A constant & chilly morning rain shrouded the roughly five-mile hike from Three Mile Campground to Daisy Farm Campground along the Lake Superior shoreline. It wasn’t the first time on Isle Royale that I’d hiked with campers in these kinds of bone-dampening conditions. The “nice” thing about Midwest weather they say, “Is if you don’t like it, wait 5 minutes and it will change!” That’s always my hope on a rainy tripping day; eventually the sun comes out, we dry up, and spirits warm in the afternoon sun.
But today on Isle Royale wasn’t going to be that day. We stopped at Daisy Farm pavilion for lunch. It continued to rain. We finished lunch, made hot beverages and relaxed; and it continued to rain. Four miles still ahead of us on the day’s itinerary, and with the early afternoon hours slipping away while we attempted to wait out conditions, a dilemma emerged. Should we set out for our destination, Moskey Basin Campground, or would we need to change our plans?
I asked the campers individually how they were feeling. Cold? Hungry (again)? Tired? Are you excited or feeling defeated right now? How has this storm and unforeseen challenge affected your experience today? As a leader, these are things I attempt to take into consideration when making a decision impacting the group. As it turns out, everyone felt pretty good after a few hours under Daisy Farm pavilion (and were actually expressing boredom), and the weather began to cooperate. We decided to forge forth!
The conditions weren’t perfect; it still drizzled from time to time, but the afternoon temperatures warmed, and turns out were ideal for hiking. After a challenging morning, full of uncertainty about the weather (and a few chills here and there) the afternoon turned out to be a success, as we jubilantly crossed the final foot bridge into Moskey Basin only a few hours later! Just in time for dinner, my stomach recalls.
I relay another trip story (see my previous blog entries) because I again liken it to what we’re presently experiencing with COVID-19 and the evolution of the virus. The spring, as we all know, has brimmed with uncertainty and many of our routines have become personal challenges of sorts. In a micro-sense, we experience challenge and uncertainty like this on Northpoint Adventures trips – and we grow our perspectives through those experiences.
Executive Director Georgi Starz, Camp Director Mary Anna Thornton, Facilities Director Muskie Matt, and I – Director of Operations Jeremy Starz – have extensively put our heads together over the last few weeks and, with helpful information being released from the American Camp Association and the Association of Camp Nurses, have made the concrete decision that Camp Nicolet will modify its regular full-summer operating plan. It’s affirmative that for Summer 2020, Camp Nicolet will offer Session II and Session III programming only.
We believe that operating with campers from July 12th through August 14th (Sessions II and III) provides a safer, low-risk opportunity for camper attendance this summer, while allowing time for Coronavirus to decelerate during May and June. We do acknowledge risks involved in operating, and are putting the following precautions in place as we plan for summer at camp:
- Despite difficulty securing appointments, Camp Physicals and complete Medical Forms are required (as usual).
- We ask parents to assist us with a comprehensive at home pre-arrival Health Screening of your camper.
- We ask parents to assist us by asking your camper to limit contact with others for 14 days prior to her arrival at camp. We ask that you use caution and discretion, in the best interest of her health and that of our camp community, in allowing her attendance at social gatherings. Please avoid contact with anyone showing signs of illness or history of exposure.
- Staff members will discreetly perform camper temperature checks at bus boarding locations in Milwaukee and Chicago. This will be required for all individuals boarding the camp buses on Opening Days.
- I will be on hand as a Starz Family/Camp Nicolet representative at bus boarding locations in Milwaukee and Chicago on July 12th to answer, along with our staff, any questions you might have about the camp experience this summer, and to express my gratitude for your continuing support of Camp Nicolet & Northpoint Adventures.
- At camp, group events such as Campfire and Talent Shows will be held outdoors, where fresh air abounds. Also, seating will be spaced throughout the Council Ring, providing more personal space during those programs.
- Sleeping arrangements in cabins will be situated in a way that maximizes personal space, when possible.
- During Staff Training, we are using more cabins housing fewer Staff members; in the spirit of ensuring a healthy Staff upon arrival of campers.
- Some events, such as Talent Shows, may be divided into participation by “Units” – thereby reducing total number of campers and staff gathered in a group.
- Camp Nicolet will have a cabin ancillary to our infirmary this summer which can be used for quarantine, should the need arise.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff members is being procured. We are issuing Staff Members 3 masks each, and each cabin will have a supply of masks, gloves, and an ongoing supply of hand sanitizer. We are equipping the infirmary with additional equipment such as examination gowns and face shields.
- Camp Nicolet has directed significant financial resources to hiring a robust Camp Health staff this summer. We have hired a full-time Nurse (RN) on the property six days/nights per week, and have a relief Nurse (RN) on the property up to three days/two nights per week. We have also hired a third relief Nurse (RN), available to camp at least one or two days per week. All three of these employees are on our staff throughout operation this summer.
- We are in the process of drafting a Communicable Disease Response Plan relative to COVID-19, and all staff members will train on this plan during our General Staff Training before campers arrive.
- Campers and employees will be asked to attend routine health screenings, in addition to our standard “check in, check out” protocol. These routine, possibly weekly, screenings will include taking of temperature, discussion of any symptoms, and discussion of contact (for example, “were you on a trip recently?”)
