After what was a tumultuous year of cancelations and pauses for a number of local activities and events, another time-honored tradition has once again returned to the Santa Clarita Valley: summer camps.
From arts and crafts in the park to paddleboarding at Castaic Lake, Santa Clarita Valley summer camps have reopened their registration lists.
“This is one of those vital programs that the community has come to rely on in the summer,” said Lance O’Keefe, recreation and community services manager for the city. “Kids have enjoyed every year they come back; and every day they come back asking to go again the next day. So, it really is what makes us special is that we’re doing it.”
Not only have their registrars of future campgoers filled up quickly, but the waitlists have, as well, according to O’Keefe and a handful of other camp organizers throughout the SCV.
Officials attributed it to the lack of camps last year as a result of COVID-19, but said the eagerness of families to have their kids returning to normalcy, enjoying the outdoors and socializing with their friends once again resulted in a massive demand for the summer programs.
Camp organizers also noted some of their activities and programs will look a little different this year, in order to ensure everyone’s safety in the course of having fun.
Why summer camp?
Local camp organizers expressed this week their strong belief that attending a summer camp, regardless of age or background, can be a foundational time in any kid’s life.
“Especially coming out of a pandemic, it gives children the opportunity to socialize, to make new friends, to play outside,” said Jennifer Lindstrom, a recreation supervisor for the city of Santa Clarita. “It’s a great opportunity, especially as kids may be transitioning to schools to meet friends in the area that they wouldn’t know otherwise.”
“As a father myself … and to watch both my children go through this experience, not being able to be with their friends, not being able to do normal activities, finally things are now opening up and starting to get back into a kind of normalcy,” said Steve Himes, a senior lake lifeguard with Los Angeles County and the director of the Junior Lifeguard program at Castaic Lake. ”This program, I think, will bring the community back together even stronger and faster.”
Camp organizers said the process to ensure that camps would happen this summer has been slightly more difficult than it has in past years, but said the fruits of their labor or shown when the kids are engaging with the program, exploring nature and/or enjoying their time amongst one another.
“They do arts and crafts, they’ll do games outside, they’ll do some sort of water activities,” said O’Keefe. “It’s an all-day summer camp just like we would normally have.”
Camp organizers have said they’’ work hard to ensure they’re in accordance with all the safety standards, such as decreasing class sizes.
Lindstrom, who is organizing the city’s Camp Clarita this year, said camp staff will not be requiring their campers to provide proof of vaccination, but said strict mask requirements would be enforced for everyone.
“There’s many organizations out there that are still trying to figure it out, but we have created the plan, put in the safety protocols, all to make this happen for the kids,” said O’Keefe.
Some changes to the usual itinerary have been made by summer camps to accommodate for the safety protocols, such as city staff saying they will not be taking the older kids on the usual field trip.
“We can’t do field trips right now, but we’re working on doing more activities and hiring instructors to come in and do specialty activities for the kids, instead of doing the field trip,” said O’Keefe.
The junior lifeguard program, which has been held at Castaic Lake every summer for decades, will not be doing their usual beach trip to meet up with other kids and instructors from other lifeguard programs outside of the SCV, and while at the beach kids will need to stay in their pods.
However, these changes, in addition to having a shorter time frame in order to accommodate for more groups of kids participating this summer, will not only improve the safety for everyone involved, but will also not affect the quality of the program, Himes said.
“The safety aspects from this pandemic, we understand it, we are modifying to keep up with it and making sure that the kids are safe,” said Himes. “But just being able to participate and get your heart rate back up, have fun with fellow kids during the summer like it used to is what needs to happen and we’re excited to be part of bringing that back.”
Logistics and Sign Ups
Both Camp Clarita and the Castaic junior lifeguard program have already opened their signups to the public and many of the programs have already been filled. However, camp organizers insisted on the importance of striking out and finding other nearby programs, or open county-run camps, that can provide the same type of memories for resident’s kids.
For example, the county said in a press release regarding their junior lifeguard program that they will be offering three 2-week sessions at Castaic Lake Recreation Area, Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park and Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area.
“We have had a lot of success, following all of the guidelines, in order to operate the program successfully and in that we’ve had children who have had the opportunity to have a great experience, to socialize while maintaining physical distancing, to have fun and to engage in activities,” said Lindstrom, when talking about the after-school programs she’s helped coordinate throughout the past year. “And so, we’re really looking forward to being able to offer that to children on a broader scale this summer.”
For more information about Camp Clarita, visit their website at http://campclarita.com. For more information about the junior lifeguard program, visit http://parks.lacounty.gov/juniorlifeguards.