ALBANY — Capital Region Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts organizations announced Friday that they had canceled their summer camp programs for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York said in a news release Friday that the difficult decision was brought about by the fact that summer camps would fall within Phase 4 of the gradual reopening of regions within New York.
The Capital Region and four other regions of the state haven’t even qualified for Phase 1 reopening yet, and Phases 2, 3 and 4 are expected to be spaced at least two weeks apart. The reopening in a given region could be slowed or even halted if there is an increase in infections or a decrease in ability to respond to infections.
The uncertainty of the timeline and the lack of time to develop a plan to meet all safety guidelines led to the decision to cancel.
Nekisha Henry, senior director of girl experience for Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, said Friday the council would offer virtual programs in place of the summer camp. These will be along the same lines as summer camp — singalongs, bird-watching, knot-tying — but they’ll be adjusted to age levels and open to all girls, not just Scouts.
Henry said the limiting factor with the pandemic proved not to be the virus itself but crafting a response to it.
“We think in the long term we could elevate our cleaning measures, we just didn’t feel like we had enough time to do so,” she said. “Distancing hundreds of girls in an outdoor setting is fairly difficult.”
The council serves 15 counties. Most of its scouts hail from the greater Capital Region, though its camps host a few Scouts from Vermont or New York City.
The cancellation was an unhappy moment.
“Our parents obviously for sentimental reasons are very disappointed,” Henry said. She added, however, that most appreciated the need to protect staff and campers alike, “So most of our parents are supportive of the decision.”
More than 1,100 girls typically attend Camp Is-Sho-Da in East Greenbush and Hidden Lake Camp in Lake George each summer. The council also operates Lake Clear Camp near Saranac Lake, but had previously decided not to open that camp this year, so as to consolidate resources in the other two camps.
Also Friday, the Twin Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America said its leaders had spent hundreds of hours developing a series of scenarios under which the council could operate its summer camps and had been in regular communication with the state Department of Health.
But based on the recommendation of scouting officials and public health authorities, and after discussion with the local scouting community, it decided to cancel all in-person programs for the summer of 2020.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the council has been developing ways to safely continue its programs, and said it would be announcing new summer programs shortly.
The Twin Rivers Council operates Camp Bedford in Malone, Rotary Scout Reservation in Averill Park and Camp Wakpominee in Fort Ann, which was to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.
The council said Friday that information will be shared early next week on how refunds will be processed.
“Our most important responsibility as leaders of a camping program is to ensure the safety of all participants,” Twin Rivers said in a post on its website Friday. “While we are frustrated and disheartened, like many of you, we are confident that our decision is the correct one and in the best interests of our Scouts, leaders, camp volunteers and staff.”