– Phillip Coulling, NCI Executive Director
Ordinarily rather quiet in March and April, save for the calls of wood frogs and the songs of returning migratory birds, the valley of Big Mary’s Creek has been buzzing early this spring, as the nearly 50-year-old swimming pool has received some much needed renovations. When the current pool was installed in 1977 inside a shell formerly occupied by the much larger original (stream-fed) pool, the walls were not reinforced adequately to support the weight of the expanded pool deck. The integrity of the deck was strained further when it was expanded around the perimeter in the 1990s to permit a chain-link fence. Consequently, the deck developed numerous cracks which had begun to pose a safety hazard. A new concrete pad has been poured via a hose long enough that the cement truck did not have to cross the bridge and stained (the color, I kid you not, is “Afterglow”), the new fence is in place, and work on the pool house is complete, but gunite has yet to be applied and new tiles to be installed. Additional components of this project include new tiles around the perimeter of the pool, a new sand filter and plumbing in the pool house (which was largely rebuilt, with new electrical wiring), a new cover, and a new robotic vacuum. None of this work would have been possible without the phenomenal generosity of the Nature Camp Foundation and its many donors. Caretaker Ventry Smith, in addition to keeping his watchful eye over the pool refurbishment, has kept himself busy this spring ordering and obtaining requisite supplies, scheduling maintenance visits to keep the physical plant running smoothly, and making several plumbing repairs (the necessity of which was revealed when he turned the water on for the season). Just as we couldn’t operate without the assistance and support of NCF, we couldn’t function without Ventry’s diligence, know-how, attention to detail, and hard work.
This year Nature Camp inducts two new members into the Roll of Honor, which was established more than two decades ago to recognize those individuals who have made extraordinary, non-monetary contributions to Nature Camp. Amy Wingfield Clark’s tenure on the NCF Board of Directors began shortly after the Roll of Honor came into existence. She served as both chair of the Finance Committee and as treasurer, and in both capacities she helped to oversee the prudent stewardship of the organization’s investments and to exercise wise financial management. Nature Camp remains on solid footing in no small part due to Amy’s leadership, guidance, and sage advice over many years. Chris Chamberlin came to Nature Camp in 2002, when his Lynchburg friend, Matt Lee, was also recruited by directors Paul Cabe and Leigh Ann Beavers to join the staff. He thought he might stay for one session, but instead wound up serving on the staff for seven summers, eventually as head cook and then assistant director. While still on staff, he began offering his services as a cook at Adult Session and has been leading the kitchen crew for this (almost) annual event ever since, usually forgoing any compensation for his efforts and culinary artistry. Many thanks to Amy and Chris for all that you have done and continue to do for Camp! As we enter year four of the COVID-19 pandemic, we do so with hearts overflowing with gratitude for all those whose generosity of time, talents, and treasure have sustained us and have allowed Nature Camp to provide meaningful, engaging, transformative experiences for hundreds of young people (and those young at heart) for 80 years!