Camp Alumni

A meeting place for lifelong friends.

For many former campers, staff and volunteers, lifelong friendships and favourite memories were made at YMCA Camps. Join your Alumni community and learn about ways to develop and contribute to the next generation of campers!

Build community and strengthen relationships with Camp Alumni connections.

  • Join our Camp Alumni Committees and assist in the development of a positive and engaging alumni culture
  • Participate in opportunities to connect with other alumni, interact with campers and staff and contribute your time, talents and resources
  • Learn about upcoming Alumni events and activities where you can reconnect with the Y and the local community

YMCA Alumni Programs

  • Alumni Events
    • Alumni Staff Holiday Brunch – December 21, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at Cedar Glen. RSVP to cedarglen@ymcagta.org
    • Spring Work Weekend - Upcoming
  • Keep in Touch
    • Please stay in touch if you are interested in volunteering as a Cedar Glen Alumni. We would love to hear your ideas about how we can keep alumni connected and engaged with camp! Contact us by email at cedarglen@ymcagta.org.
  • News
    • Check out our blog to stay current on events and activities.
  • Upcoming Events
    • Coming Soon
  • Keep in touch
    • Please stay in touch if you are interested in joining our Alumni. We would love to hear your ideas about how we can keep alumni connected and engaged with camp! Contact us by email camppinecrestalumni@ymcagta.org.
  • News
1910’s
  • Between 1896 and 1910, C.J. Atkinson founded the Broadview Boy’s Brigade, eventually becoming the Broadview Boy’s Institute, and held a number of summer camps throughout Ontario. Camping was viewed as instrumental in a boy’s moral development, and of particular importance to the growing urban population. In 1909 The Toronto YMCA took over the Broadview Institute, creating the Broadview YMCA. In 1910, Clear Lake Camp was held on the northwest side of Clear Lake, near today’s Pioneer Point, with 50 boys attending.
  • In 1911, Ed Otter assumed the role of camp director. Seventy boys attended camp that year. Also in 1911 the YMCA purchased 20 acres and changed the camp’s name to Camp Pine Crest.
  • In 1912 the YMCA of Toronto entered into an agreement with the Willison family, settling Camp Pine Crest on its present day site. Now with a permanent name and home the YMCA invested in a number of capital improvements including a boathouse and recreation hall.

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010.

1920’s
  • The buoyant economy of the 1920’s allowed for a period of expansion. By 1927, Camp pine Crest had grown from a series of camp sites to a permanent, settled YMCA camp, hosting an ever increasing number of boys each summer.
  • Campers continued to arrive to Camp Pine Crest via train. The train stopped in nearby Torrance and the boys would use hand carts to transport their belongings to camp.
  • In summer of 1921 the camp hosted 125 boys, and continued to grow throughout the 1920’s. Popular activities in the 1920’s includes athletic competitions, baseball, swimming, lifesaving, canoeing and campfire gatherings. The cost of a 2-week period in 1923 was $15 plus an extra $3.45 for railway fare.

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010.

1930’s
  • Where the 1920’s saw Camp Pine Crest expand, the Depression Years heralded a period of careful stewardship. Facilities remained basic in the 1930’s with the main building serving as a combination recreation hall and dining hall. By 1936, only staff and senior campers slept in tents on wooden platforms.
  • Camp enrollment continued to increase throughout the 1930’s. Economic conditions may have contributed to increased enrollment, as concerns about youth with too much time on their hands and little to do in cities may have spurred parents to send their children to summer camp.
  • 1936 was a big year for Camp Pine Crest. We became one of the first camps to accept six year old boys, introduced a sailing program and installed electricity. Prior to this time ice was harvested from Clear Lake in the winter and stored between layers of sawdust for summer use.
  • Throughout the first two decades Camp Pine Crest had purchased its meat and milk from local farmers, like the Willison’s. In 1936 the government of Ontario introduced regulations requiring milk pasteurization and raising standards of beef slaughtering. This, along with the newly installed electricity, meant that Camp Pine Crest no longer needed to purchase supplies from the Willison’s.
  • Around this time the Willison’s offered to sell their entire form of 220 acres, which bordered on three lakes, Gullwing, Echo and Clear. While Camp Pine Crest was interested in purchasing the land, the funds were not available.

