County day camp program dwindling

June 13, 1997


Staff Writer

Participation in Washington County's summer day camp program has dropped more than 80 percent since the county began charging a fee three years ago.

The once-thriving recreational camp had 1,106 participants at 12 sites in 1994. Those numbers dropped to 833 youngsters and nine camps in 1995, and 519 youths and eight camps last year. So far, only 170 youngsters have registered for six camps this year, prompting recommendations that at least two more camps be cancelled for lack of interest.

County Recreation Superintendent Stacey McLeran, who oversees the program, said the main reason for the drop in attendance has been hikes in the fees charged. The camps were free in 1994, but the county imposed a $12 fee in 1995, a $36 fee in 1996 and a $90 fee this year in an effort to make the six-week program self-sufficient.


"We're not trying to make a buck on it," she said. "We're just trying to cover our costs."

The camps, which employed about 60 people, cost the county $67,000 when they were free, McLeran said. She said she has 20 staff people this year, and said the camps probably would run at a deficit of $10,000 to $15,000 unless more youngsters sign up.

McLeran said the camp sites most likely to be cancelled this year are those in Hancock, which has 10 kids signed up, and Funkstown, where 12 people have signed up. McLeran said each site would need about 37 students to break even with two staff members.

McLeran said she's received calls from parents who said they can't afford the camp.

But she said the camps were still a good deal for parents.

"It breaks down to $3 a day," she said. "There isn't anywhere in this county where you can get any kind of day care or baby-sitting for $3."

McLeran said the other counties of similar size charge twice as much for similar camps as Washington County, despite the increased fees.

"This seems to be a dilemma every year as far as what we're going to do with the camps," she said.

In addition to Funkstown and Hancock, camps are planned for Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park, Boonsboro, Sharpsburg and Clear Spring. The Snook location is the most popular, with 90 kids signed up. That camp includes swimming.

The camps run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for six weeks beginning June 23 and are open to children ages 6 to 14.

More information can be obtained by calling McLeran at 301-791-3187.

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