CHATHAM–The Town Board passed a motion to cancel the town-sponsored, six-week summer camp at Crellin Park. The board held a special meeting May 15 using the Google online meeting platform. Supervisor Donal Collins and board members Abi Mesick and Vance Pitkin voted to cancel the camp program, while board members John Wapner and Kevin Weldon voted against.
The board also voted on a resolution to “encourage rentals to limit non-essential renting during Covid-19 pandemic.” Mr. Weldon was the only board member to vote against that resolution.
The motion on the camp says, in part, that “due to the Covid-19 pandemic and precautions needing to be followed for the health and welfare of our community… therefore be it resolved that the Chatham Town Board has determined that the 2020 Summer Camp Program shall be canceled.”
County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb called into the meeting to explain that the county Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murrell (R-Stockport) had sought an executive order to cancel summer camps this year but the state denied his request because the governor would be announcing guidance on camps soon.
Mr. Mabb said that the county recommends closing the camps. “You just can’t social distance kids,” he said.
The Town Board of Kinderhook has likewise canceled its town’s summer camp at Volunteer Park called the playground program. On the Kinderhook Town website a statement is posted saying, “As advised from the Columbia County Health Department and Columbia County Chairman Matt Murell we are canceling our summer playground this year because of the Covid 19 crisis and to keep our children safe.”
As for Chatham, Councilman Wapner was concerned that the town had not waited to hear from state officials about the summer programs. He also wanted the board to move on with hiring lifeguards for the park’s pond and who might be able to serve as camp counselors for the summer program if later in the summer a modified program could open.
“I don’t see that we need to do this in this way,” he said of having a yes or no vote on canceling the program.
Councilwoman Mesick talked about the safety issues with having camp and later in the meeting brought up the state’s investigation of an illness reported in school-age children that possibly is caused by Covid-19.
‘You just can’t social distance kids.’
Jack Mabb, director
County Dept. of Health
Town Recreation Director Mike West recommended holding off making a final decision on the camp. He stressed that camp this summer would not be what it was like in past years but there are recommendations for camps from the CDC (federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
“We should leave the door open” for a modified program, he said. He also stressed that he did not want to put campers or his staff in any danger.
Councilman Pitkin said that the resolution only closes the traditional summer camp but does not stop the board from revisiting the issue in the future.
“Camp as we know it is closed,” said Ms. Mesick of the resolution wording.
Supervisor Collins said he wanted to give parents in the community a definitive answer about camp with the resolution.
Mr. Collins also pointed out to the board that Crellin Park, which is open to the public, has been busy and there have been people there not following social distancing rules and not wearing masks. The board talked about how to enforce the rules during the pandemic.
Information about the board meetings can be found on the town’s website at www.chathamnewyork.us.
The next board meeting will be Thursday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m.