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010. 

1940’s
  • On September 3, 1939 war was declared and World War II began. While far from the conflict camp felt the effects of war through shortages in materials, food supplies and personnel. With all metal diverted to the war effort and most of the world’s rubber supply in Axis controlled countries, building materials were in short supply. Camp struggled with upgrading and renovating buildings. Rationing required much work prior to the camp season in order to obtain the necessary staple food supplies. 1942 saw a steep drop in the enrollment of fifteen and sixteen year old boys as they went to work on farms and in factories, supporting the older boys and men who had gone into service. While female campers were still not allowed, the war years saw women being employed at Camp Pine Crest for the first time.
  • After the war the following developments took place at Camp Pine Crest:
    • Expansion into the ‘shoulder seasons’
    • Women (18 or older) now allowed during summer weekend camps
    • 1946 – Ted Yard becomes the first full-time, year-round camp director. He is still the longest serving director in Pine Crest history
    • 1947 – development of the Pioneer program in order to create a bridge from camper to staff
    • 1949 – Winter programming was offered for the first time, and used the old Willison farm house (now Winter Lodge) as its main base
    • 1949 – full-time business manager hired to tend to the financial affairs of the camp

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010. 

1950’s
  • By 1950, the post-war challenge of inflation leveled out and Camp Pine Crest was posed to take advantage of the post-war boom years.
  • Camp facilities continued to expand and improve during the 1950’s. By 1955 each of the eight cabins in the Junior and Senior sections were fitted with new coats of paint, window screens and electric wiring. Conditions in the Pioneer section, across the lake on Pioneer Point were a bit more rustic, with campers staying in tents on tent platforms. Pioneer point also had its own diving tower, dock, storage building, and privies.
  • Winter camp became increasingly popular in the 1950’s and was at capacity with waiting lists! And weekend bookings increasing for January, February, and March 1956
  • In the later part of the 1950’s under Ted Yard’s leadership Camp Pine Crest refocused on leadership and wilderness canoe tripping.
  • Highlights from the 1950’s:
    • 1952: Charlie the Donkey was loaned to Camp Pine Crest for the summer. After the summer the camp committee voted to keep Charlie
    • 1954: new dining hall and kitchen open
    • 1954: Three Father & Son weekends held during the shoulder seasons
    • 1955: There are now 16 cabins with electrical wiring
    • 1955: The new Winter Lodge is opened to replace the old Willison farm house that was destroyed by fire
    • 1956: 24 campers paddle 480 km from camp to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto
    • Hermit’s Chair constructed

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010. 

1960’s
  • The 1960’s saw the continued emphasis and expansion of wilderness canoe trips as well as the Woodcraft program. Woodcraft was designed to lead campers to a thorough and genuine appreciation for the outdoors. The program focused on building shelters, handling axes and knives, knot tying, reading the weather, safety in the woods, conservation, tree, flower, bird, mammal, insect and reptile identification, campfire building and extinguishing, map and compass work, wilderness first aid, canoeing, and portaging.
  • During the 60’s and 70’s, the camp operated programs year-round; most weekends through the year saw programs operating on the site. Winter Lodge was used to accommodate guests for winter weekend programs which included activities such as cross-country skiing on various trails throughout the property, downhill skiing in the area behind Winter Lodge (there is still a Volkswagen in a shed on top of the hill, that was used to power the tow rope), tobogganing, snowshoeing and skating on Clear Lake.
  • As road access to the Muskoka Lake’s area improved in the 1960’s a cottage boom occurred, meaning less access to certain lakes that had previously been popular Pine Crest canoe trip routes.
  • Highlights from the 1960’s:
    • 50th anniversary in 1960
    • In honour of Canada’s Centennial, Centennial Lodge, originally a log church constructed by Scandinavian lumbermen near Segwun Falls was purchased for $500 and moved piece by piece to Camp Pine Crest. The project began in 1964 and was completed around 1967
    • The Hermit’s Cabin was acquired from the same site as what is now Centennial Lodge. The Hermit’s Cabin was reconstructed at the ‘narrows’ where Gullwing and Echo Lake converge and used for many years as a destination for out dinners and overnights
    • On the night of July 19, 1963, a fire broke out at Pioneer Point. Although the property was damaged, no campers or staff were injured
    • 1963: ‘Nelson Lands’ acquired adding approximately 300 acres to camp
    • During the 1960’s the Toronto YMCA operated Camp Pine Crest, Camp Wangoma, Camp Norval, and Camp Beausoleil.

