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Summer Camp Plans in the Wake of COVID-19

The safety of all of our campers, leaders, camp staff, and camp visitors is always our Council’s top priority. With this in mind, the Council’s Executive Committee has further extended the closure of all council camps through the end of May due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.  Full refunds will be issued after the Council Service Centers reopen for all May events and unit reservations canceled.

Unfortunately, rescheduling all of the postponed camping events from the past three months may not be possible until this fall or later.  If your unit’s camping reservation was canceled because of the COVID-19 virus situation, please consider rebooking with us again in the near future.  As you might imagine, the loss of several months of camping revenues at one of busiest times of the year will have a significant negative impact on our Council’s operating budget.

At this time, I’m hopeful that the COVID-19 virus will subside in time for us to conduct summer camp programs at Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe.  With the May 15 discount payment deadline for summer camp programs looming and the start date of the summer camp season scheduled for June 21, I understand the many questions and concerns about whether we can realistically hope to open our camps this summer.

At last week’s Executive Committee meeting, our council officers determined that a decision about our summer camp programs will come no later than May 12.  For now, our Camping Service recommends that units hold off submitting any further summer camp payments until after that decision on May 12.

I wanted to share with everyone some of the details about how our Council is approaching making decisions about our summer camp programs.  Nothing would make me happier than being able to see Scouts of all ages having a great time at Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe this summer, especially after weeks of having to stay at home, missing school, their friends, and other activities. Unfortunately, as you have likely heard from government officials in briefings, the COVID-19 virus will determine the timeline for reopening businesses and other pursuits all of us are missing so dearly right now.

There are five critical decision-making areas to be considered regarding our summer camp programs:

Can we legally operate our camps?  This decision is entirely out of our control and in the hands of government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. If and how soon will we know if summer camps will be able to open legally? What restrictions, such as strict limits on the number of campers, might be necessary?

Can we safely operate our camps?  In the immediate aftermath of a pandemic, being able to keep our campers, leaders, and staff healthy is our top priority.  How will our camp staff screen everyone when they arrive at camp to prevent illness from being brought in?  What extra precautions and resources do we need to clean and sanitize the camps as per the Centers for Disease Control Guidelines?  Can we obtain adequate medical supplies?

Can we operate our camps in a financially responsible manner?  When it comes to the finances of our camping operations, there are many considerations.  How many units and campers are still planning to go to summer camp?  How many would prefer to cancel? What about refunds if we must close (or if we are open)?  What if we modify the camp schedules and offer fewer sessions?  Will units and campers be willing to move to other dates? Are all of our camp vendors still in operation?

Can we manage emergencies correctly? Can we adequately staff our camps, and do we have appropriate procedures in place to be able to operate?  Will procedural changes need to be made for emergencies at camp?  Are there updated isolation procedures that will be required?  What is our plan for handling infectious diseases at camp?  

Will we be able to have enough camp staff available to work?  Will we be able to have enough camp staff with the necessary credentials (National Camp School certifications or alternates) for mandatory areas?  Will school schedules affect our ability to have camp staff arrive in time to open or stay for all camp sessions.

Do we have appropriate food service staff and procedures and facilities in place to operate our camps?  Will we have proper supervision in our kitchens with food handlers and Serve Safe training?  What will be the required cleaning procedures?  Will there be restrictions on the type of food service that will be allowed by local health authorities (cafeteria-style, family-style, buffet-style)?  How do we provide social distancing in serving food? 

Can we have all the necessary facilities up and running, including all the inspections that are required by law or BSA camp standards? Will ongoing “stay at home” orders prevent necessary preparations from happening?

As of now, I’m optimistic that Hidden Valley, Tuckahoe, and our Cub Scout Day and Twilight camps will all be able to happen this summer.  As the Council awaits further essential guidance from government officials, we’re looking at all our options as well.  Be assured our Council will do everything it can to provide our Scouts with a great summer camp experience in 2020. 

Please stay safe as we come together to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  I look forward to seeing everyone back at our council camps once this outbreak is over.

Yours in Scouting,

Ronald M. Gardner, Jr.
Scout Executive & CEO

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