Freedom—May 17, 2020—The business impact of the pandemic hit the Ossipee Lake community last week when three children’s camps canceled their 2020 summer programs.
First to make the announcement was Camp Marist, the Leavitt Bay facility owned by the Marist Brothers religious order. In a letter to parents and campers, camp executive director Vinny Gschlecht cited a delay in the issuance of guidelines by the CDC and the American Camping Association (ACA) as a factor in the board’s decision not to open.
“As one, we felt there was just too much uncertainty surrounding the coming weeks and months, and we simply could not take that risk,” he wrote.
Gschlecht said his feeling in mid-March was that things would be sorted out in the three months before camp staff began to arrive to set up.
“Little did I know that it was only the beginning of the pandemic that continues to impact our lives and sadly has cost so many lives,” he said.
Marist faced an unforgiving calendar, as its first session was scheduled to start on June 28, and counselors and staff typically arrive two weeks in advance.
Facing the same time crunch, Camp Huckins and Calumet came to the same conclusion. Huckins, which is affiliated with the Y, and Calumet, which is part of Calumet Lutheran Ministries, cited similar concerns about not having sufficient guidance to be confident in moving ahead with the season.
“Already having put a hold on preparations for a successful camp season, Calumet can no longer wait an uncertain amount of time for the possibility of hopeful data,” wrote Executive Director Karl Ogren.
Acknowledging the abrupt and disappointing nature of the cancellation of summer programs, Ogren asked for patience from the Calumet community, saying “We need time to figure out all of the implications related to this announcement.”
The message was similar at Huckins, whose directors said there were “too many unanswered questions on what would be needed to ensure the safety of our community” in order to open.
In a joint letter, Executive Director Heather Kiley and former Executive Director Jodie Skelton said the Huckins staff will be developing “virtual opportunities” for the camp community to connect during the summer.
Ending on an optimistic note, they said they will continue to evaluate the evolving guidance from the ACA and the CDC, and parents will be notified if circumstances change.
Camp Robin Hood and Camp Cody, both privately owned, told Ossipee Lake Alliance they have not yet made a decision about whether to open.
Camp Robin Hood’s owner, Richard Woodstein, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that there can be a camping program this year, but only if three criteria are met, starting with receiving a green light from the governor.
If the governor authorizes summer camps to open, Woodstein said he will require his medical staff’s assurance that they can implement policies and protocols to meet the state’s requirements and guidelines.
The third factor in making a decision will be whether the camp can obtain the appropriate equipment needed to provide a safe environment. He said that includes access to testing.
Anna Gross, a director at Camp Cody, also expressed cautious optimism about having a camping program this year. She said camp officials have been assessing the CDC and ACA recommendations “as they trickle in.”
“The final decision about whether and how there can be camping this year lies with the state,” she said.
“If the governor approves camps to open, then we will look at the final guidance and make our decision based on what we believe is in the best interest of everyone’s health and safety.”
The governor’s task force recommendations for summer camps are expected to be released this week.