American Chestnuts Lead Growth at Camp Properties

By November 12, 2014 January 6th, 2016 BYM, CQC, Firecircle, General, OQC, SQC, TA, TA-Bike, TA-Foot

David Hunter, Camp Property Manger

This year we were able to undertake several projects and to prepare for other, even more exciting, projects. Building projects, forestry, and the energy of enthusiastic volunteers were all part of the recipe. Safer, more attractive, and more sustainable properties for the camps and others within the Yearly Meeting were the result.

Catoctin Quaker Camp

Camper Cabins
We are working towards replacing all of the camper cabins at the camps. A seventh camper cabin was constructed at Catoctin in the spring of 2014. We are looking forward to building the eighth in the spring of 2015. That will leave us with four more to replace in the future. Peter Bugler continues to help us with replacing camper cabin and we are in his debt. Other volunteers who helped include Harry “Scotty” Scott, Louis Bugler, Sasha Bugler, and Peter McMahon as well as loads of Friends and other volunteers who helped remove the old cabins and move the permitting process along. These cabins continue to serve as functional and attractive buildings that are a testimony to simplicity, beauty and craftsmanship.102_0024

In December of 2013 Glatfelter Paper and Pulp Company began building logging landings at the roadsides and moving equipment to Catoctin. For several years we have been working towards timber stand improvement. Over the course of the winter and spring Glatfelter removed dead, diseased overcrowded and stunted timber from about 40% of the area. This “thinning from below” allows rigorous forest growth and improved species and age diversity in the forest. All of these improve the overall health of the forest and reduce vulnerability to disease, wild fire, and other threats. Most of the new young trees that will be added to the forest as part of this project will grow from seeds, nuts or root stock that is already in the forest, but this has also provided us with the opportunities to plant some trees in the area.

A little forest history…
Until about 1900 the hills and forests of the eastern United States contained American Chestnuts. During the late 1800s, Chestnut blight began to spread throughout the United States. By the early 1900s the American Chestnut was no longer a presence the forest canopy. This remarkable giant of a tree once towered 50 to 75 feet higher than any other tree in the forest and produced three to four times as much food for wildlife (and humans) than any other tree we have in our forest today.

Near the north logging landing at Catoctin

Near the north logging landing at Catoctin

Blight continues to persist in soils everywhere in the eastern United States and whenever an American Chestnut begins to grow it eventually succumbs to the blight before reaching maturity. Signs are everywhere on the mountain that the American Chestnut once thrived there. Chestnut stump sprouts can still be found, Chinese Chestnuts thrive wherever they are planted and old chestnut logs can still occasionally be found in forest. Most of the wood that the kitchen and lodge at Catoctin are made of is American Chestnut.

After decades of careful and selective breeding the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) believes that it has finally created a new American Chestnut that is blight resistant. The hope of seeing the Chestnut towering above the forest again is beginning to sound more and more like a real possibility. The new species is called the Restoration American Chestnut 1.0.

Catoctin Campers among the chestnuts circa 1860

Catoctin Campers among the chestnuts circa 1860

The new blight resistant American Chestnuts are not commonly available yet because the trees are just now old enough to begin producing quantities of nuts. We are hopeful that we will be able to receive some of these new chestnuts at Catoctin this fall or in the spring. This will be the first time that Restoration Chestnuts would be introduced into Maryland forests. It’s exciting to think that the naturalization of the American Chestnut in the region will begin at Catoctin Quaker Camp!

American Chestnut

American Chestnut


Plans to replace the bathhouses at Catoctin are developing well. The building is being designed so that it can be constructed in two phases if necessary. The design includes eight composting toilets and sinks in the first structure. An attached structure will house the showers. The composting toilets will reduce the load on our aging septic system, reduce water use, and provide useful compost and fertilizer. The building will provide an excellent teaching opportunity those who visit or attend camp at Catoctin.

Commercial and Residential Wind Energy Purchase Programs
This year all of the electricity used at Catoctin was 100% Green e-certified local wind energy. It continues to be purchased under the contract that was negotiated by Groundswell, a non-profit community organization engaged in helping individuals and other non-profits pool their consumer buying power to facilitate social change. Purchasing our electricity in this way also enables individuals associate with the Yearly Meeting or the camping programs who live in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania to purchase 100% wind energy through a similar contract. Opportunities to sign up for 100% wind energy become available in the spring and in the fall. Please contact the Yearly Meeting office if you are interested in participating in one of these purchase programs.

