Camp Property Manager Looking Toward the Future

By October 29, 2015 January 6th, 2016 BYM, CQC, Firecircle, General, OQC, SQC, TA

“Quaker Faith is placed not in the achievements of the past…

but in the promise of what is to come”

Joshua Valle, Friends Journal, April 2014

David Hunter, Camp Property Manager

It is easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking about my effectiveness in this position by looking at what has been accomplished over the last year. Have we replaced enough cabins to know that the campers will be safe and dry for the summer? Will there be enough benches for everyone to sit at in the dining hall? Are our buses going to make it through another summer? But this is a backwards looking approach and it can only tell us where we have been and if we have done well enough. It is good to acknowledge and celebrate our accomplishments but their worth is in the promise of what is to come.

It is easy to forget to look forward toward the promise of what the camping program and the camp properties will offer the Yearly Meeting and the world around us in the years to come. I am happy to be reminded that how we do what we do and why we choose to do it that way is as important as getting it all done. When we practice our faith effectively we move forward, guided by faithful discernment, and we find paths forward that reflect our values and ensure that the promise is realized. Some of the forward looking things we have done this year include:

Family Camp Weekends

DSC_0656In 2015, we tried something new: Friends Service Weekends became Family Camp weekends. One weekend was scheduled at each of the residential camps in the spring and another in the fall. Staff with experience in the camping programs were hired to plan and coordinate activities and food coordinators were scheduled so that all would be well fed and the weekend would run smoothly. Activities were offered that appealed to all ages including exploring the camp, ponds and creeks; group games; forest walks; fairy house building; cooking; board games; singing; firecircle; and much, much more. Work projects were included among the activities as well.

The new approach to the weekends was a resounding success! Not only did lots of work get done but new camp families got a taste of what camp is like and were introduced to the properties. Old friends had a chance to get together and reminisce and catch up, and others had the opportunity to enjoy the weekend and be rejuvenated! We are looking forward to continuing to expand the camp circle, have old friends enjoy the properties, and introduce new friends to all that the Yearly Meeting and the camping programs have to offer.

New cabin at Catoctin

Due to the weather, we got a late start on the new cabin at Catoctin this spring but it was completed in September and it is beautiful. Thanks again to Peter Bugler for all the care and remarkable craftsmanship that he puts into each cabin. The traditional timber frame technique used to build these cabins uses accumulated wisdom of our forbearers for design and construction and locally sourced materials to create structures that pose a simple elegance and are built to last. They will serve campers at Catoctin for many decades to come.

Logging, Tree Planting and American Chestnuts

The logging project at Catoctin is complete. Our management objectives were carried out beautifully and the forest is lush and thriving. On a walk at one of the Family Camp Weekends we learned to identify some of the trees in the forest. As we walked near a particularly dense stand of new seedlings I heard a voice (whose owner I could not see through all the young trees) coming out of the lush growth. “Man, this is a Tulip Poplar jungle,” my 5 year old friend said, trying out his new skills.Sm_DSC_0030

Several large openings in the forest canopy were created and early this spring over 460 trees were planted. The varieties of trees we used were chosen to increase the diversity of species in the forest, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and to help protect the forest soils. Many of the trees planted were evergreens that will play a temporary role in the forest and we look forward to having some of our own Catoctin grown Christmas trees in 8 to 10 years.

Thirteen of the trees we planted are quite special. In the late 1800s blight swept through the forests of the Eastern United States and by the early 1900s nearly all of the mature American Chestnuts were gone. Since this tree played such an important role in our forests, the American Chestnut Society began working on breeding a new American Chestnut that would be resistant to the blight. The first fruits of their work are just now becoming available.

The new American Chestnuts are not commonly available because the trees are just now old enough to begin producing quantities of nuts. Nevertheless, the American Chestnut Foundation agreed to plant some of these new chestnuts at Catoctin. This is the first time that Restoration Chestnuts have been introduced into Maryland forests. Isn’t it exciting to think that the naturalization of the American Chestnut in the region is beginning at Catoctin Quaker Camp? What a joy to be a part of seeing what has been called one of the most serious environmental disasters in American history begin to be reversed.

