Could camping be the key to Petrolia Discovery’s revival?


Carolyn Gould Photo

Dan Brown and Patrick Pineo want to open Petrolia Discovery opened up to tourists including campers.

The pair came to Petrolia council Monday after reading in The Independent that the town wants to help turn the site around. Over the past few years tourist traffic has declined and problems with the on-site oil wells have lead to budget deficits.

Brown and Pineo say Petrolia Discovery is not just a great place to learn about the history of oil, it is also beautiful natural habitat for camping, bird watching and canoeing.

The pair wants to see the site open to campers, perhaps using caravans similar to the covered wagons seen on Gypsy Flats during the oil boom. Brown says they would have modern interiors and some could even be made into public restrooms.

“It’s not all that expensive and it could be a drawing card for the town,” says Brown.

Brown, a former volunteer with Discovery, took the idea to the foundation board and says “they laughed at me.”

But Brown is convinced the natural beauty and trail network could be a strong draw for people who want to visit the area and need a place to stay. “I have people say all the time ‘we’d love to be out here, but there is no place to stay.’”

“People are coming into town but they’re leaving…they bring their trailer down there – why not allow the people to come here and park?” says Pineo.

Brown says with a camping area for people to stay at, the town could attract other events, such as the national fiddle championships and remote control boat racing.

Mayor John McCharles welcomed the ideas saying it is good people are concerned enough about Petrolia Discovery to put an effort into reviving it. “Sometimes we wonder if here is an interest.”

While staff has been asked to report back on the idea, McCharles says there are a lot of bridges to cross before it could ever be reality. “It’s not up to us,” says McCharles. “Certainly there is an idea there.”





  1. unique ideas are not brought to fruition without hard work and a solid plan, there is a great opportunity here to create a draw for the family and couples to visit what Petrolia has to offer.

    Ontario is ” Yours to Discover”

    Petrolia is “Yours to Discovery”

    I like the potential this idea has.

    • a camp ground in the middle of town.. it can be huge for the town merchants ; located at the top of a hill ( no flood problem),with a health club and pool in place 300 yards away, in the middle of a 1000 acres of ”free” conservation property with trails and lakes and a river and a golf course a mile away….THE AMENITIES ARE ALL RIGHT THERE FOR USE..just need a place to stay..should have been done…can be done…and will be done we hope….HERITAGE AND THE TOWN UNITING FOR A COMMON GOAL FOR THE TOWN would be appreciated…

  2. The idea of camping would be a good idea but I thought instead of just trailers why not look into financial help in restoration & build little cabins for girl guides, scouts, or families could stay in a pioneer like atmosphere when touring Petrolia for shows plays It could also be a place for the VPP actor & actresses to stay if they like the outdoors!!Hope this info helps!!

    • Interesting that you thot like that…we have already located used army tents and survival equipment surplus place for just that purpose… for a KIDS CAMP… ALL organization in Petrolia such as scouts brownies are our first priority .. and inviting other scout groups etc from other towns to use the camp…. this whole thing is about kids and summers they will cherish forever….and with kids come parents..who take the kids up town to eat and shop… parents prefer a place to park their R/V …FYI cabins are expensive and a maintenance issue…..appreciate your interest

  3. if the town and the heritage get it together, the people should be hopeful for a major rehabilitation to the site, ….God does it need it….its falling down…its a shame…on line look up the history of gypsy caravans in the petrolia oil hay days….they camped in r/vs and tents in Petrolia away back when….. a very interesting history that should be show fact the side road out side of Petrolia is called Gypsy Flats…

  4. I think opening to campers is a nice idea, practical no, but still a nice idea.
    Are the people of Petrolia going to foot the bill for such a camp ground?
    We are not talking about a few thousand dollars, a campground would cost
    a considerable amount of money to create and maintain. Honestly the town would never recover the cost. Unless the campground was open to and filled with seasonal campers and No free camping.That means volunteers as well.

    Creating a large enough pond in the flats and holding RC boat races is a nice idea but there is no money in it for the town unless you open the park east of the pond for camping and provide proper facilities for campers and boat racers. As Lorn Henderson has camping facilities and a lake it would be a far better location as the damage to the park in the flats would far out weigh any advantage. Great Idea! Just not in the flats!

    A fiddle festival is also a nice idea as the boat race Lorn Henderson would be a far better venue.
    We need people that have it together to arrange this kind of activity.
    Not the idiot that was playing opera music while the fireworks was on last year!

    • we are not talking about the flats, that’s the play area in the summer, we are talking the top of the hill right at Oil Heritage site on about 5 acres….no flooding and the entrance is off the blind line…and Lorne Henderson is always packed during the season, so no more room their…Honestly, as you say…it would not cost a lot….we are not going to be putting in sewer system and water lines or any buildings if that is where you are going…new state of the art eco systems to day are the new way to go…no weeping beds…hopefully if the town response you will be able to see the hole picture

  5. also Ron….FYI…the small acreage which oil heritage sits on is not owned by the government…it is owned by the TOWN….its just conveniently located in the middle of the 1000 acres of government controlled conservation land, river and lakes….that in itself should show us of its that’s what we should as a town be taking advantage of, would you not say….appreciate your concerns and we will see as we move forward on this for the town

  6. I could see this being a beneficial thing for the community. Although if the idea is to find a way to revive the discovery I’m not sure if it will be successful.

    The economy in the province has not recovered. A new generation of people are finding themselves unable to start a life in this country. More and more young people are entering into low paying unstable employment.

    This is a recipe for disaster with a town that has a fair amount of tourism. The effects will not be immediate. They will not come all at once. But slowly over the coming years (as I am sure has slowly been experienced since 2008), tourism will struggle.

    There certainly will be some short term benefits. As people who can no longer travel abroad due to cost are more likely to seek more local sights. Still the current state of the economy will see ripples going out for generations. I fear that any approach to make the discovery more attractive will be wasted. If there aren’t enough people with money to spare to make the trip then it doesn’t matter.

    The discovery is an amazing slice of history. It’s enriching and I’ve directed a number of out of town friends to it. But in the end it’s still a historical and natural attraction. It will be one of the first on peoples list to fall under “Not this year”. I’m not sure if the discovery has so much of an attraction issue as Ontario has an economy issue.

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