Opequon Quaker Camp

The Boathouse
We are not sure why the new structure at Opequon has been dubbed the Boathouse. It is not on the water and it has never housed a boat, but it seems to have been named, and that name is “The Boathouse.” This building has replaced what was the oldest remaining structure on “the hill.” It was constructed over the well so we have access to water all year long. The new building is home to the washer and dryer, plumbing and electrical controls, and provides some much needed office space and storage. The building is a one and a half stories high, with a long shed roof pitched and oriented to accommodate enough solar voltaic panels to offset the energy needs of the camp.
We continue to make pla102_0030ns for a separate shower house and to remodel the existing bathhouses. Moving the showers out of the existing structures will provide room for sinks and toilets that can extend the useful life of the existing structures.

Six cabins down and two cabins to go…
In 2003 we began replacing and improving the Opequon cabins. So far, six of them have been replaced. We look forward to replacing one of the remaining two in 2015. We hope to be able to replace the last one in 2016. Then we will turn our attention to replacing cabins at Shiloh.

Shiloh Quaker Camp

During the last few years at Shiloh we have accomplished a great deal. This year we focused on several maintenance and improvement projects. Nearly 200 trees were planted around the pond, water bars were installed to prevent erosion, and the patio was resurfaced outside the kitchen to eliminate tripping hazards.

Cabins at Shiloh
Three of the cabins at Shiloh have been replaced since 2003 but there are still seven that need to be rebuilt. The small, dark, and dank structures will be replaced with a 16 by 24 foot cabin that allow lots of light and air and are similar to the cabins that we have been building at Opequon.

Solar Energy at Shiloh
We are looking at a solar installation that would offset some of the energy used at Shiloh. One of the concepts would create open pavilions under which activities could be held and solar panels could be housed on the roof. One location might replace the current Art Pavilion.

Fundraising, Development and The Tiny Cabin

In February of 2014, BYM received a genuine blessing when Ann Venable came as the Development Director. It has been a joy to work, visit the camps, and make plans for the future with Ann. This summer she encouraged us to take on a fun and exciting project; building a model of a cabin to assist in raising funds to replace camper cabins at the camps.

Ann Venable at the Opequon Fire Circle February 2014

Ann Venable at the Opequon Fire Circle February 2014

We decided to get campers involved in this project by offering a Workshop at Opequon and build the model as part of the activity. The Staff at Opequon decided to call the workshop the “Tiny Cabin Workshop” and work began on the playhouse-sized structure. It was a joy to see the campers embrace this project. They were eager to learn some of the principals of construction. The campers and staff involved were positive and enthusiastic at every turn. I thought that there might be some resistance to wearing eye protection, gloves, or hard hats, but the campers gleefully donned the safety wear (as well as high visibility vests, earmuffs, and anything else they could find). The difficulty came when it was time to put these items away for the day! When it was time to try something new (hammering, sawing, using the level and square) all participants were grabbing tools and trying them out before we able to discuss what we would be using them for. When it was time for the “Art Walk” at the end of the week the campers shared what they had done and why and the terms and concepts that they had learned during the week. They also shared a sophisticated understanding of how the cabin would be used as an aid to fundraising for new cabins and the importance of safe and attractive facilities at camp.

DSC_0203I was deeply moved as I listened to these campers talk about the importance of insuring that camp would be there for more young people in the future. I was inspired by these young people joyfully playing their part and giving of themselves to encourage others to give. It pointed out how the welfare and future of the camps depend on the generosity of all of us – giving of the resources we have – whether it is money, our time or the joyful enthusiasm we have for the camping programs and the properties that are home to them. The campers took great pleasure in undertaking a project that they knew would have a long-term impact on the place that they have come to love.

Friends Service Weekends

I continue to take a great deal of pleasure in being a part of Friends Service Weekends. Camp Families and Friends gather at each of the camps in the spring and fall, for a total of six times each year. We always have a great time getting to know each other, working to make improvements, and making a difference in the places that are so important to us. These weekends also provide a great opportunity for people to visit the properties and experience some of the gifts the camps have to give. This work is a critical part of maintaining these beautiful places.


It is a joy and an honor to be a part of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and to have the opportunity to help care for these special places that serve such special programs. Helping to create a vision of how we want to make the necessary improvements at the camps has been challenging and exciting work. I look forward to seeing these projects move forward as way opens.