OPINION

Summer Conservation Camp Opportunities

Steve Lekwa

Schools are out and Memorial Day is fading in the rear view mirror. We’ve had our first 90 degree days, so it must be summer in Iowa. We just returned from a couple of days with our grandchildren in Illinois. At least a few summer experiences for today’s kids seem the same as I remember them when I was eight years old, but most things are quite different today. We took in a couple of Little League baseball games that were, as always, coached by some dedicated dads. Many of the kids were as awkward with their gloves and bats as I was, but a few showed early signs of athletic ability. I played summer ball because some of my friends did; not because I was really excited about baseball. My favorite summer activities at that age weren’t organized or adult-directed. The best days were spent along the Skunk River with my brother or friends. Sometimes we had fishing poles and other times it was just to be in the water. When I was a little older, my activities expanded to include camping adventures up and down the river with some of my Boy Scout friends. Most of these adventures didn’t include adults, either, but somebody’s parents were usually kind enough to haul our heavier camping gear (canvas tents and a box of food) as close as possible to whatever woodland campsite we were headed for. It was during these unsupervised outdoor experiences that my lifelong love affair with the land was born.

Today’s kids have lost the freedom to explore the outdoor world and develop a lasting relationship with nature the same way earlier generations did. Naturalist-led outdoor experiences are part of many school curricula today and have given most kids at least of taste of the outdoors, though. Thanks to some outstanding new summer camp programs, at least a few kids will be able to experience some of the things that many of us learned to enjoy on our own 50 or 60 years ago. The following programs are being offered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in the hope that at least some of the next generation will learn to love the great outdoors. Information on the various camps, dates and registration for them can be found on the DNR’s website at www.iowadnr.gov.

Outdoor Journey for Girls is a popular camp opportunity. These camps will be held at the Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center (August session may still have openings) and another opportunity at Black Hawk CCB ‘s Hickory Hills Park near LaPorte City in July. Hunting and Conservation Camps for Boys will be offered at the Springbrook Center (the late July session may still have openings). DNR Conservation Officers, biologists, county conservation personnel, state certified volunteer hunter education instructors and members of several organizations like Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Whitetails Unlimited and the Izaak Walton League serve as camp instructors.

If you’re feeling left out as an adult, you might be interested in a camp program known as BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman). BOW introduces women to hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, other aspects of outdoor life. I’m sorry guys, but there are no summer camp programs for us men.

It will be important to register online as soon as possible if you or your children wish to take part in one of these DNR camps, since spaces are filling rapidly. Story County Pheasants Forever will sponsor up to four boys and four girls to attend any of these camps by refunding camp registration fees after camp is completed. They may also sponsor a woman or two to attend BOW. Call Story County PF’s Don Berning at 515-290-6578 to see if sponsorships are still available and to make arrangements.

Steve Lekwa is a former director of Story County Conservation.