Many camps in Alberta only run programs during the summer months. Whether it has to do with location, staffing, funding or facilities, expanding camp to a year-round facility is a huge step and even the thought of that process can be quite overwhelming. Do you have dreams of serving children and youth at your camp all through the year?
You wouldn’t be the first camp to have these dreams. Is this step right for your camp? We found some resources from the American Camp Association that share the thought processes, strategic steps and management tools that other camps have used to transition from a summer-only facility to a year-round retreat centre.
What is your camp’s purpose?
Evaluate your mission statement. That is the reason your camp exists. Do dreams to expand to a year-round facility fit into that mission?
When planning for new buildings and infrastructure, it’s easy to dream big. You want your new cabins to offer family accommodations, with a kitchen and private bathrooms and wrap-around porch! This is all very nice, if you have the funding and your purpose is to accommodate families and couples. However, if your mission is solely to help children have a positive, outdoor experience, then dorm-style cabins will fit just fine.
This also leads into the question: who do you serve? Who are your campers and users? Do you plan on expanding that demographic or finding more camper families and user groups within that demographic? How can you reach them, market to them and expand that group use throughout the year?
What do you currently have at your camp?
Survey your camp property and its facilities. It’s probably a good idea to make a spreadsheet. Things you should list include: buildings and their function, activities, equipment, available land, vehicles and other large pieces of personal property. What needs to be updated, fixed, scrapped or replaced? Do you have a plan for maintenance on your existing facility? Will you need to build new facilities to accommodate a year-round program?
Consider your natural resources. What kind of land do you have and how can it be utilized? Do you have open fields, forests, a lake, streams or is your camp on a farm? Can you showcase these natural areas to new user groups?
Programs & Activities
Do your summer camp programs and activities meet the needs of your campers? Can they be expanded year-round to continue to meet the needs of your campers and users? Will you need to expand your program to include winter activities? Do you have the land, buildings and resources to offer additional programming? Brainstorm what kinds of programs you can offer clientele during the off-season.
Most camps that close after summer camp do not employ year-round staff, with the occasional exception of an on-site director or site manager. Will you have to recruit and hire new staff? How many? What kinds of job positions will a year-round facility require? Do your current summer staff function well and are any able to work year-round?
In our next blog post, we will talk about how you can evaluate what your camp already has and expand on that. We will also share some thoughts and advice on how you can put your research and planning into action and start the process towards expanding to a year-round facility.