25 Years of Summer Camp

ASHLEY YOCKEY
Camp and Event Specialist

Photos from the early Metro Parks Summer Camps, way back in the 20th century.

It may be frosty and cold outside, but summer will be here sooner than you know! Here at Metro Parks, summertime is always on the minds of the Camp Administration Team who busily plan and prepare for our Metro Parks Summer Camp all year round. Snowy winter days are spent planning and organizing for when the days get longer, the weather gets warmer, and when summer camp is in full swing.

Our summer camps are becoming increasingly popular and for good reason! We offer full week-long Traditional Day Camps and Nature Adventure Camps. Each camp has a variety of different themes that are full of fun activities, crafts, lessons, and games that focus on specific topics about the natural world. Campers have the opportunity to play, hike, fish, kayak, creek, and participate in archery. They will spend the week learning new skills, making friends, and discovering nature.

Metro Parks’ first year of summer camp started over 25 years ago back in 1997. Since then, many aspects of our camps have changed and evolved over the years but our camp goals have always been the same: to create a camp that is safe, fun, and focused on the nature and environment of our Earth. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment in which campers can discover nature. Campers are introduced to new outdoor activities and nature experiences that aim to foster a life-long appreciation and understanding of the natural world. This is accomplished through the facilitation of the development of new skills through hands-on learning. Additionally, our summer camps focus on providing opportunities for campers to make new friends and build relationships with one another.

Photos from the early days of Metro Parks Summer Camps.

In 1997, summer camp was offered for the first time by Metro Parks and was christened “Nature Adventure Camp” – an umbrella term for all the different themed camps that were offered. There were a total of eight sessions at four different Metro Parks for children from the ages of 7-14 years old. Registration was lottery-based and forms were to be received via mail. Our first year of camp proved to be a success which allowed for an expansion in the following year in 1998 which hosted a brand new camp for preschool and kindergarten, as well as our first overnight camp for fifth and sixth-graders. That summer, there were 11 sessions offered at five different Metro Parks, Hoover Reservoir and Camp Wyandot.

In 1999, summer camps returned for a third year, offering a brand new “Teens for Parks” community service program, and a camping excursion to one of our Central Ohio State Parks. Fast forward to the tenth anniversary of our Metro Parks Summer Camp in 2006, while the structure remained similar to previous years, the size of operations increased allowing for 23 sessions that summer. Additionally, a new experience was offered that included a week-long camp for kids and their grandparents. Six years later in 2016, camp dramatically evolved with the addition of “Outdoor Camps” which were to be operated alongside our tried and true “Nature Adventure Camps”. These new camps were less structured allowing for more free time. Instead of only being able to register for one week, campers were able to register for multiple weeks. Outdoor Camps were later renamed “Traditional Day Camps”. In 2019, Metro Parks offered 30 Traditional Day Camp sessions, over 30 Nature Adventure age-specific sessions, and an overnight camp.

More photos from the early days of Metro Parks Summer Camps.

The year 2020 proved to be a challenging and uncertain time for many parts of our world, and Metro Parks Summer Camp did not escape from the ever-changing influences that came along with Covid-19. Understanding the necessity of normality and the importance of social interaction for our campers, Metro Parks persisted through the difficulties of the pandemic and successfully hosted summer camps in our parks. Many factors were taken into consideration when planning for camp in 2020 and the health of our camp families and counselors were of utmost importance. Covid-19 protocols were implemented and strictly followed by our camp teams. We offered a limited number of camp sessions consisting mostly of Traditional Day Camps and restructured our camp operations to help ensure that everyone would remain healthy. We experienced no cases of Covid-19 in our campers or counselors that summer.

The following years of camp in 2021 and 2022 still felt the shockwaves that originated from Covid-19 in 2020. We operated with a limited number of camps and offered mostly Traditional Day Camps along with 8 sessions of Nature Adventure Camp. In 2023 and the years beyond, we hope to be able to offer more opportunities and experiences for our campers of Franklin County and Central Ohio.

Check out the 2023 Summer Camp page here. Camp details will be available from that page from Tuesday February 21.

Please enjoy the following photos taken at the beginning of our camp program. These photos feature Metro Parks Summer Camp from 1997-1999. Although the clothes and styles may be retro, the activities are similar to what camp looks like in the present day! Click on one of the image icons to open the GALLERY view.


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