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Covid-19 could impact local summer camps, day camps this summer

Posted at 10:24 AM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 21:22:27-04

With a shelter-at-home order in place and summer right around the corner, it might have kids wondering, "am I going to summer camp?" Local camps across San Luis Obispo County are waiting to see if that's going to be a possibility.

Andrew Boyd-Goodrich is the executive director at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria. He says while the camp operates year-round and is currently closed, the main programs are offered in the summer as eight one-week sessions for kids and teens.

"Kids come to us for one or two weeks at a time and do a range of nature, artistic, leadership activities," Goodrich-Boyd said. "It's really comprehensive, kids get to do kayaking, they get to do archery, they get to do tie-dye, they get to do nature art."

He says part-time and seasonal employees of the camp have been furloughed and full-time staff is still employed but working with reduced pay.

As it stands, Goodrich-Boyd says the camp is planning to start operations on June 14.

Before summer even begins, hundreds of kids from across San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties are missing out on camp with their classmates at Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School.

"This is where primarily 5th and 6th graders come to stay for a three, four, or five-day program, so they're in residence, that is the program that is temporarily suspended you know, and it pretty much looks like for the balance of the school year," Celeste Royer, the director of environmental education for Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School, said.

Royer says the outdoor school also holds summer day camps for youth during the month of June called SOAK Camp (Summer Outdoors Adventures for Kids), but the other camps, there is no official word if normal operations will be able to take place.

Monica Grant, the CEO of San Luis Obispo County YMCA says youth summer day camps are on hold, but the non-profit is looking for ways to still serve the community.

"I will say something has to happen and the community needs the Y," Grant said. "We will be offering some kind of programs for camp this summer to the best of our abilities."

Grant says the summer camp models would be modified in ways that they can run safely and in accordance with public health regulations. While the YMCA is unable to operate, Grant says part-time and hourly staff has either been laid off or furloughed.

Other nonprofits, like RISE, in San Luis Obispo, are also waiting to see if they'll be sending 21 kids to Camp Hope America, a trauma-informed camp for youth.

"Having to work with families now to prepare them in case this doesn't happen because, for a lot of kids, this was the highlight of their year because they don't really get access to opportunities like this," Janae Sargent, Camp Hope America coordinator, said.

Just the thought of spending even a day outdoors with friends is weighing heavily on local parents, camp counselors and kids.

"I had a mom call today who was like, 'he's devastated, he's worried about what happened,' and I was like, 'don't worry, we're going to do everything we can to give them that experience," Emily Zbin, the executive director for Camp Natoma, said.

While so much of the future is uncertain, one thing remains:

"Right now we really remain optimistic that by summer we will be able to move about freely and congregate in larger groups," Zbin said.

Right now, these organizations are working to plan for camps to take place, and continue to keep the health and safety of campers at the forefront. Camp directors say they will wait out the month of April to see what guidelines public health officials will or will not change.