Saturday, June 19, 2021

A record that will never be broken

by DICK VAIL Contributing Writer
| May 19, 2021 1:00 AM

It's been 44 years and counting since January 1977 when Bill Ouimet became the first resident caretaker of Camp Stidwell. He is living proof of community, of being stronger together.

The 160-acre property, located on Mirror Lake off Talache Road in Sagle, is owned by the Sandpoint Kiwanis Club. It is a rustic group campground, consisting of three group campsites, open to the public by reservation with priority being given to youth. Many diverse groups use the facility. Vandalism had become frequent and it was felt a full-time resident would do two things: One, reduce vandalism and two, keep the club informed of various needs for the facility.

Ouimet states how happy he is to live on such a beautiful property. His love of the area and love of the youth and folks that use the camp has engaged him in far more projects than originally presented. The list is too long to mention but mowing, watering, road maintenance, snow plowing, cleaning the bathrooms between group reservations, upkeep of equipment such as the tractor, lawn mower, weed eater, chain saws, removal of dead trees and debris and on and on.

“There is always something to do at Camp Stidwell," Ouimet said.

Recent increase in usage has been phenomenal. Reservations have increased dramatically in the last several years. The increase has necessitated an additional group camp with pavilion bringing the number to three. All this brings more work and attention to the facility by Ouimet, but he has never complained. He calls Camp Stidwell, “The Jewel.”

Over 44 years, he has seen it all. In addition to his love of youth he enjoys working with a wide range of others groups in seeing them enjoy their rustic outdoors experience. They, in turn, love and appreciate Ouimet, as evidenced by the many positive comments received by the club.

Ouimet goes out of his way to see that folks enjoy their recreational time. In addition to his work at the camp, he also volunteers his time with various community projects. While volunteering to ring the Salvation Army kettle bells this past season, one individual stopping to help could not believe Ouimet was still at Camp Stidwell. He remembered Ouimet when he camped there in 1988. He wondered if Bill remembered him? We all had a good laugh. A number of weddings have taken place at Camp Stidwell. Usually, one of the members has camped at Stidwell in the past and they want to enjoy their wedding experience by the lake or in the woods. They all remember Ouimet.

Think of how much knowledge Ouimet has regarding Camp Stidwell. He is Stidwell, Kiwanis Club member say.

A fixture - one of the camp sites has been named after Bill. It’s called Camp Ouimet (we-met). Anyone camping at Camp Stidwell since 1977 knows Ouimet, now 81. Thankfully he is still going strong.

Oh yes, the opening paragraph said Ouimet was the first caretaker. There has never been a second.


(Photo courtesy DICK VAIL)

Camp Stidwell