Members of Trinity United Church celebrate the grand opening of Hurlburt Park, formerly Camp Hurlburt which the congregation used to run before it was sold to the Regional District of North Okanagan and then transferred to the City of Vernon. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Hurlburt tradition honoured at new Vernon lakefront park

Former kids camp sold to city, developed into Okanagan Lake park

A camp that created smiles and memories for thousands of children may be gone, but the land will continue to see that legacy live on.

Hurlburt Park was officially opened on Okanagan Lake on Friday, Aug. 2, since remaining inactive following the last Camp Hurlburt summer camps in 2012.

Mr. and Mrs. Hurlburt purchased the 2.5 acre lakeside lot in 1931, before the Camp Hurlburt Association was incorporated in 1935.

“Thousands of Vernon children, including my own, attended the camp,” said Vernon Coun. Kari Gares, who led the the ribbon cutting at the park.

Trinity United Church owned the land and operated the camp, but made the tough decision to sell the property to the Regional District of North Okanagan (which was then transferred to Vernon) in 2012.

READ MORE: Okanagan Lake property purchased by regional district for park

“There was a plan originally to redevelop the camp, but it was too high a mark and we couldn’t reach it,” said Jeff Seaton, who was minister at the time of the sale.

The congregation wanted to honour the legacy of Camp Hurlburt and therefore came to the decision to sell the land so it could continue to be enjoyed by the public.

“All those generations of people who camped here can come back and enjoy it,” said Seaton.

Gares adds: “The camp creed was based on respect, honouring each other’s diversity and encouraging and awareness through interaction and reflection of our natural surroundings, and, well, you can’t get any more natural than this. It’s beautiful. This tradition was influential in the church’s decision to sell the land for public park.”

Patricia Hesketh’s late husband Bill was very involved in Camp Hurlburt as a director.

“We led a lot of camps here,” said Patricia, who made sure to be on hand for the celebration. “He worked for the John Howard Society and when the first house burnt down the church invited all the ex cons to live here (at Camp Hurlburt). And they built the chapel.”

The decision to keep the land public is one Patricia is pleased with, and she is sure Bill would be too.

“I’m thrilled, it just couldn’t be a better outcome for everybody. It’s a win win.

“The old buildings were falling down anyway.”

The land now boasts picnic tables, a dock and 1,500 linear feet of lakefront. It is also the site of sensitive Kokanee spawning habitat.

“It belongs to the whole community, today and into the future,” said Gares.

Trinity’s current minister Robin Jacobson is also pleased with the new park, and to see the tradition of inclusivity of the camp continue at the site.

READ MORE: New Vernon park opens on former camp site


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