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June Camp Natoma Letter

June 26, 2020

June Camp Natoma Letter

Dear Camp Natoma families & supporters,

We hope this letter can answer some of your questions about the possibility of opening this summer. Our goal remains to provide some type of overnight programs at Camp Natoma in 2020. However, as we approach the month of July with no program announcements, I’d like to share more information about the path towards re-opening of overnight summer camps.

Camp Natoma has successfully operated for 78 summers - serving primarily youth from San Luis Obispo County for week-long, overnight programs. Summer 2019 saw a record number of program participants, as well as new, custom programs with partnering youth organizations. In addition, the Counselor-in-Training (CIT) leadership program for high school students had an application wait-list. Many of our camp families also know about last year’s facility upgrades and transition to local operation by Friends of Camp Natoma.

Going into 2020, we felt ready for the best year ever, with an all-star staff poised for passionate leadership. 

When the outbreak emerged in March, we expected “things would be better by summer.” 

“Don’t cancel summer yet,” we were advised. “Hang on if you can!” our supporters pleaded. So we did!

Spring programs, service days, and fundraisers had to be cancelled. We continued to plan for summer, contingency after contingency plan discussed, revised, and each eventually ruled impossible.  When we were told by our regulatory agencies that a two-week shut down was being extended to a two-month shut down, and would be back up and running by May 15th, we adapted.

We are still working to prepare for when we can open, but as time goes on, our options for programs reduce. We are frustrated -  the government will not allow Camp Natoma to open, even though campgrounds, beaches, day camps, hotels, restaurants, public pools, movie theaters and more are now up and running. We are stuck. Daily, we receive inquiries about Camp Natoma - “But Camp Natoma is all OUTDOORS!” and “My kids need to get off of their screens!” and “We’ll sign up for new programs right away!”

But still, nothing from the state of California. We’ve been provided numerous reassurances about camp regulations coming out “next week” or on the next Governor livestream. Across the state, camps have been working every angle imaginable to find a way to provide kids the overnight camp experience this summer. We know camp is childcare, social development, screen-free time, skill-building, and more. As the assurances of forthcoming guidance continued without result, and the verbal promises of issuance of permits in time for summer expired, we have been trying everything feasible to still be ready to open. However, as camps statewide have hired political consultants, conferenced with elected government officials, and even tried to get reclassified as a campground, hotel, and others, we are still stuck. Counties will not allow resident camps to open until the state releases resident camp guidelines, and those guidelines are not coming any time soon, as far as we know. Even though camps across California, and the entire USA, have been planning programs under extensive adjustments suggested by the American Camp Association and the CDC, Camp Natoma still cannot be permitted to operate at this time, per the state and county.

I know this letter was long-winded, but I want to be as clear as possible, that we at Camp Natoma, and collectively the camp leaders in California, tried our hardest to provide an overnight camp program for your children this summer.

I look forward to the day when our valley in Adelaida once again rings with the sound of campers playing, learning, laughing and simply being kids at camp.

Emily Zbin

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