Dubbed Camp Tewateno, the environmentally-protected property was acquired in 1994 after a local group spent years fundraising so that area girl guides would have a place of their own to camp. Tewateno was adopted from the Iroquois and Huron, the original native settlers of this area, meaning sisterhood.
Now, say members of that group, they're the lone holdout against an initiative by the provincial organization to take control.
The Barrie group is refusing to relinquish control, and about $250,000 raised to support the camp and build a lodge, to the reorganized Ontario Girl Guides council.
"We're the centre of the storm that's brewing here," said Sylvia Dufresne, who's been involved in the project since it began in 1984. "We're the only ones that held back. We just, somehow, had a niggling feeling."
The revamped provincial body of the national organization, struggling with shrinking registration numbers, has eliminated its community levels and districts.
"If a property is not being used (selling it) is a wise business decision."
Camp Tewateno, which isn't on the surplus list, straddles Matheson Creek in a largely residential area. Dufresne said a core group of about 18 area residents have spent more than 20 years on the camp project, which is also supported by community groups and businesses.
The north side of the creek has been developed into a heritage camp, with six established campsites with teepees, covered wagons, prospector cabins, military garrisons, prospector cabins and Huron longhouses. There is also a wilderness camp site on the south side. Trails have been cut through the property and a spirit garden was developed.
A former school portable, called The Den, serves as an emergency shelter and camp facility/meeting room with a kitchen, piano, fireplace and bunk beds. A suspension bridge was slung across Matheson Creek earlier this year.
The next plan was to build a lodge -- that was supposed to be added to the property this year, with money raised over several years.
But, says Dufresne, when the provincial council re-organized two years ago, it dissolved the units and centralized the banking system.
Dufresne worries about the future of the remaining camps, including Tewateno. But she's concerned about the organization's restructuring which, she says, stripped away the local voice, resulting in centralized control left with just a few people.
Many of the camp properties, including Tewateno , came into the guiding fold through donations, goodwill and at reduced prices, largely through the local representatives. Dufresne and the Barrie group feel that they continue to serve, in part, as stewards of the land and acting for the local community and those who have given to purchase the property and develop it.
"The creativity and the autonomy have been stripped from us," she said. "Our only job now, is to take orders from them."
A similar story is playing out across the country and not just Guide camps. Scouts Canada has been selling property as well.
There was an attempt to close the Severn River Scout Cabin near Orillia, but its closure was successfully appealed by a local group that developed a business plan for it and it remains a Scout camp.
The Girl Guides of Canada doesn't have a process allowing for appeals of its decision to close camps.
Waterloo Scout master Liam Morland has been an outspoken critic of the Scouts' approach to its land sales. At the basis of his argument, much like that of the Barrie group, is a concern over the decision-making process.
"I've seen some camps that, from my perspective ... they could be sold. But it shouldn't be up to me," he said. "It should be a democratic process."
The individual members, he says, are lost in the shuffle without voting rights and without the right to participate in the decision-making process.
Sign the petition