Grant Dollars Help Camp
Funds State Park Backpacking Excursions
By Nicholas Pircio
Monies coming from Cattaraugus County and New York State will be used to support Camp Turner, located in the Quaker Lake area of Allegany State Park. The Camp has announced they’ve been awarded a $4,000 grant, courtesy of the Cattaraugus County Youth Bureau and the office of New York State Senator Catherine Young. The funding will be used to support the Camp’s thriving and growing wilderness adventure program, according to Director John Mann.
Mann is happy to explain where the camp is heading. “We’ve started our backpacking program about nine years ago. We will use them (the backpacks) this summer in both our C.I.T and Explorer programs.” One of these programs takes a four-night backpacking trip, the other a three-night backpacking trip. The trips go through either the Allegheny National Forest, or through the State Park using the North Country trail.
Around Salamanca and Great Valley, the North Country trail is operated by the Finger Lakes Trail Association. “It’s a hiking trail for backpackers and is maintained by private citizens through the trail associations along the trail. The Finger Lakes Trail is hundreds of miles long, while the North Country Trail extends up through Michigan. We just walk a little bit of it.” One of the trips is about 25 miles, the other 18 miles, and is part of Camp Turner’s Wilderness Adventure Programs.
The old backpacks have seen lots of wear and sorely needed to be replaced. According to Mann, “We were initially equipped with materials donated by St. Bonaventure University’s ROTC program. When they were done using their backpacks they gave them to me. We’ve used them ten more years essentially, until they were completely worn out.” Mann was looking to suspend the backpacking program because the packs were falling apart. Then he learned about the grant.
Mann applied for the grant in an effort to replace the backpacks and tents used on their trips. “Somebody on the grant committee mentioned it to me, and I asked if this sort of thing was something they’d be interested in funding. I wrote the grant and they said yes.” Mann said he’s just received a “wonderful” shipment of backpacks and tents ordered from Cabela’s, currently in boxes in his cabin at camp.
Camp Turner, operated by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, hosts about 400 young campers each summer, who stay in one-week sessions, each of which runs Monday through Friday. “So we get about 75 to 80 youth a week for six weeks in the summer. We just finished our winter camp, December 28th, 29th and 30th. Since temperatures were in the single digits, no backpacking took place during winter camp.
Mann explains that the cabins are well insulated and are “toasty warm” in the winter. “During each 75 minute activity period, we offered four indoor choices and four outdoor choices for kids to choose from. They can go from an indoor activity to an outdoor one the next. Even for the outdoor activities, they get to take a break in the middle of it, and come into our toasty warm dining hall.” The camp set up an all-day cocoa bar to help keep the kids warm. Mann said the kids were able to enjoy fun outdoors because while temps were cold, winds were light.
Summer camp won’t start until July 8th, but in the meantime, the camp is rented out to youth groups and family reunions. Staff will come in a week before that to get a week of training. Mann notes that Camp Turner has been around since 1923, with possibly around 100,000 New Yorkers having attended.
“There’s a lot of word of mouth, and I do a bit of advertising in the Western New York Catholic. And I submit bulletin announcement requests to all the parishes. I also do direct mailing to every director of religious education at the parishes, and I pass out my brochures to the kids at religious ed. I also send them to all the Catholic grade school principals.” The camp is open to children of all faiths, and does not discriminate on the basis of religion.
You can find out more about Camp Turner by logging on to www.CampTurner.com, or by calling 716-354-4555.