Nothing to do-oooo? Try camp

ANCRAM—Summer is here.

The 2015-16 school year is on the wane and soon youngsters from around Columbia County will be heading off to a day- or sleep-away summer camps, making those childhood memories that last a lifetime.

For those sticking close to home, many municipalities in Columbia County provide a day camp or recreational program at the local park, playground or swimming hole.

Most recreation programs are six-week programs, July through mid-August, held Monday through Fridays during the day and serve youngsters starting at age 4 or 5. Some municipalities charge a registration fee to help pay for the program or outings, some do not.

Columbia County Youth Bureau Executive Director Jessica M. Nabozny told The Columbia Paper this week that it is within state guidelines to charge a fee, but municipalities must also make provisions for any child who cannot afford the fee, such as a scholarship program or a waiver of the fee. Some municipalities also provide free lunch or snacks.

Municipalities with summer programs that have been issued permits through the Columbia County Health Department, according to Public Health Sanitarian Ed Coons are: Claverack, Germantown, Greenport, Kinderhook, Livingston, New Lebanon, Copake, Austerlitz, Chatham, Ghent (2), Hillsdale, Hudson and Ancram.

Summer Recreation Programs which receive funding from the Columbia County Youth Bureau are: Towns of Ancram, Austerlitz, Chatham, Claverack, Copake, Ghent, Greenport, Hillsdale, Kinderhook, Livingston, New Lebanon and the Village of Kinderhook.

Municipalities must apply for this funding annually. The $16,000 in funding for recreation programs comes from the state Office of Children and Family Services. It is allocated and approved by the Columbia County Youth Advisory Board, then, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors. Allocation amounts are based on youth population, said Ms. Nabozny. The towns of Canaan and Germantown have summer swim programs, but do not apply for funding.

In addition to the state funding, the Youth Bureau also provides a tennis program to those municipalities that request it and have tennis courts. Instructions will be given at five sites this summer. This program is supported by a grant from the National Junior Tennis Foundation and is now in its 11th year.

The Youth Bureau received another grant from the Greene County Council on the Arts, which allows it to contract with the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, to provide the performance of its “Undercover Playground” at 10 recreation sites in Columbia County over two days. This is the fourth year of the program.

In Ancram town officials decided to make the Kids’ Camp free to Ancram residents this summer; previously there was a $65/week/child fee. The town still charges out-of-town residents $75/week.

The town allocates $45,000 annually for the camp and the town swimming pool, which is a major camp feature, town Supervisor Art Bassin said this week.

Expenses associated with the summer camp, which include counselors, bus transportation and t-shirts amount to about $15,000, while pool maintenance and life guards cost about $30,000.

Mr. Bassin said the town has lifted its cap on the number of campers and accommodated everyone who applied this year, about 65 youngsters. Extra camp counselors and life guards will be hired. About 95% of enrollees are from Ancram, said the supervisor.

To pay for half the cost of lifeguards, the town has received a $7,500 grant from the Rheinstrom Hill Foundation and to meet other costs the supervisor has put out a call for contributions via his Ancram email list. Mr. Bassin said he has already received $18,000 in contributions and expects to raise upwards of $20,000. “We had budgeted for $15,000 in revenue for the camp from tuition and donations, if we bring in $20,000, we’ll be $5,000 ahead,” he said.

Asked about the town’s success at fundraising, Mr. Bassin said, “We haven’t raised taxes in six years” and for non-critical services the town asks the community to contribute to “causes they feel passionate about or believe in.” Among those that receive donations are the camp, heritage resource projects, the town hall vestibule exhibit and cemeteries. He pointed specifically to the community donation campaign that raised $75,000 over six-weeks to put glass doors, upgraded siding and a trickle-pump system in the new firehouse addition a few years ago.

A large percentage of the donations are $100 or $150, he said.

Samantha Mason of Ancram is in her second year as Kids Camp director. She just graduated from East Stroudsburg University of PA with her BA in early childhood education.

This year’s camp theme is art and once a week on Tuesdays an Ancram artist will show kids what they do and let the campers try it, Ms. Mason said. Campers will receive swimming lessons and take weekly field trips to the Roe Jan Library for a birds of prey program, to the movies, a working dairy farm, the Trevor Zoo, and Kid’s Time, an indoor playground.

A new feature in 2016 will be free lunches thanks to Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors Association and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY. All children attending the camp or at the pool at lunchtime will receive a free nutritional bag lunch.

In Copake, the town allots $27,000 to its summer recreation program to pay for salaries, supplies, materials and bus transportation, according to Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer.

That total is offset by sign-up fees: $100/Copake resident with a cap of $250 and $150/non-resident child. So far 50 youngsters ages 5 to 12 have signed up. Mr. Nayer said there is no cap on enrollment, “We do not turn kids away.” Youngsters may be asked to pay small fees associated with field trips, but the town pays for bus transport and sometimes the park commission sponsors a trip making it free to kids, said the supervisor.

New Recreation Program Director Brian Van Tassel of Hillsdale, who is currently a teacher in East Greenbush and soon to be a 7th and 8th-grade math teacher at Taconic Hills, said this year, Copake recreation program participants will take field trips to a Valley Cats baseball game, to the movies and to Club Life, a indoor trampoline park. Campers will get a visit from a travelling mini-golf outfit, learn from an archery teacher, take cooking classes and participate in a junior Olympic competition against campers from Hillsdale and Claverack. Every day there is something going on such as “crazy hat or wild hair day,” said Mr. Van Tassel, whose assistant camp director is Hollie Ary.

In Claverack, about 200 campers attend a recreational program at the Town Park on Church Street in Mellenville, July 5 through August 12, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The town budgets between $20,000 and $30,000 for the program annually and receives $2,000 from the Village of Philmont toward it, according to Town Clerk Mary Jean Hoose. Campers range in age from 5 to 16. There is no registration fee for town residents, and non-residents pay $100. All campers pay a $25 fee for bus transportation. The program employs 18 counselors and a medical director, said Ms. Hoose. The program includes weekly field trips.

To find out about summer recreation programs in your municipality check the town website or contact the town, village or city hall.

To contact Diane Valden email

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