Regional Summer Camps for Faith Communities
Methodists enthusiastic about coming to camps
Alan Rogstad, who is responsible for camps and retreat centers at four sites for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC), said they gradually opened this spring and will be open in the summer in various ways.
Twinlow Camp and Retreat Center, which is on Spirit Lake near Rathdrum, Idaho, will have a standard summer program at 50 percent capacity for youth camps, water sports camps, age-level programs, Idaho mission camp and day camps.
When retreat groups are in the camp, there is less capacity, he said.
As of the time he was interviewed in mid-May, state guidelines and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was allowing 50 percent of capacity with protocols following CDC, American Camping Association (ACA), state and county guidelines.
"We can't require vaccination, but we strongly encourage it, and all staff are vaccinated," Alan said.
Protocols include ventilated cabins, most activities outdoors—including meals—with sleeping in cabins and cabin time the only time indoors together. Campers are spaced with partitions and HEPA filters in each cabin. Mask wearing, distancing and hand washing are other protocols.
Some of the protocols are for all camps, but three sites are not doing overnight camp programs.
Lazy F Camp and Retreat Center near Ellensburg will offer family camps and day camps, as will Ocean Park Camp and Retreat Center on the Long Beach Peninsula. Camp Indianola, closest to Seattle, will have day camps and outdoor adventure camps. Family camps are two to three days with sanitizing in between.
Registration opened in January and some camps were half full by March.
"Some plans could change if Washington changes restrictions and further opens up in the coming days and weeks," he said.
At UMC camps, staff lead the programs.
"We hired fewer staff than in normal seasons at each site. It has been hard to find college-aged staff," Alan said.
"Water of Life" is the theme, focusing on biblical images of water.
"We ask campers to avoid risky behavior before coming and not to come if they have a temperature or are sick," he said. "When they arrive, campers will have their temperatures taken and fill out questionnaires. Orientation will be different."
Through spring, camps have gradually had permission of the PNW United Methodist Conference leaders to reopen. Following protocols, they have held retreats with success, said Alan.
"I'm not aware of any cases. We began with five then 10 and then 25 people gathering. Now we can have 50 onsite. We have had a good array of retreat groups signed up to use the camps in the spring and fall.
"It has been a challenge for everyone involved with camps and directors, not able to do what we normally do and have passion to do," Alan said. "It has taken a toll, but realizing we are opening has been a shot in the arm for our enthusiasm."
The pandemic has also been an opportunity to "effect changes we have wanted to do," he said.
For example, staff at Indianola redesigned the camp for more adventure programs.
"It has been difficult to be closed and has been a financial hit, losing about $1 million in income in 2020—mitigated some by reduced costs in staffing, receipt of PPP grants to keep the core staff employed and camps in a state of readiness. However, there has been tremendous generosity in the form of gifts from our supporters to help see us through," Alan said.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2021