Convenient Camps Near Home
If you’re hunting for a convenient summer program for your children, the solution might be right in your own hometown or communities nearby.
Summer day camps offered by Delaware Valley parks and recreation departments are abundant, easy to find and affordable.
Non-residents can usually enroll their kids for a small extra fee.
Municipal summer programs typically start a few days after school lets out in June and continue through mid-to-late August. Most camps run in sessions of one to several weeks.
For instance, Camp Squankum in Williamstown, NJ has sessions for eight weeks, from June 25 until Aug. 17. The popular Briar Bush Summer Camps in Abington, PA has week-long sessions from June 4 through Aug. 31. Abington Township also offers two 6-week, full-day camps, says recreation superintendent Andrew Oles.
Most municipal camps allow kids to attend for non-consecutive weeks. If you plan to be out of town the week of July 4, “you just don’t sign up for that week,” says Joe Spadafino, recreation superintendent for Newark, DE.
For working parents, juggling drop-off and pick-up can be tricky, especially if camp ends at 3pm. Many municipal camps provide before and after care for an extra fee. “We have early and late hours,” says Joe Bonder, head of parks and recreation for Monroe Township, NJ.
Many parks and recreation departments offer half-day or “tot-lot” camps, designed especially for preschoolers, kindergarteners or busy big kids. Typically, they run from 9am to 12noon. Upper Merion Township’s Camp Beechtree offers a “Lunch Bunch” option, extending the camp day until 1pm for a brown-bagged lunch.
Training and Safety
Municipal camps often hire high school or college students and teachers.
“Our camp directors and assistant directors are teachers. Our staff have been with the camp for several years,” says Sudha Suryadevara, recreation superintendent for Upper Merion Township, PA.
Typically, counselors attend a two-day pre-camp training session. “Camper safety and staff development are our most important areas of focus,” says Tiffany R. Hileman, recreation program coordinator for Radnor Township, PA.
Hileman says camper safety is paramount. For Radnor Day Camp’s swimming program, new campers review water safety rules and take a swim test before they’re allowed in the pool. All staff are CPR-, defibrulator- and first aid-certified, she says.
If it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, parks and recreation camps move their programs into cool municipal buildings or nearby school facilities for indoor activities. Many programs use township pools or have arrangements with a local swimming facility.
“We have a partnership with Hospitality Creek Campground and Swim Club in Williamstown,” says Bonder. “It has a beautiful lake and two activity pools.”
Municipal camp rates vary, depending on extra activities, specialty sports or field trips.
For example, the cost of a one-week, 9am-4pm municipal camp program in Wilmington, DE for ages 7-11 is $185. Extended care is $30 extra. Upper Merion Township’s Adventure Day Camp in Wayne, PA is $675 for six weeks, $775 for non-residents.
Deb Dellapena is a local freelance writer.