Day Camp at Mountain Lakes will return this year, with modifications.

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Photo courtesy of North Salem Recreation Department

On Monday, North Salem Recreation Leader Lauren Rosasco announced that North Salem Day Camp will return to Mountain Lakes Park this summer. While many parent group texts were abuzz at the news, Rosasco cautioned that there are still many details to work out, including camp dates, session lengths, busing, and activities.

“Our most important goal is to give the opportunity for campers and teens to spend time with their friends and have fun,” Rosasco said. The logistics of that, though, are complicated by evolving covid restrictions. The Recreation Department has been in constant contact with the Westchester Department of Health to stay on top of guidance from New York State.

One issue to be worked out is busing. “We’ve been told that once a child enters a bus they become a pod (cohort) with whoever is on the bus. So multiple locations with a bus stop poses a problem because you have campers from 3 to 14-years-old. To stick those individuals in a group together for an entire day doesn’t work,” Rosasco explained. Instead, the Recreation Department is considering having one central bus stop location and placing campers on buses together with their assigned age-group cohorts.

Cohorts will be capped at fifteen campers each. This presents a challenge for the CIT program; placing a CIT in a pod takes a spot away from a camper. The Recreation Department is considering modifying the CIT program so that CITs attend camp with their own cohort rather than embedding with younger campers. Rather than cancel the CIT program because it can’t run the way it has in the past, the Rec. Department may incorporate additional training and community service elements to keep CITs engaged. “They may have less responsibility, but I think it’s important to get them to the camp, with their friends, seeing people and being outside,” Rosasco said.

Mountain Lakes Park itself offers plenty of space to allow for social distancing but the Day Camp will still need to adhere to fifty percent capacity requirements. In the event that weather conditions force everyone inside for periods of time, campers will still need to maintain adequate distance from one another. Cutting the number of campers on site by half will further restrict availability for a camp that has been known to sell out within days of opening registration pre-covid.

Rosasco said that despite the complicating factors she is committed to finding a way to make the camp accessible to as many families as possible. “I would rather see a lot of kids get a partial summer than a few kids get a full summer,” she said.

The Rec. Department is also exploring a return to hosting week-long day camps at Joe Bohrdrum Park, which Rosasco said were very successful last year. “We were able to implement a lot of new programs and people were very excited,” she said. Those programs would run in August, following the conclusion of the Day Camp at Mountain Lakes Park.

The Rec. Department hopes to have another big update on plans by the end of March. “We would love to have people start registering in April and have staff interviews later in the spring," Rosasco said.  "Normally we are full speed ahead by this time of year. We’ll be playing catch up for a while.”

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