A Year into the Pandemic, Midcoast Summer Camps Fill Quickly

This is an excerpt from an article in the Times Record:

Local summer camps have seen a spike in interest after some last year were closed or constrained due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summer camp at the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) in Topsham is returning this summer after the coronavirus pandemic forced the nonprofit to cancel last summer.

The CREA camp opened registration on March 7 with 176 slots for the camp in July and August for kids age 6-16. CREA provides nature-based learning at the 235-acre Cathance River Nature Preserve to help foster environmental stewardship.

“I would say within the first 24 hours, something like 80% of them got snapped up,” said Caroline Eliot, CREA’s executive director. The sessions for 6- and 7-year-olds went fastest.

Jenny Mueller, the camp director, said as of Tuesday there were only 18 spots left. It is the fastest the camp has filled since it started in 2007, she said. As the pandemic lingers, kids will be in smaller groups of six per counselor and will wear masks and stay six feet apart when eating, among other safety measures, Mueller said.

“I believe local families are looking for ways for their children to disconnect from the technology-filled remote (or) hybrid learning of 2020-21 and reconnect with nature through more hands-on learning in science and the arts,” Mueller said.

Lee Cataldo of Brunswick said she works all summer and has to have something for her seven-year-old daughter to do. A CREA program is a better setting than a daycare because it allows her daughter to engage not just with the outdoor education CREA offers but also with her peers and community, Cataldo said.

“This year in so many ways I just want her at summer camp to have a chance to be a kid and have a sense of normalcy, just to go be with other kids and be outside and play and have fun and learn some things too but really just to relax and do kids things,” Cataldo said.

Cataldo signed her daughter up for two weeks at CREA. “She’s an extrovert so sitting at home with her family gets old quick,” Cataldo said.

Ron Hall, the executive director of Maine Summer Camps, said the increased demand in summer caps is widespread at both day and overnight camps in Maine. Additionally, most camps aren’t operating at full capacity to comply with Gov. Janet Mill’s executive order that allows 100% capacity outside and 75% capacity inside public spaces starting in Mid-May.

Hall said about 60,000 kids attend Maine camps each summer. There are approximately 175 licensed camps in Maine, according to Hall. About 110 of them are overnight camps and the rest are day camps. Hall said between 95% and 98% of camps are operating this summer, compared to 20% last summer.

“I would anticipate that families that wait until May are going to be out of luck because the camps are filling up so fast,” Hall said.

Read the entire article here.