Campers returning for summer around York County after missing a year of in-person fun

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Campers are returning to summer camp for s'mores, arts and crafts and fishing for the first time in nearly two years.

Camp Pennwood Camp Director Lindy Eisenhart, foreground, and Alicia Zienkiewicz, The Arc of York County director of community services, erect a sign at the clubhouse while preparing for summer campers Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The Arc of York County's Camp Pennwood will offer day camps running from July 5 through Aug. 6 this year. Bill Kalina photo

Programming for several York County camps was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but camp officials like Kelsey Frey are finally gearing up for a new year.

Frey is the manager of education for the Nature Discovery Camp, an outdoors camp offered by York County Department of Parks and Recreation at Richard Nixon  Park that emphasizes exploring creeks and ponds, hiking and learning about local wildlife. The camp started Monday and runs through Aug. 6, with weekly sessions for different age groups.

"This is the most important thing that we do education-wise," Frey said. "Summer camp is the most important thing because it's long-term experiences in the outdoors with kids. That's our chance to have the greatest, most memorable impact on our students."

Though registration is full for Nature Discovery Camp as of Monday, Frey said parents can still sign up for the waitlist by calling 717-428-1961.

Last year, Nature Discovery Camp canceled its programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, however, the camp has generally returned to how it was operated pre-COVID — now with an emphasis on health and wellness.

"If one person comes to camp with COVID symptoms, then they've just basically canceled the week for every kid," Frey said. "We're asking parents to monitor for symptoms."

Benjamin Damon, 10, of York, takes a turn on the slide during summer camp at Southern Branch YMCA in Shrewsbury, Thursday, July 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Since many of the activities are outside, children will have plenty of fresh air and space to social distance. Masks will only be required for indoor spaces, Frey said.

Camp Pennwood: Likewise, Josh Leik, the executive director of The Arc of York County, will be utilizing the wide open outdoors for the organization's day camp program — Camp Pennwood — which also canceled its programming in 2020.

Though Camp Pennwood, located at 2400 Druck Valley Road in Springettsbury Township, is open to all children, it primarily serves campers with intellectual disabilities from York and Adams counties, Leik said. 

Camp Pennwood Assistant Camp Director Sarah Moore and Camp Director Lindy Eisenhart, left, create a design on a bulletin board at the camp's clubhouse while preparing for summer camps Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Camp Pennwood, operated by Arc of York County, will offer day camps running from July 5 through Aug. 6 this year. Bill Kalina photo

Several changes to this year's camp will include smaller groups, expanded outdoor areas of play and a newly installed playground. While masks will be mandated, Leik said that some campers in different situations where mask wearing could be difficult will also be considered.

"We still have a full health and safety plan that we intend to follow through with," Leik said. "I think it's safe to say the campers are as excited as the staff is that we're going to be holding it this year."

Camp Pennwood is a daycamp that will run from July 5 through Aug. 6 this year. Registration is still open, and applications can be found by visiting www.thearcofyorkcounty.org/

Theater camps: While Camp Pennwood and Nature Discovery Camp both utilize outdoor spaces to provide children with proper social distancing, The Belmont Theatre Executive Director Lyn Bergdoll needed to prepare for her theater camps a little differently.

The Belmont Theatre, which offers four one-week camp sessions, will be hosting all programming from the stage — as opposed to being held virtually last year.

In order to prepare for an in-person experience, Bergdoll said The Spring Garden Township theater will be installing a new HVAC system to improve air quality.

Additionally, The Belmont Theatre will be following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for masking. As of Monday, the CDC recommended that individuals wear masks in public settings. Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask. No COVID-19 vaccine is approved yet for children under 12.

Camp Pennwood Assistant Camp Director Sarah Moore, left, and Camp Director Lindy Eisenhart erect a sign at the clubhouse while preparing for summer campers Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Camp Pennwood, operated by The Arc of York County, will offer day camps running from July 5 through Aug. 6 this year. Bill Kalina photo

This year, The Belmont Theatre's four programs have classes in movie musicals, art and animation, wizardry and Broadway.

"We always look at The Belmont Summer Academy as teaching life lessons," Bergdoll said. "The students learn a lot about working together, cooperation and how to be a team."

The first week of day camp begins June 21, and registration is still open. Applications can be found by visiting https://thebelmont.org/.

The cost of each weekly session is $225. Though camper totals vary from session to session, Bergdoll said. The Belmont Theatre typically recruits 30 to 40 campers.

"We're just thrilled we can offer the opportunity," Bergdoll said. "It's exciting for everyone, and kids are super excited about being part of an activity again."

 — Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.