Attention campers… and neighbors

WEST COPAKE — The Red Transformers and the White Aliens are engaged in a fight to the finish at Camp Pontiac.

Unfortunately, the blare of the battlefield can be heard in the homes of camp neighbors for miles around.

The annual camp event involving the Transformers and Aliens is called “Color War,” a sort of last hurrah for the 550 campers who populate the 200-acre summer camp that spans the Ancram/Copake town lines.

One camp neighbor, Jamie Purinton of Ancram, sent an email plea for help with the noise situation to Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin and Copake Councilwoman Linda Gabaccia, August 3, writing that use of the camp’s public address (PA) system and the volume at which announcements are conveyed “has increased greatly in the last week or more. We have had music blasted after 11 p.m. and this morning at 7:50 a.m. they blasted sirens and cannons as a ‘surprise raid’ on the camp and our entire neighborhood. This morning’s sudden warlike attack and volumes were nerve-shattering for humans and caused shaking dogs in our household.”

The email goes on to ask officials in Copake, where most of the camp buildings are located, to speak to those in charge at the camp to ask them “to be more neighborly for the last two weeks of their ‘color wars.’”

Ms. Purinton estimated that based on the number of signatures on past petitions protesting the noise produced by the camp, which has been a problem for years, more than 150 area residents are disturbed by the clamor, which is “amplified” by the water of Lower Rhoda Pond and carries a distance of about three miles.

But according to Camp Pontiac Director Mark Sklar, the noise associated with “Color War” lasts just one day and he only received one call about it from a camp neighbor, not to complain, but to ask what was going on.

The camp, which runs from June 25 through August 13, offers programs in all major sports plus water-skiing and boating at Copake Lake, wall-climbing, theater, gymnastics and dance–a virtual smorgasbord of activities for youth ages 7 to 15 years from the tri-state area and Florida, Mr. Sklar said.

“We are here 50 days a year, for the one day of Color War we do something a little different, we make a little noise,” said Mr. Sklar.

The camp’s website contradicts Mr. Sklar’s one-day time line, describing Color War as “a week-long competition. “Let the excitement begin…Color War 2011 is here… The battle is heating up… This has been the closest Color War ever…” says the website.

The entire camp is “split into two teams who compete on the ballfields for five days.” The competition culminates with “Sing Night” when the two teams “belt out a custom written march song then wrap up with a heartfelt Alma Mater,” says the site.

Asked which team won the Color War, since it would presumably be over by now if it was only one day, Mr. Sklar said the event is “not finished yet” due to Tuesday’s rain, but “the Aliens are ahead by 39 points.”

Copake Supervisor Reggie Crowley confirmed having received Ms. Purinton’s email, which Councilwoman Gabaccia had forwarded with a note asking the supervisor to speak to someone he knows at the camp and “address this issue ASAP.”

Speaking by cell phone from a beach somewhere in Maine, Tuesday, Mr. Crowley said he received the email just as he was about to leave for vacation August 4 and forwarded it to Town Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Ferratto, suggesting to him that “a friendly call” might be enough to rectify the situation. “Maybe they don’t realize the noise is getting out-of-hand,” noted the supervisor, who said he was off to find a lobster for dinner.

ZEO Ferratto told The Columbia Paper he received the Purinton email and three other complaints within the past week from people who told him, “It sounded like Baghdad with bombs exploding and sirens blaring.” The sudden noise explosion was meant “to rile campers up, surprise them,” said the ZEO, who agreed there “is an issue there” and the noise was “over-the-top” but noted it’s not a zoning matter. Copake does have a noise law, enacted in 2000, but it is not part of the zoning ordinance, it is part of the general town code. Mr. Ferratto said he advised the people who called him to call the police.

Copake Police Chief Rob Lopez said Wednesday he was not aware of any noise complaints about the camp last week. He pointed out that the noise ordinance primarily prohibits a variety of noises between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The offending noise could come from any kind of machine or device and be “audible beyond the boundaries of the property on which such device is located.”

Someone convicted of violating the law is subject to a fine of not more than $250 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 15 days, or both.

Ms. Purinton said she had called the camp on several occasions to complain about the noise this year, but her calls were forwarded to the infirmary because they were made after 11 p.m.

She said the noise problem at the camp seems to have worsened this year with the installation of some new public address equipment, which broadcasts out over the lake.

While the sound of youngsters screaming with glee and critical announcements about approaching thunderstorms are taken in stride by neighboring residents, Ms. Purinton says it’s the constant unnecessary chatter along with the recent sonic boom-like barrage that is bothersome, if not downright nerve-racking, and probably not too good for the hearing of people within the campground.

Like the meter on the camp website that ticks off the time remaining in this year’s camp session, so are camp neighbors counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds left till the end of camp 2011.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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