Managing Invasive Species

We have begun looking at the health of our forests, and have become aware of the effects of invasive species. Invasive species are organisms which humans have moved to another part of the world. Some of these trans-located species have a formidable competitive advantage over native species. We call them invasive species since they are capable of out competing the desirable, native species and usually have a serious negative environmental impact. Sometimes several invasive species can act on a forest at the same time creating effects that are exponentially severe. For example, at Shiloh we have a confluence of invasive species that will have a significant negative impact on part of the property.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an insect that is having a devastating impact on all of the varieties of ash trees in our area. Studies have found that once EAB is established, mortality rates are around 99%. It is devastating to think that we may lose all of the ash on the camp properties. They are tall, supple giants reaching for the sky at all of the residential camps. However, they do not occupy a unique role in forest. Given time and opportunity other giants will rise in their places.

However, it may be challenging for the new trees to become established. At Shiloh, the forest that is home to many ash trees is also home to a host of invasive species waiting in the understory. These invasive vines, undesirable trees, and shrubs will take advantage of the available light and make it difficult for native species to flourish. It will be important that we increase our management of invasive species before we lose the ash trees so that other native species can take their places.

Forests are not only a beautiful home for our programs they are essential to our health and the health of the planet. As we face the challenges of climate change healthy forests will play an essential role in our efforts to preserve the planet and maintain earth as a healthy home for creation.

A New Bathhouse for Catoctin

Lots Catoctin_Bath_House2of time and energy have gone into planning and designing new bathhouses for Catoctin this year. I have enjoyed the collaborative process to design this structure immensely. The time spent with Catoctin staff, alumni, off-season renters, state and local permitting authorities, architects and engineers has been an education and a pleasure. The sharing of ideas, reflecting on the values we want to up-hold, the care and concern that has gone into the work, the waiting in silence for way to open, have all added up to an enriching personal experience for me and a thoughtful, practical, and beautiful design. The building will reflect many of the things we value as Friends, how we want to live with one another as a community and the tender care we want to offer the environment that provides us with our home.

We can’t wait to begin construction so that the building will be ready for the 2017 camping season. There is a lot to be done before next August so that we will be ready to break ground immediately after camp closes. There will be design questions to finalize, site plan modifications to file with the county, permits to apply for and contractors to hire.

There will also be money to be raised and this is the part of the work we can all share! Isn’t it wonderful to know that we all have a role to play in making this much needed building a reality! Let’s get busy fulfilling the promise of a more beautiful and sustainable future for our camping programs!

Coming soon:

Cabins at Shiloh and Opequon

We are looking forward to building cabins at Shiloh and Opequon before the 2016 camping season. The design will be similar to other new cabins that have been replaced at Shiloh and Opequon. We are striving to use materials that are produced as close to the camps as possible in order to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the structure. Of course we are looking for materials that are the right fit for the camps as well.

One of the things that I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to interact with a broad variety of people. Inevitably the people I enjoy most are the Quakers and camp friends that I visit with. I cannot move among Friends or those who have been touched by our camps without hearing stories of how lives are changed by our programs. It is clear that Friends are proud of the Yearly Meeting’s commitment to making these life-changing opportunities possible.

We have worked hard, scraped by, and cobbled together creative solutions to bring our programs to life year after year. Through this hard work we have established programs that others strive to emulate because it is evident that they make a difference in the lives that they touch. I would suggest that we are beginning to arrive at a point in our corporate life where we can shift our focus from addressing the needs of the moment to ensuring the promise that the camping program and the camp properties hold is carried forward into the future. It will take all of us to fulfill the promise, but the camp properties, our young people and the sustenance and strength we gain from the camps are worth the effort.