Plans in place for COVID-safe camp experience at Hidden Acres
Business Tue, Feb 9th, 2021 Gary West (with files from Lisa Hagen)
It has been a tough year for organizations that rely on outside activities for most of their business. Hidden Acres Camp, just outside of New Hamburg, is no different but are finding ways to pivot during the COVID pandemic.
The Mennonite camp and retreat centre traditionally offers children’s overnight camps, single moms and children’s camps, supported young adults camps for youth with special needs, day camps, Leaders in Training, and basketball camps.
In a year of pivoting, program director Chris Pot, described their Plan A and Plan B approach for 2021 amongst ever-changing regulations:
“Our primary plan will have four weeks of day camp that run in July…and then five weeks of overnight camp that run in August. We also plan to offer our Leaders in Training program. Our backup plan involves changing our overnight camps to day camps with a few adjustments to the ages.”
The camp is a member of the Ontario Camps Association (OCA) that is working diligently to create guidelines that go beyond the 600 plus standards that all camps must meet.
“We’re optimistic that both day and overnight camps will be able to safely run this summer. Precautions are a moving target and are changing regularly as information is processed and guidelines are adjusted or newly created. We cope with the regular changes by remaining patient and understanding that the professionals who are studying the virus are still learning about it,” said Pot.
Next year will be the Camp’s 60th anniversary which speaks not only to its popularity but to the importance of learning and living in a natural setting.
“Being a part of a safe, welcoming and fun community of peers and mentors, getting outdoors and spending time in nature, spending time away from the comforts of home …and learning new skills (are so important),” said Pot.
The camp’s Facilities and Environmental Stewardship Director, Brent Musser, shares that sentiment. He referenced hundreds of studies that show that experiencing nature promotes learning, personal development, and environmental stewardship.
“Breathing fresh air, being able to touch and feel the bark of a tree or crunch a dried leaf, using our creativity to play with simple natural objects that we find around us, spending time exploring and learning about the natural world around us -these are some examples of the ways that nature can help us to de-stress and relax, and when we spend time learning about the world around us, we gain a greater understanding of the importance of caring for creation and the natural things that surround us,” said Pot.
Retreats and events make up the rest of Hidden Acre’s business including family day open houses, grandparents and grandchild days, family weekends, school outdoor education, and their annual bowl-athon fundraiser. With the challenges of meeting in person, they will offer a virtual Seniors’ Retreat in March.
Three retreat centres are available to rent year-round and they have diverse groups using the facilities. There are serviced sites for group camping in the summer, along with 11 cabins for rent. They hope to offer these to families, schools, community and church groups as soon as provincial regulations allow.
“At camp, we spend the majority of our time outdoors,” said Director Pot. “Based on the research that has been done on COVID-19, being outside can reduce the impacts of the transmission of the virus. We have 22 acres that we can spread out on, allowing lots of space for each group of campers to enjoy safely.”
For more info, Hidden Acres invites you to their website www.hiddenacres.ca or they can be contacted at email@example.com or 519-625-8602