Niagara Gazette — If you talk to people who run the traditional summer camps, you’ll find that many of those facilities are struggling to survive.
One of the most popular in the Buffalo-Niagara area was the now-defunct Camp Nia-Y off Lake Road in Wilson. That was founded in 1941 as Camp Neeagana, a site called Hooker-on-the-Lake now Porter On The Lake park. When Hooker acquired the property, the camp relocated to a field across from Wilson-Tuscarora Park.
Longtime YMCA booster Don King, 81, still active with business and community endeavors, recalled Neeagana as “a sleep camp,” where the kids stayed for two weeks.
King, a ‘Y’ member for 72 years — he joined at age 9 — fondly remembers those experiences. “Lloyd Paterson (who played on the Niagara University basketball team under Coach “Taps” Gallagher) was my camp counselor one summer. I could name you all the others too ... they were so helpful and made it a memorable time.”King added.
So what’s happened with these camps and why are they facing such an uncertain future?
Changing lifestyles is one factor. Growing competition from those sports camps (e.g. baseball, tennis and basketball) have adversely impacted the traditional one or two-week day camps that have everything from arts and crafts to nature, horseback riding, archery and campfires. Cost doesn’t appear as a major factor. It seems parents are willing to spend even more for perhaps one of their sons dreaming of playing for the Yankees or Red Sox some day.
The former ‘Y’ camp stirs happy memories for many parents who coveted the chance to put their youngsters on the bus for a day, knowing they were in excellent hands and probably not prone — at least for several hours — to complain that there was nothing to do at home. That week usually ended with the traditional bonfire and awards program. (No kid ever left without an award!)