It has been an exceptionally busy winter at Nature Camp. Shortly after assuming the position of treasurer, Mike Meads worked with caretaker Charlie Truxell to find a pickup truck which would beter meet Camp’s needs, particularly for transportation of garbage, recyclables, building materials, and refuse from roof reshingling operations. With the invaluable and generous assistance of Scot Marsh, they were able to locate, and secure an incredibly good deal on an only slightly-used 2008 Chevrolet Silverado one-ton truck with dual rear wheels, a dumptruck bed, and a stereo. As part of the transaction, Nature Camp sold the 1997 F-250 truck, affecionately known (at least to some) as “White Lightnin´.” Charlie is pleased with the new vehicle (and I suppose he would welcome suggestions for a name in the tradition of the “Blue Goose” and “Silver Fox”).
Charlie and Jim Brooks have spent considerable time since last fall working in the kitchen, which now sports a brand new floor and ceiling that will be easier to maintain and clean than their predecessors. They will also help create a brighter work space. Hobart has ended its 23-year run as Camp’s dishwasher and has been replaced by a new Champion model. Charlie has the dishwasher and a new ice maker installed and ready to go for the upcoming summer.
The system of smoke detectors which were installed as part of the electrical upgrades in 2008 proved unsatisfactory and increasingly annoying with each passing summer. Last year the incessant sound of false alarms tormented the staff as they replaced batteries during Opening Week and continued throughout the summer at all hours of the day and night. All of these units have now been replaced by a new system, which we hope will prove less finicky and more reliable in protecting the safety of the resident campers and counselors.
IBEC, the company which provided internet service to Nature Camp via existing powerlines for the past two summers, went belly up in January. (Perhaps Nature Camp is somewhat to blame for IBEC’s demise, since technicians spent innumerable hours trying to figure out how to get the system to work with our particular electrical grid.) Charlie and Priscilla Truxell now have internet access via Verizon Wireless, and we’ll likely go with the same option for the office (at least until Rockbridge County’s new broadband infrastructure is constructed).
The most exciting development this off-season has been the long awaited and anticipated construction of a new well for Nature Camp and Charlie and Priscilla. Because Nature Camp serves a population of at least 25 persons for at least 60 days a year, it qualifies as a public water supply under the oversight of the Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water, and hence the Camp waterworks must meet certain requirements and standards that do not apply to a residential water supply. The previous well was grandfathered in as an existing, compliant component when Nature Camp came under the Office of Drinking Water in 2009, but a new well has to meet additional standards, including particular design specifications and a battery of analytical tests on water samples collected during a 48-hour test of the well’s yield. The new well was drilled just before Christmas, the pump test was completed on the last day of January, and the test results have revealed a clean water supply. Not surprisingly, there is some iron and manganese to contend with, and the pH is moderately acidic, but the quality of the water is vastly superior to that of the previous well. As this issue of the Afterglow goes to press, we are still working on options for a new treatment system in consultation with the Office of Drinking Water, an engineer, and our local service technician, but the new well should be online well before the summer begins.
None of these improvements to the Camp facilities is cheap, of course, but thanks to the leadership of the boards of directors of Nature Camp Inc. and the Nature Camp Foundation—and the remarkable generosity of numerous individuals, garden clubs, and other organizations—all necessary funds were appropriated without jeopardizing the financial assets of either NCI or NCF. The number and magnanimity of donors to the Nature Camp Foundation permitted substantial gifts to underwrite the cost of the new truck and well. In additton, high enrollment in recent years has kept NCI solvent. At its meetng in December, the NCI board established two invested funds using existing assets: an Operational Reserve for emergency expenditures and future infrastructure improvements and a Legacy Fund to support staff awards and training and educational opportunities for staff development.
We once again expect a full or nearly full house this summer. A handful of spaces remain available for boys in Second Session, but every other session already has a waiting list for both girls and boys. First Session 2012 happens to be the 250th session in the history of Nature Camp. (There were only 14 sessions total during the first 10 years at Sherando Lake, and the season did not expand to four sessions until 1954, the second year at Big Mary’s Creek.) To mark this milestone we plan a session-long celebration, with historical tidbits, special evening programs, and a spotlight on the Nature Camp History Project.