Peeling Away The Clutter

By Kent Busman

“What’s remarkable about this camp is that while other camps were building zip-bang-boom and buying jet-skis and ramping up technology, Fowler was scaling back. Fowler was committed to leaving a smaller footprint and stripping away all that clutters. It challenged the assumptions about camp programming for kids and stiff armed a high-energy, high-tech, high-demand, high-passion, high-pressure youth ministry assault—in the name of Jesus.”

--Roger Nelson, Camp Fowler volunteer

Over the last 25 years, and particularly in the last 10 years, Camp Fowler in Lake Pleasant, N.Y., has made intentional decisions that took into account how the world’s natural systems operate. During that time the camp has:

  • Transformed its kitchen into a whole-foods area where almost everything is made from scratch on-site. This includes using some produce from its own gardens (made from compost of previous summers’ food waste) and eggs from a donated flock of chickens.
  • Installed photovoltaic systems that now power almost 50 percent of the electricity on-site. (No easy feat in an Adirondack climate.)
  • Developed functioning composting toilets that save 250,000 to 300,000 gallons of water a year and help preserve a fragile lake ecosystem.
  • Eliminated roads through camp and reduced excess lighting, allowing for reclamation of both the ground and the sky for campers.
  • Sold organic and fair-trade articles in the camp store so others who may never hear about the camp will benefit as well.
  • Operated a day-camp program with Albany Synod churches to provide quality activities and ministry to many children, particularly those in urban areas of upstate New York.

Amazing things happen when children are trusted enough to accept what they need rather than what the culture says they want. As one former staff member notes:

“There is hope in a place where children give up their iPods to watch in amazement how compost turns into vegetables.”

Camp Fowler is a place that conforms to time so that children can be fully present—head, heart, body, and soul—all in one place. And it conforms to space that honors time so conversations and relationships can be nurtured and bear fruit. By conforming to the rhythms of nature, the camp can begin to put the lives of some campers back together.

We do fewer things with campers now than we did 20 years ago, but in slowing down, we are deepening the experience each camper has. A good example of this is in making Adirondack chairs. This is an all-day project that involves problem-solving, group cooperation, and lots of communication. In the end, the campers achieve a beautiful result that will be enjoyed by many through the years. The same thing can be said about hiking a mountain, paddling a river, sailing a lake, or orienteering through a bog.

We know that, as life is slower, simpler, and quieter, kids will hear the chorus of creation singing in a language that doesn’t need translation.

To learn more about Camp Fowler, visit www.campfowler.org, but it would be better to see it in person. We’ll set another plate on the table.

Kent Busman is the director of Camp Fowler in Lake Pleasant, N.Y. Reach him at kent.busman@gmail.com.

Camp Basics

Student to Instructor Ratio: 4:1
Location: Speculator, N.Y., South Central Adirondack Mountains
Cost to Attend Camp: $400 per week; Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning
Ages: 3rd grade through 12th grade

Camp Fowler is a Christian camp grounded in openness and hospitality. The camp's philosophy is grounded on “community, simplicity, and caring for creation.”