Volume IV - No. 1
T WAS a beautiful day, one filled with bright sunshine and warm, fragrant breezes. The camp director arrived at his camp, full of vigor and enthusiasm, to consider improvements for the six-week summer program. He got out of his car, stretched himself, took several deep breaths, like the hearty outdoorsman returning to his natural environment, then plunged into activity.
"So you're back again!" a sleepy voice said to him. He thought he heard a yawn. "I hope you had a busy, profitable fall, winter and spring, instead of loafing as I've had to do."
The director, mystified, looked around inquiringly. The voice appeared to come from the clear sunlit air. "And who are you?" he asked.
"You call me 'Camp Bustle.' Bustle! That's a joke. What I should be called is 'Camp Idle.' That's what I am for nine months of the year. Idle and lonely from September till June. Of course, it isn't my fault. If you had any vision I could really live up to my name. I've got it in me to give service every month in the year if you'd give me a chance instead of barricading me at the end of the summer and leaving me that way until hot weather comes again the next year."
The director was still mystified, but he also was becoming annoyed at the upstart voice that had the nerve to give him, an old-timer in the camping game, advice on how to conduct his business.
"A lot you know about it, you disembodied spirit," he answered.
"Camping is a summer activity. It always has been and always will be."
"You talk just as old fogies have talked since the beginning of time. No doubt people of your sort once said: 'Men always have used their feet when they want to get somewhere and they always will.' But now they ride in swift automobiles, motor boats and airplanes. I'm here to make it possible for boys and girls and men and women to use me and enjoy nature. Nature stays on the job twelve months in the year, so why shouldn't I?"
The camp director, now thoroughly aroused, decided to give the mysterious voice a knockout blow. "No sense in keeping any camp open the year around," he retorted, "for the children are in school and older people are busy in their offices and factories."
"Really?" scoffed the voice. "Why, you are the one who has been asleep after all. Surely you know that children attend school only five days a week and that they have long week-ends and other holiday periods throughout the year. It is evident also that you are not aware of the present trends toward shorter working hours and longer periods of leisure. Millions of people are eager for the fresh air and sunshine and freedom of the open country while you let me stand idle for ten months of the year. Why don't you wake up and give me a chance to earn my keep?"
The purely fanciful dialogue set down above well might be a reality if the average camp could talk. And the accusations which have been outlined often would be entirely justified. A camp is capable of year-around work, yet it lies idle during eight to ten months of the year, eating up maintenance funds without rendering a cent's worth of service.
Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, and friends of outdoor recreational interests, through their organizations and other affiliations, can bring action to eliminate the great loss of services now being tolerated by their communities through the inactivity during most of the year of the summer camps in their localities. Immediate investigation could be started into this indefensible community loss to determine why any camp should be idle for nine months out of every twelve. Short-term informal camping potentialities for making genuine contributions to the recreational and social opportunities of nearly every community remain virtually untouched. It is an astonishing but easily substantiated fact that most summer camps actually are used less than 20 per cent of the time during the year --- an unwarranted waste.
It is to be understood readily why some camp guardians are so bitter and prejudiced when short-term use is discussed. Supposedly responsible groups often have done malicious damage to camps. They have broken windows and door screens, and have even stolen almost everything they could carry away. It is not proposed that camps be made available to such groups. Frequently in the past, when a short-term use fee was charged, it was insufficient to provide for repairs or replacements. Yet many camp owners have indicated that the advantages of year-around camping offset the disadvantages. Negligent promotional effort, lack of study, and inadequate plans are admittedly the basic reasons for the existing prejudices against short-term use.
Hundreds of small groups now are enjoying week-end camping through out the spring, fall and winter seasons, but these groups could be increased to thousands if the present adequate facilities were made available. Informal camping groups have grown at a remarkable rate during the past decade. When under good leadership, they deserve equal consideration with those which find it possible to attend organized summer camps.
Summer camping organizations and the community itself likewise can derive outstanding recreational and social benefits from extensive year-around use of camping facilities. Short-term use creates a more active interest and participation in summer camping. The carry-over values and continuation efforts can be advanced best in the surroundings of the summer camp, if only during frequent periods of short-term camping. Interchange of camps by organizations which are so fortunate as to have their own established camps develops new interest in each camper. Through this interchange, opportunities frequently arise to develop other activities which could not be carried on as advantageously at the home camp. Some camps are situated in a rugged, mountainous section, others along a stream which meanders through gently rolling meadows while still others are near the seashore, with fairly level topography, or perhaps beside a sparkling fresh water lake. The varying types of location offer opportunities for the development of a wide range of activities and interests. Most of these camps have at least a few winter-proof buildings which are readily adaptable to year-around use, particularly by smaller groups.
Responsible and willing leadership is a prerequisite to the initiation and successful conduct of every aspect of camping. To assure this needed leadership, well planned leadership programs can be conducted in every large center of population. They can be initiated with little cost where there is a will to move forward. The common cry throughout the east is "We cannot increase our program because leadership is not available." This is especially true of nature lore and nature craft counsellors. Capable leadership for all short-term camping will make surprising contributions to the social, recreational and educational advancement of the communities participating. Summer camp leadership can be developed through leaders participating in short-term camping activities and leadership training courses conducted locally.
Action can be undertaken readily by custodians and owners of established camps to work out an operative plan so that camping facilities will be available to supply the requirements of informal but responsible camping groups. It is suggested that an immediate survey be made of all camps situated within a 50-to-100 mile radius of the larger centers of population. The survey should list the facilities that would be adaptable for informal camping groups and the number they will accommodate, explain how the camp may be reached, give the name and address of the caretaker or local person in charge, and enumerate the equipment that can be made available at a fair fee. Representatives of the organizations maintaining camps then should meet and develop an operative plan so that more active short-term camping programs could be undertaken. Consideration should be given to the establishment of a standard use fee, on a graduated scale, perhaps, depending on the amount of equipment and service requested by each group. The leadership and responsibility of each group should be determined in advance so that if there is damage, loss or breakage of equipment, satisfactory settlement will be assured.
There should be established, probably in connection with one of the existing community organizations, a clearing house or central bureau where information may be obtained and reservations made for short-term use of any of the camping facilities available. Consideration should be given to the payment of a deposit at the time of reservation, based probably upon the expected number in the camping group and the amount of equipment and service required. Recent data from informal camping groups indicate that cots, mattresses, and perhaps a small quantity of kitchenware, are all that is needed. Each individual usually is willing to supply his own blankets and personal tableware.
Camping facilities idle from September until June are a heavy burden upon society, irrespective of the contributions which benefit those fortunate enough to enjoy camping experiences during the summer months. The necessary planning and adjustments should be undertaken, and provisions made, so that every adaptable summer camp may make its contribution during at least a part of the other nine months of the year. Extensive but wise use of all camps for informal short-term camping can benefit the economic, social and health aspects of the community. Incidentally, the physical equipment will be rendering more service at little, if any, increase in cost.
Here is a challenge to every community and to all organizations fortunate enough to have a summer camp of their own to review analytically the entire field of possibilities for extensive, informal short-term or week-end camping and to work out a simple plan of making them available as needed.
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