Niagara Gazette

June 1, 2014

GLYNN: Older camps face challenge to stay alive

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

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!)

The Buffalo-Niagara ‘Y’ still operates a summer place for youngsters but now it’s Camp Weona off Poplar Tree Road, Gainsville, in Erie County. Like most other camps, it costs about $550 to stay the week. 

Another camp site long patronized by Western New York families is Camp Turner, which the Buffalo Catholic Diocese has operated in Allegany State Park since 1923. They offer  four sessions for ages 8 to 16 with the older children in a two-week session that includes a three-day backpacking adventure. The camp cost ranges from $415 to $455 per child (www.CampTurner.com) or (716) 353-4555.

The St. Vincent DePaul Society of Buffalo that includes several Niagara County conferences sponsors a resident camp on Lake Erie, off the Old Lake Shore Road in Angola. The facility that welcomes children of all faiths also provides financial assistance for special needs. The camp offers bus service to Niagara Falls for two of its summer sessions. Additional information is available at 882-3360, ext. 7.

Due to the high costs, some camps make every effort to offer financial assistance where possible. That’s something you need to check before registration.

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TRIVIA QUIZ:  By the end of World War II, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Buffalo was still the largest airplane manufacturer in the U.S. The original company, Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Co., Buffalo, merged with the Wright Aeronautical of Dayton, Ohio.

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A DEAD END: A number of northbound motorists on the Robert Moses Parkway were stunned this past week when they spotted a deer that had been killed — presumably by a vehicle — and left against a concrete wall along the stretch that runs atop the Robert Moses Power Plant. It’s believed the confused deer had found its way onto the parkway from the grassy area north of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.