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Summer camps in Orford, Croydon won’t open due to coronavirus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2020 9:43:32 PM
Modified: 5/14/2020 9:43:22 PM

ORFORD — Three more overnight camps this week said they will not be able to open this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak, creating the prospect of a sleepy summer in Upper Valley towns where camps have long been part of the community fabric.

Both Camp Moosilauke for boys and Camp Merriwood for girls, affiliated camps on Upper Baker Pond in Orford, said they will be closed for the summer.

And YMCA Camp Coniston in Croydon also said it won’t open.

“After several weeks of careful consideration, we have concluded that in order to protect the health and safety of our campers and staff, this is the necessary decision to make,” Moosilauke officials said on their camp Facebook page: “As you can imagine, this decision has been a difficult and painful one for our family.”

The camp for boys 8 to 15 has run every summer since 1904.

Merriwood, which serves girls ages 8 to 15, looked at whether it could run shorter sessions, or have campers and counselors quarantine before arriving.

Ultimately, administrators decided that it couldn’t open either.

“Not having camp this summer is certainly testing my resilience,” Merriwood director Susan Miller Hild said in a video to camp families. “But for all of us it’s OK to be hurt, to be sad, to be angry and to grieve for the summer. I understand all of these emotions because I’m feeling them too.”

The announcements follow decisions last month by the Fairlee-based Aloha Foundation not to open its camps on Lake Morey and Lake Fairlee this summer, and a similar move by Camp Billings on Lake Fairlee.

Hild, whose grandmother founded Merriwood in 1949, made a list of vendors and suppliers she needed to contact, and it included a laundry service, medical team, takeout place for lunch and other local businesses.

“It’s a real ripple effect,” Hild said. “Even down to our horseback riding program, so it effects where we get our feed, where we get our hay.”

Fairlee Selectboard member Cathy McGrath, who was both a counselor and camper at Aloha, said the closings will even hit local stores, ice cream parlors and restaurants that counselors like to patronize in their time off.

“It’s clearly a big deal economically. So many of the businesses see the summer as their big time of year,” she said.

She said anglers and sailors on Lake Morey will notice an absence as well.

“It will just be different, not having the boys and girls playing at the camp and out boating and swimming,” she said.

Orford Selectboard Chairman John Adams said the direct economic impact on Orford from the Merriwood and Moosilauke closings would not be as significant, but the town will seem emptier.

“We will miss the cheering and rah rah and kid noise, that’s for sure,” he said.

The closings will also strain at least some of the camps financially.

In a notice on the Camp Coniston website, executive director John Tilley said the camp had already spent $1.1 million ordering supplies, improving the facility and making other preparations for the summer, and would face a $1.3 million loss if all tuition payments were reimbursed.

“As our community would expect, we’re offering refunds to our parents. We are also asking those who can to consider donating part or all of their tuition payments, or roll their payments over until 2021 to keep Coniston viable for the future,” he wrote.

John P. Gregg can be reached at or 603-727-3217.

Valley News

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