- Increased risk-management on Northpoint Adventures trips; focusing on minimizing cross-contamination & communicable disease.
- Community-wide education on appropriate physical distancing in the camp environment. For example, turning hugs into “elbow bumps” and understanding for a time it’s best-practice not to give piggy back rides. We will help educate on the balance of social/friendly physical contact organic to friendships with health & safety best-practices.
- Employees will be asked to wear masks for a time on Opening Day before Session II and Session III, until all campers have cleared their “check in” process in Patches, and we have a good understanding the camp community is healthy.
- Parent/family visitation is suspended for Summer 2020. We realize this may come as a shock; please contact us with any questions you have.
- Staff will be given best-practices for spending their time off. We encourage them to minimize interactions outside the camp community, and to use good judgement in self-care. These topics are covered during General Staff Training.
These precautions go into effect in addition to the Enhanced Sanitation Measures I addressed last month, including:
- Supervised cabin hand-washing before meals.
- Sanitation stations setup outside the Dining Hall, and around camp in Activity Areas.
- Hand sanitizer in each cabin (as noted above).
- Comprehensive at-home pre-arrival screenings, performed by parents (as noted above).
- Routinely disinfecting and cleaning Activity Area equipment and gear.
- Enhanced cleaning procedures for Northpoint Adventures equipment and community gear.
- Enhanced cleaning of community spaces including Public Bathrooms, Kitchen/Dining Hall, Forest Lodge, Camp Showers, Library, Camp Office, Leadership Center, etc.
- Additional emphasis placed on the cleanliness of cabins and cabin bathrooms.
Please know our Leadership Team, Senior Staff, and Counselors/Instructors aim to achieve these goals in a way that retains the warmth and comfort your family has come to expect in the camp environment. In no way do we wish to heighten anxiety by implementing additional protocol, although we realize some campers’ (and Staff members’) anxiety might be triggered by implementation. In addition to prioritizing the health and safety of our camp community, we also prioritize good communication & community education amongst ourselves in hopes of creating a positive camp environment and experience this summer.
I turn now to some notes about registration, especially if your daughter’s enrollment includes Session I:
Please contact us immediately for registration options if you’re enrolled in Session I. Georgi and Mary Anna will be working with you to adjust enrollment and selected additional options (additional riding, skiing, trips, etc). It’s important that you contact us prior to May 15th to make adjustments, as our final billing has been moved to May 15th – and one final “wrap up” billing has been established for June 1st. We’re requesting that commitments be made for the summer in your daughter’s Session(s) of choice, and all accounts be paid in full by June 1st. Thank you for your attention to this.
If your daughter is enrolled in Sessions II or III and you wish to modify her stay at Nicolet this summer, please also contact us prior to May 15th. In that way we can ensure your account is properly reflected, and should you desire any credits, those are applied accordingly. Again, we thank you for your prompt attention to this.
Registration for Sessions II and III will be available until 24 hours prior to the beginning of that Session, in the spirit of being flexible with our families and decision-making. We do ask, however, that if you’re considering camp this summer, you strictly follow the 14-day limited exposure guideline as set forth above. This is critical to the overall health and safety of our camp community.
All CampMinder forms (Medical, Consent to Treat, Insurance, Transportation, Bunk Requests, etc) are due by July 1st, 2020.
Camp Sisters – a fellow camper with whom your daughter can communicate prior to camp – will be assigned by June 1st. Your daughter can expect to receive the name and e-mail address of someone whom she can get to know prior to arrival. Let the camp friendships begin!
A summary of our cancellation and refund policy is located here or please call us with questions at 715.545.2522. One June 15th we will expand our Camp Office hours to 8am to 5:30pm Monday through Saturday. They will remain as such until Sunday, August 16th. Voicemail will be monitored regularly, should you miss us if we’re working on the grounds to prepare camp. If you reside Internationally, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for best response/customer service.
Georgi, Mary Anna, Matt, I & others believe one of the safest places a person could be is on the north shore of Franklin Lake at Camp Nicolet. We’re surrounded by clean, crisp air – the purest water – copious sunshine (and sometimes copious evening mosquitos) – nutritious food cooked by a caring team – and an emotionally safe and supportive environment throughout the summer.
You’ve undoubtedly heard this message before; by working together and being vigilant, we will make camp happen this summer in the best way possible! We appreciate your continuing support of camp and Northpoint, and we appreciate your assistance in advance of at-home screening and emotionally preparing your daughter for a positive summer. Once again, please see your copy of “2020 Nicolet Notes for Parents” for getting ready suggestions.
We are delighted to be in a place where we feel good about Session II and Session III programming. We believe operating later in the summer prioritizes the health and safety of our community, balanced with the opportunity to get outside, be healthy, and have some fun! As we walk through the metaphorical rain together, no doubt lingers in my mind that we will all endure, grow stronger, and continue to Learn to Live Together as we wait for the storm to pass, and work with what is in front of us.
There is nothing like a star-filled sky observed from the dock at Moskey Basin.
Jeremy Starz – Owner & Director of Operations