“While we are now allowed to open to 100% capacity, we are limiting camp capacity based on camper-to-counselor supervision ratios,” said Melvin Atkinson, 4-H center director. “This provides for a greater degree of safety for both adults and youth.”
Atkinson noted last year’s camps were held at about 50% capacity, and additional safety protocols were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We developed a plan based on guidance from the CDC, American Camping Association, the governor and local health officials,” he said. “Camper safety is the primary goal for all of our camps, and we look forward to expanding our camp offerings while providing for the health and well-being of our campers.”
Atkinson said as planning moves forward with this year’s camps, they have again considered input from these same sources.
“Our camps will continue with enhanced cleaning protocols for the safety of all our campers,” he said. “But as the risk of COVID has lessened, we will be relaxing some of the guidelines we had in place last year while keeping others.”
Atkinson noted that because most camp activities will be outdoors, the risk of contracting COVID is significantly less than if campers spent most of their time indoors.
“Along with our enhanced cleaning protocols, we will be reducing the number of high-touch areas and setting a maximum limit for room occupancy,” he said. “We will also be providing drive-through sign-up like we did last year. And there are other safety measures we put in place last year that will be continued for this year’s camps.”
A variety of camp opportunities
Atkinson said the ability to hold camps at full capacity again has also allowed them to offer additional camp opportunities.
To see this year’s Texas 4-H summer camp offerings, go to https://tinyurl.com/
“We will offer a variety of summer camps focused on wildlife, fishing, outdoor challenges, photography and STEM, as well as our County Camps, Horizons, Adventure Camps and Mission Possible Camp,” said Tyler Cheely, 4-H youth program director at the center. “Our goal is to provide a variety of camps that address a range of youth interests.”
Cheely said while the main emphasis of these camps is to develop important interpersonal and life skills, they also offer participants the opportunity to make new friends, learn about inclusivity and, of course, have fun.
“It’s great that we can now offer more camping opportunities to youth, so they may have the full 4-H experience,” Cheely said. “We’re really looking forward to this summer. It’s important our camp participants are exposed to 4-H in a positive, enjoyable and educational way.”
Cheely also noted Texas 4-H camps provide an opportunity for older youth to work with younger participants and encourage their personal development. He said this year they are offering a Volunteer 4-H Teen Camp Counselor program for senior level 4-H members at the camps.
“Many summer staff members attended camp when they were younger and want to give the same positive camp experience to a new generation of campers,” he said.
Persevering through a pandemic
Even though preparing for last year’s summer camps was challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the camps were still highly successful, Atkinson said.
“In addition to reducing camp capacity to about 50%, we enhanced our cleaning and sanitizing efforts, altered some activities to provide more personal distance, and changed some dormitory and dining arrangements,” he said.
Atkinson also noted the facility’s regular HVAC filters were replaced with higher grade Merv-13 filters that are still in use.
“Other protective measures we put in place included installing barriers in our food service area and changing our serving methods,” he noted. “We also allowed limited use of shared equipment and put our camper groups together based on dorm assignments instead of age.”
Atkinson said while many of these safety measures will remain in place, he hopes having camp capacity and activity return to a more normal state will allow the campers to get the most out of their experience.