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Former secretary gives $1-million to Parks Canada, its largest ever donation

One of Parks Canada’s yurts, a tent-like structure mounted on a wooden deck floor.

Parks Canada

An avid camper and lover of the outdoors, Marjorie LeDrew wanted to get more Canadians to visit national parks. That's why she bequeathed $1-million to Parks Canada, the largest private donation to the national parks system in its 101-year history.

Parks Canada opened a new yurt campground on Saturday on the shores of Cyprus Lake in Bruce Peninsula National Park. The new campground and renovation to the nearby parking lot and trails were made possible with Ms. LeDrew's donation, along with $2.5-million provided by the federal government.

"We have received a tremendous gift from an insightful Canadian citizen, which will be enjoyed and remembered by future generations of visitors to this special place," Environment Minister Peter Kent said.

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Ms. LeDrew's sister and estate representative, Dorothy Hunter said: "She just wanted to get more Canadians camping and I think she would be very pleased with how this turned out."

Ms. LeDrew died in 2008 in Bracebridge, Ont., at age 80. Since then, Ms. Hunter has been working with Parks Canada to build the campground with 10 yurts – tent-like structures that are mounted on a wooden deck floor – and a common space with hot showers and campfires, but details of her sister's donation were kept under wraps until the result could be unveiled Saturday.

"They are ideal for older visitors who might not want to rough it out any more but still enjoy the outdoors, but also people who are new to camping and need a way to ease into the whole experience," said Frank Burrows, park superintendent for Bruce National Park. "We think it really works with what Marjorie was trying to do ... encourage more people to enjoy our national parks."

Ms. LeDrew worked for Canadian Industries Limited for 39 years as a secretary and moved from Montreal to Toronto with the firm. "She was frugal and this [camping] was really important to her," Ms. Hunter said. "I think she was happiest around the camp fire."

Ms. Hunter said her sister was interested in the outdoors from an early age, but it was as an adult that Ms. LeDrew really took to camping. "She and her husband would go together every weekend in the RV or camping," Ms. Hunter said.

After her husband passed away, Ms. LeDrew founded Loners on Wheels, a camping club for singles in Ontario in 1990, that is still going strong.

"I didn't even know where all she went or what her favourite park is because she would come from work and take straight off for camping."

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While Ms. LeDrew had never visited Bruce Peninsula, Ms. Hunter said she believed her sister would approve of her decision to work to make the national park more accessible to recreational vehicles. "That's how she got around, so I think other zoomers would also appreciate that change to this park."

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