David Hunter, Camp Property Manager
This year at the camps…
We just finished one of our best summers ever and wherever we went we found happy campers. Campers enjoyed all the usual camp activities but this year they seemed to be particularly interested learning more about where our food comes from. Perhaps it had something to do with the logs inoculated with shitake mushroom spores that appeared at each of the camps this spring almost ready to burst forth with mushrooms to be taken to the kitchen and incorporated into delicious meals! We have been focusing on creating educational opportunities at the camp. If you pay attention when you are visiting the camps you will find signs with a paragraph or two describing an environmental issue that is particularly apropos at the camps or a natural phenomenon that we are able to observe on site.
We found everyone excited about the new bathhouses at Catoctin and the newly planted hedge of hazelnuts and elderberries between the road and the camp, which are growing rapidly. These are replacing a tangle of Multi-flora roses and other invasive species that had been growing along the road. Volunteers at Family Camp weekends have been working hard to push back these harmful imports and we look forward to seeing these native species thrive. These new additions will provide food for people and for wildlife and they will do a much better job of screening the camp from the road. Paw Paws, Persimmons and more varieties of chestnuts were planted at Catoctin this year as well.
Unit 1 campers helped to protect young trees from an abundance of deer in the area that was logged a few years ago. In the process they learned about the importance of a healthy forest to the future of the planet and about the hopeful return of the American Chestnut to the forests at Catoctin. Lots more energy went into helping the garden to thrive this year as well.
Since there was a period this winter during which we were without a caretaker at Catoctin, we took the opportunity to update the caretaker’s cabin. Most of the light fixtures were updated, the floors were refinished and the entire interior of the cabin got a coat new paint! Paradise just got a little nicer for a lucky new caretaker. The bulk of this work was accomplished by a wonderful, generous team of volunteers. Thank you Lamar Mathew, Harry “Scotty” Scott, Gloria Victor Dorr, Nick and Kathy Funkhouser and many more!
Opequon hosted their first community dinner this summer and it was great to see all of the campers and staff sharing a meal with Friends from Northern Virginia, vendors that serve the camps, and other neighbors and friends. Red Beans and Rice never taste as good as when you are sharing them with Friends and neighbors. We are looking forward to the beginning of a new tradition of community dinners at Opequon!
Campers love the new cabin at Opequon and what a great new paint job it got. It is now covered with murals dedicated to all the pollinators that work so hard to make sure that we have food to eat. As they painted, campers learned about how bees and other pollinators are struggling to survive threats created by chemical agriculture and mono-cropping.
Hundreds of trees got planted this spring at Opequon and they are thriving and improving the health of the forests there. Several of these trees were Paw Paws so in four or five years we could be munching on juicy Paw Paws at Fall Interim Meeting.
Thanks to a generous donor, the siding on the bathhouses at Shiloh is brand-spanking new! The old siding was getting shabby and it was replaced with a type of siding made of recycled wood and concrete that will outlast most of us. The new siding also received a coat of paint this summer. The bathhouses never looked so good!
We continue to battle invasive plants. Kudzu, Oriental Bittersweet, Honeysuckle, and others have already brought down many trees. We have been concentrating on an area near the lower field where Bittersweet has climbed to the top of many large trees. This area has a lot of large White and Green Ash which, unfortunately, will be killed in the next 3 to 8 years by an invasive insect called the Emerald Ash Borer. It is our intention to remove and sell these ash trees so that they can be put to good use before they succumb. We will be able to begin planting Pitch Pine and Yellow Pine next spring. These are quick growing species that provide excellent cover for a variety of wildlife. At the same time, we will be encouraging the growth of short season grasses that will provide food for wildlife and biodiversity as well.
Thinking about the future…
It is hard to look past the biggest of our future projects, the bathhouses at Catoctin, but if we do we see a host of other exciting projects as well…
We are very excited to get started on the new bathhouse at Catoctin, despite the higher than estimated costs. On September 5th over 100 Yearly Meeting Friends and friends of the camping programs gathered to celebrate the beginning of the construction phase of this project. We ate build your own tacos and build your own ice cream sundaes and one bathhouse came down. We look forward to getting started on the bathhouses as soon as we are able.
The new bathhouse design was arrived at by working with many groups of camp staff, alumni and other groups that use the property in the off-season. The design incorporates composting toilets which do not use water and break out reliance on septic systems, good ventilation that employs convection to remove moisture and hot air from the building, increased privacy in the toilets and showers and greater choices in deciding which rooms to use. We expect that it will be available for the summer camping season of 2017.
We have one more cabin to replace at Opequon. When that is done all of the camper cabins will have been built in this millennium. If possible, it will be replaced by the summer of 2018.
Shiloh has several projects that we will need to attend to soon. Before the summer of 2017 we need to replace another cabin. The hot water heaters are leaking badly and will need to be replaced before summer, 2017. We will replace them with tankless hot water heaters that are more efficient and have a longer life than conventional hot water heaters.
Once again, Shiloh had several hours this summer when they were without water because the well was dry. Generally, they can get through the summer by conserving water. However, there have been a few times over the last few years when they have run out of water and it is time that we looked at addressing the issue. One solution would be to drill another well and let it supply the bathhouses, while the current well continues supplying the Kitchen and caretaker’s residence with water.
It is a rare privilege to work on behalf of places so special and beautiful with such a wonderful group of co-workers. As always I want to acknowledge the opportunity I have been given and to express my gratitude to the Yearly Meeting and all who give of themselves on behalf of the camps.