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010. 

1970’s
  • In the late 1960’s Tony Fry became the camp director. During his tenure Tony continued to expand Pine Crest’s out tripping program. He also set out to develop a more comprehensive Outdoor Education program.
  • In 1978 the YMCA released its Camping Operations Study Project Report, it noted that camp and camping in general were in decline. Declining enrollment caused significant revenue shortfalls. The report noted that contributing to the problem was the financial and managerial effort drain caused by the off- season winter operations at Camp Pine Crest. The report recommended cancelling extended wilderness programs as well as winter camp. It also recommended opening enrollment to female campers and changing the camping time period of three-weeks to four 2-week sessions.
  • Highlights from the 1970's:
    • 1970: first outdoor education group
    • 1971: Downhill ski slope closes
    • 1972: Camp Pine Crest joins the Mils for Millions Charity Walk with a 26 mile portage
    • 1972: Bicycle Tripping Program begins
    • 1974: Launch of Canoe Instructional Weekend
    • 1977: Camper enrollment declines to 56% capacity
    • 1977: With an investment of $40,000 docks, roofs and cabins were repaired. New equipment (sailboats, tripping equipment, camp van) were purchased
    • 1978: YMCA releases its Camping Operations Study Project Report, recommending drastic changes at all YMCA camps
    • 1979: Winter camp no longer held
    • 1979: introduction of four 2-week sessions (replacing the three 3-week sessions)
    • 1979: Climbing structure built in what is now the Adventure Field

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010.

1980’s
  • In 1980, the camp committee that had run Camp Pine Crest previous dissolved as the YMCA changed its governance model for operations. Policy making for the YMCA would be centralized with the YMCA’s board of directors and the President and CEO would be responsible for strategic planning and operations.
  • The 1980’s saw female campers welcomed at camp for the first time. Female campers were phased in, starting with Bantam aged campers. By 1985, female campers were fully integrated into all programs.
  • Programming in the 1980’s continued to focus on canoeing, swimming and tripping instruction. The sailing program was ultimately cancelled in the early 1990’s due to declining popularity. The 1980’s saw a decline in standards and numerous quality concerns began to appear. Camp was drifting to a staff- centred culture in which campers were losing out. This trend was apparent in a number of camps throughout Ontario.
  • Highlights from the 1980’s:
    • 1980: Female campers welcomed for the first time
    • 1980: All outhouse style toilets replaced with flush toilets
    • 1982: Camp achieves full capacity, for the first time since 1977
    • 1982: Pioneer Point is reclaimed with new tent platforms and large tents
    • 1983: Female campers participate in the Games for the first time
    • 1985: Esther Carlton becomes first female games leader (Voyageur)
    • 1985: Pine Crest celebrates its 75th anniversary with a day trip to camp
    • 1989: a 6-year strategic plan is implemented to revitalize the camper and leadership development programs

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010. 

