After decades of serving the queer community, Cedars Campground now holds a place in history as one of the first of its kind in North America. This year, as the western Ontario landmark celebrates its 23rd birthday it is also celebrating the start of something new: life under gay ownership.
“Word is starting to spread and that’s fantastic,” says coowner Chris Maynard. “There’s lots of room for everybody.”
Maynard, along with his partner Bevan McLelland and father Ken Maynard, wrapped up almost a year of negotiations in April when they purchased Cedars from longtime owner Zada Moyer. She and her husband George built the park more than two decades ago when acceptance for homos was a far cry from what it is now.
“She met her husband in Florida and he moved her up here about 24 years ago,” says Jerry White, seasonal camper and promotions manager for the park. “That’s when they decided to open a big campground and decided it would be gay.”
The 68-year-old Moyer, who was enjoying a retirement vacation in the Caribbean and couldn’t be reached for this story, apparently didn’t see it for the courageous decision it was.
“Once I said to her, ‘You’ve played an important role in the development of the gay community,'” says White. “She said, ‘Oh no, I didn’t play any-thing like that.’ It’s a big thing for people to have done.”
The 130-acre getaway near Millgrove has inspired its share of fans, drawing upward of 500 campers on summer long weekends and visitors from Quebec and the United States. But none can compare to avid campers Maynard and McLelland who, after just two seasons at Cedars, ended up buying the place.
“We got to know Zada really well last summer,” Maynard says. “After conversations with her we realized she wanted to sell the park to the right people so it would continue on in the fashion it should: to provide a safe venue to the gay community and, to her, our morals and values were the same as hers.
“Our intentions were to buy a house, not 130 acres,” Maynard adds, laughing. “Now we have all of this beautiful land.”
The coowners have jumped to further develop Cedars in the period since buying it, clearing new trailer space and introducing a general store and ATM.
With just a handful of queer-oriented camping areas in the province and some of those being clothing optional or divided by gender, family-friendly Cedars is a rarity. Those homos nervous about making the westward trek out of Toronto needn’t worry that they’ll be foraging for food or hiking through the underbrush to find camp. While campsites don’t have electricity, the rental cabins do and there’s food available at the full service restaurant, Dorothy’s. Lounging by the pool and throughout the grounds there’s also an inimitable sense of campy camaraderie.
“When we have a BBQ, people pull out their chandeliers, china and crystal,” White says. “It’s nothing to see two guys dressed in drag riding down the street, dresses flowing in the wind.”
“It’s a gay family campground,” says Maynard, “And that’s the way it will always be.”