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Maine summer camp organizers want 'short-term session' camps to reopen

Many short session camps did not open in 2020 because sessions were less than 14-days, which did not meet out of state travel guidelines

MAINE, Maine — Despite new guidance from the state Friday on summer travel and tourism, many groups are still left without guidance on how to operate, including Maine summer camps.

Camp Susan Curtis in Stonham was able to open last summer with restrictions.

"It was very, very challenging. We reduced our capacity significantly," camp director Terri Mulks said.

Mulks said the camp is one of many in Maine categorized as a "non-profit short-term session camp," where a majority of kids come from middle to low-income families.

"We serve Maine children who qualify for free or reduced lunch, who qualify through their schools," Mulks said.

Maine Summer Camps is a non-profit association that represents 140 camps in Maine. The president of the board said other short-term session camps were not as lucky as Camp Susan Curtis and did not open. She said one of the reasons being their sessions were less than 14-days, which did not meet the out-of-state travel quarantine guidelines.

"It was either because they were accepting kids from out of state. Many folks felt that their facilities weren't ready to be up and operational within six weeks of guidelines to be published," Maine Summer Camps President of the Board Laura Ordway said.

Ordway said she met with the state Thursday because the 2020 summer camp guidelines have not been updated, and wants to make sure the short-session camps are a part of new decisions.

"Wanted to emphasize that those types of camps are able to operate," Ordway said.

Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, Heather Johnson, said Friday there are still details to work through with camps, to help them operate safely.

"I think we all see the value in having these high-quality experiences for children to work through the summer and we believe our summer camps will have real options," Johnson said. "Both day camps and overnight camps to operate."

Both Ordway and Mulks said it's important not to continue to create barriers for families who want to send their children to camp for a week and are hopeful those children will be able to enjoy all the fun Maine summer camps have to offer.