About Getting Kids to Camp

What started the flashbacks was a conversation at a recent Kittitas County Field and Stream Club Board Meeting. You know, no doubt, that the club is again sending a couple youngsters to the Washington State Youth Conservation Camp on Orcas Island. The lively round-robin discussion about how and when to select the kids – and open the door to all that fun on Orcas Island – swept me clear back to summer camp at Lake Wenatchee.

I loved the sing-along games, the fires, the dips in the ice cold lake, and the canoeing. I still smile about laughing until we couldn’t laugh any more. Somehow, my dirt-poor parents managed to get me out of East Wenatchee every summer. They even managed to fake happiness as they helped me pack for a week or two away.

A decade later, I was enrolled in big-kid camp – the US Air Force – as the Youth Conservation Camp was being established out on Orcas Island. Today, 63 years later, that Orcas Island camp is more important than ever.

In those Lake Wenatchee summer camp days, I was as free as a soul can be here in Earth School. I lived outdoors. If I needed fresh air and sunshine, someone had the door open. And no parent thought much about my whereabouts until a couple hours after dark. We live in a different world these days.

Even here in Paradise, our mostly-urban kids spend a lot of their time inside fenced or visual yards. Still, they are our future; in charge of the earth on which our descendants will depend. We have to keep finding ways to get them outside with a purpose – to encourage that.

All of this is behind the work the Field and Stream Club has been doing to establish the Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. And it is exactly why the Washington State Youth Conservation Camp has been around for more than sixty years; every year enriching its tradition of outdoor play, outdoor learning and experience, and starting life-long friendships.

The Camp’s statement of intention goes like this: “Our natural resources are an important and often neglected part of what has made America great. The degree to which they are protected and restored will depend upon the steps we take to teach the facts of resource use and conservation to our youth. Full enjoyment of the outdoors requires a variety of skills and knowledge. Conservation Camp strives to offer a wide range of class experiences to benefit our campers and pass on this knowledge to future generations.”

This year’s classes will include hiking and outdoor survival, wildlife and habitat management, fly tying and casting, ecology and water safety, firearm and archery safety, wilderness first aid and leadership/teamwork training. During the week, campers will experience wildlife and the wilds of Orcas Island, with free time for swimming, sports, boating and hanging out with new friends.

The Pierce County Sportsmen’s Council has long sponsored the non-profit, all-volunteer, camps. Help also comes from the Friends of the NRA and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Other groups, such as our Kittitas County Field and Stream Club, sponsor youths annually.

The boys and girls Conservation Camps happen at Moran State Park on Orcas Island, for kids at least 12, and not more than 16 years old, at camp time. Camps are seven days long, during the two full middle weeks of July. Tuition is $300.

Field and Stream Club will pay tuition for one county boy and girl for this July’s camps. While their families are responsible for getting them to the drop-off point in Anacortes, the Club may be able to assist if needed. To be one of the youngsters heading to this summer’s camp, a boy or girl simply must email a 200-word essay on “Why this camp is important to me” to by May 30 (a week from tomorrow). At the June 8 club meeting, two campers will be selected from entries received. Check out to find everything you want to know about the camp and its offerings for youth.

Encourage a youngster to get to camp. This is fun and important; It’s about our outdoor future.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized