Camps in Alabama now can re-open after coronavirus closures

The road to the cabins at Maranatha Camp in Scottsboro. Camp staff made the difficult decision back in March that they would not open up their camp for this summer.
The road to the cabins at Maranatha Camp in Scottsboro. Camp staff made the difficult decision back in March that they would not open up their camp for this summer.

Many in north Alabama opted to not open up to campers this summer.

Posted: May 22, 2020 10:54 PM
Updated: May 25, 2020 4:18 PM

It's a tale of two campgrounds in Alabama: ones that will be reopening this summer and those for which that option came too late. 

"This is one of those things where, rather than just be a specific area of the country or even a specific camp itself, it's across the board. It's across the nation and you can even say probably worldwide in camping," said Chase Epps, the executive directof of Maranatha Camp & Conference Center in Scottsboro.

The "thing" that stopped Epps and many other camp directors around north Alabama was "uncertainty." He said the Maranatha Camp staff usually starts planning for their summer camps about nine months out.

But when coronavirus started shifting things back in March, they had a tough decision to make.

"We're mourning the missed opportunity of having life change happen this summer. We believe if kids come out it's an interrupt, a welcome interruption to their regular life and it has an opportunity to shape and change their life in a new and unique way," said Epps.

On the business side, the loss of campers over the summer also means missing out on a lot of revenue. Maranatha makes about 50 percent of its revenue from hosting camp. The other half comes from hosting groups in its conference center and hotel. 

However, that is not fully predictable either. Epps said they've already had some groups pull out. But they have been able to retain some of their staff through assistance funding.

"We were able to bring a few back through the PPP loan that we were granted. And because of that, we've been able to do some improvements on camp and some work around here, but that's all up in June. So we go back to myself and two other full-time staff running the full facility," said Epps. 

Despite that reality for many camps, others like the YMCA's Camp Cha-La-Kee will welcome campers this summer, but only as a day camp, along with a number of other changes.

"Drop off and pick up will be completely different from in the past. No longer walking kids in with their parents and getting a quick tour of the camp. We're going to ask the parents to stay inside their car," said Huy Lu, the camp's executive director.

Kids will also be getting their temperature checked at drop off and after lunch. Additionally, certain activities, like using the swimming pool, won't be options this summer, in an effort to help establish social distancing.

The total number of campers on any given day will also be reduced and parents are asked to send bag lunches with their campers to limit the amount of times and the number of people who touch food at camp.

Lu said while things will be different, he hopes that everyone will still get a good experience while they navigate the new rules.

"We're going to constantly change and adapt to the situation and we're just going to deal with real-time results and make those decisions at the time," said Lu.

Back at Camp Maranatha, Epps said they recorded a series for their YouTube channel that will create the experience of a virtual camp. The first video drops on Tuesday after Memorial Day.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

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Mobile2341123
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Colbert1972
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Lauderdale1752
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Perry430
Conecuh421
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Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 25664

Reported Deaths: 408
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby5669127
Davidson563869
Rutherford139829
Trousdale13944
Hamilton99219
Sumner95146
Lake8350
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Williamson59511
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Bradley1742
Madison1732
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Washington760
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