In July 2020, Wayves interviewed Mengo Camping Club co owner Simon Thwaites.
"We bought this place just over 2 years ago with the dream of opening up a small gay campground. Years back we camped at the Mermaid and The Cow, but that's closed, and there's nothing really for gay camping nearer than just south of Montreal," says Thwaites.
"It's called a Camping Club which makes it more family than just a campground. You can’t just wander in, you have to become a member part of our collective family of choice."
Did you camp as a child? What was it like? Did you camp after you came out as gay?
Both of us grew up camping. Bill’s family always went the comfortable route with a trailer or 5th wheel which Bill currently owns. I was a bit more rugged and tented. After we left home, both of us continued our love of camping within the gay community.
What experience do you have with running a campground?
Bill has assisted the owners in the daily running of a few campgrounds, and his couple of decades camping experience has helped us out a lot in planning Mengo. I have background running convenience stores and management, and both of us have had experience with landscaping which has helped creating places for one to relax and enjoy within the property. Our greatest strength is that we compliment each others abilities.
Where did the name come from?
It’s a simple play of words “men -go camping club” which is us — men who go camping.
What makes your campground a gay campground? Are straights welcome too? How do you make sure you don’t get homophobic guests?
These two questions can be answered by stating our vision for Mengo which is first part you read of the membership agreement you have to sign to join.
The membership is focused on “gay men.” Mengo Camping Club acknowledges we all have connections, be it family or friends that we love to share time with that are welcoming and accepting of our lives. We are offering an all-inclusive private campground which welcomes all individuals regardless of one’s personal lifestyle and religious beliefs. So, if you are comfortable with 2 men, 2 women, a man and a woman showing affection in public such as kissing, holding hands or embracing then this campground is for you. The spiritual norm is that we welcome those who “treat others as they wish to be treated” with respect, love and acceptance.
What facilities do you have?
We have 119 acres to play with. We already have in place some fantastic areas to relax and enjoy nature. The sunsets and sunrises are spectacular not to mention the pristine clear skies at night with a million’s stars shining down. Plus, we have some great walking trails. “Orion's belt” trail is a good 45-minute walk.
The question is a tricky one to answer because with the coronavirus event everything we had planned has been delayed and shuffled a bit. Originally, we hope to have our basic infrastructure in place before spring 2020. That is: seven 3-way sites and a washroom building to accommodate a few tenting people, and then this summer to have a pool installed. That has all gone sideways. The new plan is go with the flow and as of June we have a crew putting in water, sewer and electrical for those 3 ways. We also have figured out a way to set up a small building for a washroom for tenting but that construction won’t start till mid-July. The pool has been shifted further along and hopefully will be installed this summer as well. It’s frustrating but that's the way it is work was only able to start once they lifted some of the restrictions.
Bill’s favourite spot right now is Gilligan’s island. A small island in the middle of a pond you can paddle boat around. It’s a work in progress to with the plans for flowering shrubs and a gazebo on it. My spot is the Pergola at night where you can sit and star gaze. There are a few pictures on the Facebook site for people to view.
Do you and Bill have specialities within the business? Or do you take turns doing things?
In the future we have plans for a store and possible coffee shop so I'll be handling those while Bill handles the campers.
Is this a campground just for RVs, or are tents welcome too?
We originally were focused on trailers because you need a flush toilet/sink/shower for tenting but with our new idea we think we have that figured out so by the end of July fingers crossed we should be able to accommodate tents and offer non-serviced sites.
What special events are you planning this summer? This year none, the goal is to get the infrastructure in place as best as we can and then next year be ready to roll.
We’re starting off small but if we get a lot of interest and members obviously, we will add more sites and features. We’ve already got a few people wanting our 3-way seasonal sites which is great. We’re not open yet but we welcome visitors dropping in to see what we're doing. Also, we wouldn’t turn down a few helping hands; after all it’s just the two of us right now setting this up. If folks want more information or have a skill they can help us with, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a message via our FB page, MenGoCampingClub. Please message before showing up.
Mengo is located at 1695 Upper River John Road, Denmark, Nova Scotia.