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The Aquatics Camp at Camp Echockotee in Orange Park, Fla., is leaping in headfirst to educate campers as well as show them how much fun a little H2O can provide.
“There are very few camps where a kid can wakeboard, sail, climb or rappel a 40-foot tower, shoot some bows and arrows, and play some kickball, all in one day for a whole week,” says Camp Director Tim Turner.
A Watery Trio
The Aquatics Camp features three distinct areas for campers to explore:
1. The waterfront provides an area to sail, canoe, and kayak. The sailboats include smaller sunfish for one or two campers to learn on, and catamarans that can hold up to five campers and a counselor. The camp is working on building up a fleet of even larger boats (small recreational yachts) manned by counselors that the kids can ride in and learn about the operation of the watercraft.
2. The powerboat area is where campers try out wakeboarding, waterskiing, knee-boarding and tubing. This is also where the Florida Safe Boating class is offered.
3. The pool includes a diving board, snorkeling, water games, general recreation, free swim and two swimming courses that teach beginners the basics as well as a more advanced class that details the different strokes of swimming.
The camp typically sticks to more traditional aquatic programming, but at times may incorporate some unique courses that campers may have an interest in, such as oceanography.
“At the end of the day, sailing and powerboats are the aquatic activities campers like most and fill up the fastest,” says Turner. “They aren't something that most kids get to do every day.”
Because the aquatics camp is owned by North Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the camp is forced to follow strict safety and quality-of-program standards. In addition, all key director positions (aquatics, camp, program and climbing) have to attend a National Camp School that educates and reviews these standards. Although the camp is used year-round for scouting activities, an inspection is conducted before aquatics camp starts to ensure these standards are being followed.
“Safety is always number one, then fun,” says Turner. “Constant review of operations is critical.”
Each staff member involved with aquatic activities is required to be a lifeguard and CPR-certified. “Most of our staff is certified even if they do not directly work in an aquatic area,” says Turner. “We have additional directors in each area that supervise the staff so the aquatics director has the freedom to observe each aquatic area.”
For added safety, life jackets must be worn by everyone inside the waterfront and powerboat areas. Additionally, each area is distinctly marked to keep both boat and pedestrian traffic from colliding. Each area is also marked for campers with boundary lines.
“We are required by the BSA standards to maintain ratios of campers to counselors, and also the number of staff certified for lifeguarding,” says Turner. “We have directors on land to supervise activities in case of an emergency.”
In addition to setting safety and programming standards, being a BSA-owned camp allows campers who are registered scouts an opportunity to earn merit badges. Roughly 30 percent of the kids who attend during the summer are scouts (Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts).
For more information on Camp Echockotee, contact Turner at (904) 327-8167, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Reichle is a freelance writer living in Columbus, Ohio. She can be reached via e-mail at HReichle28@yahoo..com
Camp Echockotee Owner: North Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America
Location: Orange Park, Fla
Cost: The basic cost is $160 per week; an additional fuel fee of $35 per activity is required for campers who register for activities that require powerboat use (tubing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, Florida Safe Boating Course).
Basics: Week-long summer camps for boys and girls ages 6-14. Day sessions begin mid-June and last through the first week of August.
Age groups: Adventurers: 9-14; Voyagers: 6-8.
Camper to staff ratio: 1:10 for aquatics activities
Overnight campers: 160 per week (average)