Campers swim in the water June 21 at the Down East Family YMCA’s Camp Discovery campground on Webb Pond in Eastbrook. Although the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced Camp Discovery to make a few changes, the camp has still been able to provide a fun experience for Hancock County youths. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

With precautions in place, campers celebrate summer

EASTBROOK — This still feels like a summer camp should.

As the Down East Family YMCA’s Camp Discovery began its second week of 2020 summer camp Monday, the scene was, to an extent, pretty normal. With warm weather and plenty of sunshine, campers climbed atop platforms and inflatables in the water and engaged in small-group activities with their counselors at the YMCA’s campground on the eastern shore of Webb Pond in Eastbrook.

True, the novel coronavirus pandemic has made life at Camp Discovery a bit different this year compared to past summers. Yet even if the pandemic has forced campers, counselors and others at Camp Discovery to take added precautions in 2020, those measures haven’t dampened what’s shaping up to be another fun summer on the water.

“Things have been going great,” Camp Director Roman Perez said. “The kids are still really excited to be here, and they’ve been really receptive to all the changes we’ve had to make. In terms of the atmosphere, I don’t even think they realize the differences.”

In adherence with state guidelines, Camp Discovery has implemented sanitation stations throughout its 50-acre property. Counselors disinfect equipment such as boats, float tubes and archery items after each use, and campers are required to wear masks on bus rides between locations.

A handwashing station is set up outside the main office of Down East Family YMCA’s Camp Discovery on Webb Pond in Eastbrook. Although certain precautions have been added this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Camp Director Roman Perez said most campers have “hardly noticed a difference” in the overall camp experience.

Camp Discovery has also reduced contact between campers by enforcing gathering limits, some of which have included limiting small-group gatherings to 15 people and allowing only two people to a boat at a given time. With the exception of rainy days, all such gatherings are held outdoors to provide an open-air setting less conducive to the spread of COVID-19.

“A lot of these things are things that have actually helped us in other ways in retrospect,” Perez said. “Having smaller groups is easier for the counselors, and being outside in the open air is something that we should be doing anyways because, hey, this is summer camp.”

For those reasons, small-group limitations and an outdoors-only activity policy are practices Perez is considering keeping after the pandemic. Another is the addition of a medical assistant, Heather Magee, who conducts morning temperature checks, gives campers sunscreen reminders and applies first aid when needed.

“I’ve wanted [a medical assistant] for a while, and COVID felt like a good reason to finally add one,” Perez said. “With a lot of these changes, they’re changes that might stay after things are lifted because they help the camp run so much smoother.”

Other Hancock County summer camps, including Nichols Day Camp on Walker Pond, Camp CaPella on Phillips Lake and Camp Beech Cliff on Echo Lake, are not operating this summer. Camp Discovery remained committed to offering camp since the state’s reopening plan was announced. Perez, who lives out near the camp, began preparing the property in accordance with CDC guidelines in the days that followed.

Camp Discovery, which the YMCA opened in 2008, held its first official day of camp June 15. Monday, which had been the camp’s original start date prior to the pandemic, saw an increase in attendance from the previous week as more campers arrived to take part in activities.

The camp’s projected attendance of approximately 90 campers per week, per Perez’s estimate, is down from past years. Nevertheless, the sounds of joyous campers are still plenty audible from across the camp to the top of Silver Hill Farm Road.

“Ever since we’ve started, my stress level has gone all the way down to zero,” Perez said. “We’ve had to do things a little bit differently, but the kids and the staff have all been amazing. Everybody is having a great time.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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