1990's
  • The 1990’s saw a lot of change at Camp Pine Crest. With a renewed focus on campers and leadership, integration of campers with special needs and integration of the traditional ‘at-camp’ program with the outtripping program. New program options were introduced, notably the Adventure Leadership program, introduced in 1994, which increased the population base at camp. The increased population base created a need to restructure housing at camp. Prior to the 1990’s the cabins right near the waterfront were known as ‘Bantam-Land’. After the restructuring this area became known as Leader-Land.
  • Programs focused on environmental education, which impacted every aspect of camp life, from building design to the selection of canoe routes, to the kind of games played on site. The existing nature trails onsite were rebuilt and new trails were built.
  • In 1995 the new Kekindwin dining hall was opened. Kekindewin means a promise to gather again in Ojibway. It was constructed of local materials and was designed to be entirely camper-centred with low windows, tables, chairs and light switches. Kekindewin remains the heart of camp during the summer season.
  • Highlights from the 1990’s:
    • 1991: Camp Pine Crest partners with Reach for the Rainbow, providing additional support for campers with special needs
    • 1992: walls separating counsellors from campers in camper cabins are removed
    • 1994: Adventure Leadership program is introduced
    • 1995: Kekindewin opens
    • 1995: Outdoor Education returns
    • 1995: Family Camp returns
    • 1996: Adventure Field Ropes course and low ropes elements were added
    • 1998-1999: Wellness Centre renovated to now serve at the Natural Arts Centre

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010.

2000's
  • During the 2000’s Camp Pine Crest continued to focus on our campers, strengthening our partnership with Reach for the Rainbow and providing opportunities for campers through the YMCA Strong Kids campaign.
  • Leadership programs continued to be emphasized with a major component of outtripping. Three levels of traditional leadership were offered, Junior Leadership, Leaders-in-Training and Counsellors-in-training, as well as three levels of Adventure Leadership: Junior Adventure Leadership, Adventure Leadership, and Senior Adventure Leadership.
  • In preparation for Camp Pine Crest’s centennial year a Centennial Plan was developed in 2005 and approved in 2006. The Centennial Master Plan committed to $4 million in capital investment. These capital investments allow Camp Pine Crest to renew and expand several program areas. A new outtripping facility was built, winter programming was reintroduced which lead to the redevelopment of the old Winter Lodge/ELC Building and the construction of winterized cabins. Each of the new winterized cabins and the new outtripping building were named after old YMCA of Greater Toronto camps. Camper cabins also received a much needed facelift, and a new bathroom and shower facility was constructed on the South Side (or Girls Side) of camp.
  • Highlights for the 2000’s:
    • 2000: Rec Hall renovated with significant foundation repairs. It was renovated again in 2008 and 2009
    • 2002: New water plant constructed
    • 2002: a full morning skills period is reintroduced
    • 2003: camper/staff marathon returns to the Pine Crest Games
    • 2003: Family Camp becomes a stand-alone program
    • 2004: Thelon River, first Arctic trip completed
    • 2004: Two tipis constructed for Adventure Leadership participants. Two more were constructed in 2007
    • 2005: Two climbing walls were added to the Adventure High Ropes Course
    • 2006: an F1 tornado strikes Camp Pine Crest, leading to the cancellation of Session C
    • 2006: Family Camp moved to the middle of the summer to take advantage of the warmer weather
    • 2008: Camper cabins renovated, new jumping tower installed on the waterfront
    • 2009: New outtripping building, Beausoliel, constructed

Source: Lumbermen & Voyageurs: The YMCA Camp Pine Crest Story, 1910-2010.

2010's
  • In 2011 we launched the Ontario High School Credit program in our summer LIT, Senior Leadership, Adventure and Sr. Adventure programs. Over 120 students completed an extra credit during the summer.
  • We planted our first gardens to provide fresh veggies for our salad bar and winter program expanded to include back country skiing.
  • In 2012 we saw an active and committed Alumni group that worked hard year round to ensure that Pine Crest is growing and is supported through events, volunteers and fundraising initiatives.  We now have 3 annual events run by Alumni for Alumni.
  • Highlights from the 2010’s:
    • 2010: 100th Anniversary celebration
    • 2011: Static Course built
    • 2012: First June alumni family weekend
    • 2014: Pine Cones program launches (2-night program for 5-7 year olds)
    • 2014: First full Winter Outdoor Centre season
    • 2015: A woodcraft program specialist was hired to renew focus on this skill area
    • 2016: First winter alumni family weekend