MYSTIC — For local children who have been inside and at home since mid-March, isolated from school chums and best buddies due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus epidemic, there is a glimmer of hope.
Camp Cove in Mystic, a traditional summer day camp nestled among 20 shoreline acres of the Mystic River, will open in this summer for real-time campers.
"We're going ahead and we're going to open," said Maureen Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Ocean Community YMCA, which oversees Camp Cove, part of the Naik Family Branch. "We'll be following all the guidelines regarding the coronavirus pandemic from the governor, the American Camp Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and we're planning on opening June 29 and staying open until the first Friday in September.
Fitzgerald said the decision to open Camp Cove was made after Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont announced last week that summer camps in Connecticut could open this season provided they followed a series of guidelines and abided by strict cleaning procedures. According to the state of Connecticut's coronavirus website, additional guidance will be released in the coming days with the specific details camp officials must follow.
Davnet Conway Schaffer, executive director of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, said while the nature center has been providing virtual educational programming since Connecticut entered into a coronavirus shutdown on March 20, they will most likely be offering day-camp programs this summer as well.
"We are just waiting to hear more from the state office of early childhood education," Conway Schaffer said. "We know it will be different and we know we'll be limited to 10 children per group, but luckily, we have a lot of outdoor space."
The nature center, based on Pequotsepos Road in Mystic, operates more than 10 miles of trails connecting the main facility to a its facility at Coogan Farm on Greenmanville Ave.
"The children spend the bulk of their time outside anyway," said Conway Schaffer.
Fitzgerald said children enrolled at Camp Cove will also be grouped in "pods of ten" and will remain with the same pod throughout the day.
"You can't mix the pods," she added, and appropriate social-distancing protocols will be practiced at all times.
"All our staff will undergo a week of training, and they will all wear masks and required PPE," Fitzgerald said. Precautions such as regular temperature checks for children and regular cleaning procedures will also be strictly enforced.
"The equipment will be disinfected after each piece is used," she said, "and the bathrooms will be cleaned every hour."
"Like all our Y programs," Fitzgerald added, "safety is our number one priority."
Fitzgerald said the camp will most likely be requiring the same parent or guardian to drop off the same camper each day.
Fitzgerald said she is waiting on further updates from Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimando about guidelines, restrictions and the busing of children before making a decision about Camp Watchaug, the Y-owned camp in Charlestown. A 30-acre waterfront camp on Watchaug Pond, the summer day camp has been a treasured rite for local families since the 1940s. Since 75 percent of the campers ride the bus to the facility, social distancing could present a challenge, Fitzgerald said.
Gov. Raimando announced in a press conference last Thursday that she plans to reopen summer camps in Rhode Island in some capacity beginning June 29. Calling the date "a goal ... like other projections," that could be adjusted if there is a spike in cases, she also said there will be strict guidelines and restrictions that will be announced next week.
"It's going to be different, but fun," Raimondo said.
Meanwhile, both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England have recently made the decision to forgo traditional in-person camp sessions this summer.
At Camp Yawgoog in Hopkinton, Reservation Director Thomas Sisson said in a statement posted on the camp's website that "After a thorough evaluation, we have concluded that based on the information available to us of likely restrictions, we will NOT be able to conduct on-site Scout Camp at Yawgoog Scout Reservation."
“We are working on launching in the near future, plans for a Virtual Program with a combination of program materials mailed to Scouts in advance, fun outdoor activities that Scouts can do at home or with other Scouts and supplemented by virtual programs," Sisson's statement said.
"We will continue to evaluate options for small groups to come to Yawgoog later in the summer if we can do so in a safe manner. We are also planning to offer a variety of fall weekend programs if the situation at that time allows it," Sisson wrote.
Pam Hyland, CEO of Girl Scouts, said in statement that "after careful consideration and keeping in mind the health and safety of our girls," there will be no camping this summer due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The organization, Hyland said, "is working to create a robust alternative camp experience for the Girl Scouts in their communities in lieu of the traditional in-person camping experience."
"Our hope is for girls to still be able to practice the traditions of camp, make new friends, and participate in fun activities in their own back yard, as well as in person later in the summer," Hyland said in a statement.
Details about the "alternative camp" will be announced in the coming weeks, she said, and registration will go live on June 1.
"We know that camp is very important to both our girls and their families and we are hopeful that with guidance from our government and health officials, we will be able to open our camp properties for a few girl-only programs later in the summer," she said, "as well 'Family Days' throughout the summer when the time is right."
On Family Days, she explained, families will be able to visit their favorite Scout property and "enjoy all it has to offer, including hiking the trails, picnicking, and experiencing the magic of camp."
Both Fitzgerald and Conway Schaffer said more information about camp applications, registrations, financial assistance and scholarships are available at each organization's website.
"I am just grateful that our members have stayed with us," Fitzgerald said. "We are continuing to offer Zoom classes to members and non-members, we're calling to check in on our seniors, and we're doing work on our facilities."
The staff at all three Y locations — Aracdia, Mystic and Westerly-Pawcatuck — are eager for the day when the facilities can reopen, she said.
The Camp Cove staff, she added — Branch Director Sheila Litty and Camp Director Meghan Baxter —were so eager they had started cleaning kayaks and equipment in anticipation of summer camp.
The nature center website is www.dpnc.org and the Camp Cove website is oceancommunityymca.org/locations/mystic-branch/day-camp.