wilderness camp where Scouting youth can work towards competency levels of the nine categories that make up the Outdoor Adventure Skills Program: Vertical Skills, Sailing, Scoutcraft, Camping, Trail Skills, Winter Skills, Paddling, Aquatics and Emergency Skills.  Scouting youth and leadership alike are incredibly thankful for the continued support and blessing of the Partridge family to use and enjoy this precious gift.  It is utilized both in summer for extended camp periods and in the off seasons for hikes, cookouts and camp preparation and maintenance.  Youth are fully involved in camp set up and upkeep, meal preparation and clean up.  Scouting families are heartily welcomed and included in camp activities, and youth maintain individual campsites – on the strong, level foundations built by Scouter Addie – encouraging independence, pride and self-confidence.

Clearly, in our midst are some very special and dedicated volunteers.  They meet and exceed the benchmarks set by Scouts Canada.  They encourage our youth to become well rounded, respectful members of society.  They prepare them for success in life.  They involve our youth in meaningful contributions to the community.  They hold our youth accountable to themselves and to society.  They nurture the qualities that we all desire for the precious resources that are our youth: independence, confidence, happiness and competence.

What began as our family’s desire to put down roots in our community turned out to be a gift – that of fun and friendship, activity and adventure, camaraderie and community spirit, new challenges and opportunities to excel.  Cathy, what good fortune that I found you that day at the fair.

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Enrollment and volunteer involvement in 1st Burk’s Falls Scouting ensures the continued success of not only Scout programs, but also that of Green Bay Scout Camp – the legacy left by those who laid the foundation of Scouting in our community.                   

Cub Scouts (8 – 10 years old) meet every Wednesday from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at Land of Lakes Public School, 92 Ontario Street, Burk’s Falls.  Scouts, Venturer Scouts and Rover Scouts (11 – 26 years old) meet every Wednesday from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Burk’s Falls Baptist Church, 165 Ontario Street, Burk’s Falls.   For more information or to register youth in 1st Burk’s Falls Scouting, visit MyScouts.ca or contact Cathy Snell at 705-382-5634.