By: Christa Meland
“Summer is better with camp,” says Keith Shew, the director for Dakotas-Minnesota Camp and Retreat Ministries. “We’ve missed you, and we can't wait to see you this year at Northern Pines Camp, Koronis Ministries, and Kowakan Adventures!”
The Dakotas-Minnesota Camp and Retreat Ministry team is ready for you to return to camp this summer and preparing to keep campers safe while giving them an opportunity to experience Christ, creation, and community.
“We're excited to let you know we decided to move forward with plans for summer 2021 at each of our Dakotas camps!” said Shew. “Your Dakotas and Minnesota Area camp staff have been actively planning programming options with the hope of being able to offer safe and impactful camp ministry experiences in 2021.”
Safety is top priority
Each camp will strictly adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols that meet guidelines set by each state as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For now, the safety precautions include requiring masks and social distancing in common areas, limiting space in individual bedrooms to family groups, minimal to no contact with other onsite groups or staff, reducing group sizes as needed, and maximizing time outdoors when possible. Adjustments will be made as necessary to safety protocols, following state health guidelines and the American Camping Association protocols.
“We’ve learned a lot about how to run a safe, exciting, and energetic program even in the face of COVID-19,” said Koronis Ministries Director Dan Ziegler. “We’re already coordinating our screening, disinfecting, and distancing protocol to keep the kids safe, and we believe we can do it without compromising most of the joy and energy of our camp programming. Of course, we know that outdoors already represents one of the safest ways to be together, and we’ll be moving an already strongly outdoor-based program even further in that direction. A cornerstone of our approach will be to limit mixing by organizing into cabin group ‘bubbles’ of about eight campers and two staff, who go through the camp day experiencing all of the great activities of camp while maintaining a good degree of distance from the rest of the camp population.”
Northern Pines Camp Director Leslie Hobson added that most meals will be eaten outdoors (as weather permits) and noted that most cabins and treehouses are designed for space between bunks; windows are open most of the time.
Registration for the 2021 camping season will open Jan. 19, 2021 on the Camp Minnesota website. Registration and all information for the 2021 camping season will be digital. The early bird incentive, bring-a-friend discount, and camperships are all still available.
“Space may be limited this season, so sign up soon!” Shew said. “With the potential for changes to schedules and events leading up to summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, your camping team chose to forgo the traditional printed camp brochure this year. “Instead, we will have all camp listings and registration information on the Minnesota United Methodist Camps website where details can be updated quickly, and changes made in real-time. This ensures you will always have the most up-to-date information.”
All registered campers will receive updates as conditions change and new information becomes available that may impact the 2021 camping season.
“You will be informed, well in advance of your time at camp, of any pre-camp requirements, changes to the schedule, and safety protocols that will be in effect during your time at camp,” said Shew. “We know that it is a tough time for many of our families and want to remind folks of our campership program. We would love to help your family attend camp.”
What’s new and exciting?
Northern Pines in Park Rapids plans to introduce pickleball to camp this year, said Hobson. Pickleball is a popular paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis.
Additionally, a “Comfort Cottage” will be available to clergy for time apart. Comfort Cottage sits on 44 acres of land that the Minnesota Conference purchased in October—land that more than doubles the camp’s size. Hobson said many clergy appreciated the opportunity to get away to Northern Pines alone or with their families last summer, and this new space will provide another place for them to do that.
The newly acquired property will also be used for nature activities including plant and tree identification and the building of fairy houses, personal shelters, and nature sculptures.
Meanwhile, Koronis Ministries in Paynesville is excited to debut some new features at its waterfront—including a waterslide and a huge aquatic inflatable to climb called “the rock,” said Ziegler.
Both camps will continue to offer all of the timeless activities campers love in safe and socially distanced ways—swimming, archery, boating, campfires, and group games.
Hobson and Ziegler can’t wait for the camps to be filled with sounds of campers. “We’re a small camp, a family really, and we grow very close to these kids each year,” said Ziegler. “We care deeply about their spiritual and social growth.”
Hobson echoed that sentiment. “One of my favorite sounds is hearing campers singing around the nighttime fire during snack time,” she said. “I look forward to hearing the laughter and the voices rising from the woods by the treehouses or from the playing field area during the evening… I cannot wait to greet them and welcome them back.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church