Buffalo Mountain Camp will hold modified camp schedules this summer as the facility continues to recover from last year’s devastating flood, according to the camp’s executive director.
“It’s been a very slow process. That’s just been the nature of what we’ve had to do and how we had to go about it in both looking at short-term needs and long-term needs,” said Jason Onks, camp director, this past week.
“There’s a perception in the community that we’re closed. We want to make sure people know we are open,” Onks said. “We have retreats going on right now.”
“We want people to know we are ready to have a safe, fun, faith-forming experience for our campers” this summer, he said.
In the seven months since the Aug. 5 flood, much of the camp infrastructure has been repaired, but little work has occurred on replacing damaged sleeping cabins or the dining hall.
That’s all part of a long-range plan that will require a strategic fundraising campaign.
But that won’t keep campers away this summer. Onks said the camp schedule has been adjusted to better accommodate campers in the fewer spaces available.
“We lost about 100 beds” when the flood damaged three sleeping cabins, Onks said.
The modified camp program will still give campers access to swimming, the zipline, climbing tower, archery and hiking, but in a shorter amount of time. Instead of weeklong camps, there will be half-week camps.
“While available slots for campers will be lower, the quality in the type of experience campers will have will not be compromised,” Onks said. “We remain a place where memories are made for a lifetime.”
He also said the half-week camps will be more affordable for families.
“I really hope there’s a niche out there for this. With families and their schedules these days, I really feel there will be a need for that half-week option,” he said.
The sessions will run Sunday evening through Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening through Friday evening. There will be one weeklong camp for high school-age kids, but all others will be half-week camps.
“I’m sure there will be the purist campers who will be disappointed we’ll only be in this building,” he said, referring to the lower housing building. “It’ll be different for those traditional campers, but we think it might be a more gentle experience for those first-time campers.”
The camp’s long-term goal is still in the planning phase and consists of rebuilding what was lost, including five cabins and the dining hall.
“We estimate about $3 million to rebuild back to the capacity we lost,” Onks said.
The camp already has $250,000 on hand from donations and fundraisers, which is helping the camp “afford these repairs to make the camp safe again and helping us operate this year,” Onks said.
There is also $400,000 in pledges toward rebuilding cabins lost to the flood and landslides, he said.
“Typically, a campaign is a three-year payout. If that’s how it would work, it would probably be 2016 before we’re able to start building, unless the fundraising component went better than we expect,” he said.
Two significant fundraisers are coming up soon, he said. First is the 19th annual golf tournament, April 27 at MeadowView’s golf course, Cattails. Then, on May 4, Mahoney’s Outfitters will sponsor a 5K road race in Johnson City to benefit the camp.
The 5K “was Mahoney’s idea. We’re excited that people in the community are .... willing to help us in our recovery,” he said. “Those proceeds are going to the recovery process.”
Onks said camp staff continues to develop volunteer opportunities.
“We invite people to go to our website where they can sign up,” and will get an email about opportunities. There’s already a volunteer work day scheduled for April 6, he said.
“People need to register so we can have assignments available.”
For more information about those events, to donate toward the recovery or to volunteer to help work at the camp, go to www.buffalomountaincamp.org.