MOUNT DESERT – Camp Beech Cliff and Neighborhood House are two day camps that announced recently they would not have a 2020 summer camp program due to coronavirus concerns.
Debra Deal, Executive Director of Camp Beech Cliff, announced to parents Tuesday that the staff and board of directors had reached the decision after consulting with families, the Center for Disease Control, the American Camp Association and the state.
“We need to place the health and safety of our campers and staff… above all else and not open this summer,” she said. “We believe it’s the right and responsible thing to do.”
The Neighborhood House, which runs a summer camp program in Northeast Harbor, reached a similar conclusion. “It’s the first time in many years that we haven’t had camp,” said Program Director Suzie James.
James said the staff is planning to offer activities over the course of the summer, though she said, “We’re still waiting for concrete guidelines [from CDC]. They’re constantly changing.”
Programs will not have a childcare component like camp. “We’re trying to think of out-of-the-box, hokey, fun things to do,” she said.
One idea is “camp in a box,” a free box of art supplies, science experiments, etc., that families can pick up curbside so they can do some of the activities at home.
James said she is also compiling a list of babysitters and nannies for families who need childcare. This list is available by emailing her at [email protected]
The YMCA in Bar Harbor and Harbor House of Southwest Harbor are two organizations that are holding summer camps this year.
The YMCA is starting out their summer camp program with 30 campers, in groups of 10 to allow social distancing.
“I’m almost full,” said YMCA Childcare Director Jared Erskine. He hopes to increase the size of camp to 50 in July, if regulations allow. “Everything’s been day to day,” he said.
Erskine said his goal this year is to “provide a safe place for kids” while also providing as normal a camp experience as possible. “We’ll have to be really creative,” he said.
Offering the usual camp mixture of arts and crafts and games, camp will take place outside whenever possible. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up, and masks will be provided. “Kids can bring their own,” he added.
Harbor House in Southwest Harbor is holding camp. According to the website, Camp Max for older children (grades 2-6) will be limited to 24 children each week. Harbor House director Ingrid Wilbur Kachmar told the Islander that she is hoping to offer an additional program for older children that would allow 24 more campers. Scamper Camp for younger children (pre-school through grade 1) will also be offered.
“Both camps will be following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and state,” camp organizers announced in a website update. “While some things about camp may change because of these guidelines, the essence of our camp experiences will remain.”
Mary Ellen Martel, who directs Scamper Camp, wrote in an email to the Islander, “Things are kinda crazy these days.” With Camp Beech Cliff’s recent announcement, she wrote, “we are one of the few options for families.”
This article has been updated.