Jake and 12 other goats were born in February at Camp Howard. “They are the silliest, cutest bunch, and I’m so excited the campers will get to interact with them in person,” said Peggy Annable-English, Camp Howard director. (Courtesy Camp Howard)
Jake and 12 other goats were born in February at Camp Howard. “They are the silliest, cutest bunch, and I’m so excited the campers will get to interact with them in person,” said Peggy Annable-English, Camp Howard director. (Courtesy Camp Howard)
There will be no Wi-Fi debacles, no tedious Zoom sessions, no wonky headsets. This summer Oregon youths get to spend a week at Camp Howard immersed in 100% non-virtual fun.

“My heart goes out to youth and the ways the pandemic interrupted their lives and isolated many of them,” said Peggy Annable-English, the new director of the Catholic camp. “That’s why it’s so important to get campers back out to build friendships, make connections and be in nature without a screen.”

For the first time in nearly seven decades of operation, all Camp Howard sessions were called off last year. “This summer will feel a little different, but the spirit of the camp and the activities will be there,” Annable-English said.

St. Mary of Oregon Sister Krista von Borstel, executive director of CYO/Camp Howard, described it as “heartbreaking” to cancel sessions in 2020.

This year “we will do our very best to make it a fun and happy experience for the kids as we have for the past 68 years at Camp Howard,” she said.

Masks will be required except during water sports and dining, groups will be arranged into cohorts of 20, and campers will need to practice social distancing. “There also is going to be heavy sanitizing to keep kiddos safe,” said Annable-English.

Youths nevertheless can expect to enjoy nearly all the classic camp offerings — they can swim, hike, fish and practice archery. Because the zip line has a small platform, “that’s still iffy because of the need for physical distancing,” Annable-English said.

As of early March, the plan is to offer weeklong day camp sessions and not overnight camp, in compliance with state guidelines. Yet regulations are constantly changing, said Annable-English, who noted with a laugh that starting a new job amid a pandemic and navigating rules constantly in flux is not for the faint of heart.

If Oregon Gov. Kate Brown OKs overnight camps in the upcoming weeks, all but the first Camp Howard day session will become overnight camps. Families may roll their fees into an overnight camp or receive a refund.

There will be an extra fee for families opting for bus transportation to camp, due to the costs associated with social distancing.

A day version of the training camp for would-be camp counselors is in the works for this summer, as are the annual overnight family camps, with some modifications.

If weather makes outdoor events difficult, activities move into ventilated indoor areas.

Annable-English said inside and out, “the camp looks spectacular.” Without young people on site last summer, Karen von Borstel, camp maintenance chief, had additional time to spruce up the grounds and buildings. The new Franz Finley Welcome Center, which includes a camp store, is nearly complete, and campers may peruse the store at assigned times.

There’s another new addition to Camp Howard — 13 baby goats born in February.

“They are the silliest, cutest bunch, and I’m so excited the campers will get to interact with them in person,” said Annable-English.

“While carefully following all safety precautions,” she added, “it will likely be one unique, epic summer.”

katies@catholicsentinel.org