Many regional camps scrap 2020 season

ORFORD, N.H. (WCAX) New Hampshire summer day camps were able to open Monday under new state guidelines, but many overnight camps have made the difficult decision to stay closed for the 2020 season that opens next week.

Now that summer is in full swing, summer camps would traditionally be gearing up for the season, but that isn't the scene at Camp Merriwood in Orford, New Hampshire. "We wanted the magic of Merriwood to be the same," said the camp's Susan Miller Hild.

Councilors would normally arrive Monday at the girls camp on Upper Baker Pond, but instead the sprawling grounds shared by Camp Moosilauke for boys, remain empty. It's a similar story across the river in Fairlee, Vermont -- empty cabins at a handful of popular summer camps. "We just wouldn't be able to give them the camp experience," Hild said.

Merriwood made the difficult decision to close in early May, well before the guidelines for summer camps were issued. Social-distancing, Hild says, is the antithesis of how overnight camps operate. "So much of what the camp's experience was going to be was going to be negated by what were were going to have to do," she said.

And it's not just overnight camps feeling the pain. "The whole thing has been very difficult," said Rick Desharnais with Lebanon Parks and Recreation, which also decided to cancel its city-run day camps this summer. Access to the school and facilities where they are held was another issue. "My first job in rec was a day camp councilor and the bonds that you have with those families, they are very important and people do come to rely on us."

Families that include Mark Symonds of Lebanon and his 6-year-old son. "Lucky my wife can work part-time at home and part-time at the hospital, and two days a week he is with my parents. We are just kind of piecing it together for the summer," Symonds said.

Camp Merriwood hasn't missed a summer since first opening in 1949. Hild calls it a bump in the road and says they are already looking forward to next year. "Our hashtag is #togetherasonein2021 and we really can't wait to be back together," she said.

Several overnight camps in this area will be creating some sort of programming either for families or alumni of campers to generate a little bit off revenue, but it's clear that the summer camping experience this year will not be the same.