"The program is most important because that’s where lives are changed!" cry the program leaders. "But without the site (and facilities and services) you wouldn’t have a program!" cry the site leaders. In many camps and conference centers, there is an observable tension between the site and the program areas. This is evidenced between the site staff and the program staff in attitudes, rifts, or work behaviors. Tension may also be felt during budgeting and prioritization decisions.
This tension must be addressed at its heart — in the recognition that the very nature of camp requires a specifically designed environment tailored to the purpose, and that the place and the program are integral parts of a whole experience.
Are site/facilities mentioned in your camp’s vision, mission, and/or value statements? Is it important or necessary?
Take a look at the American Camping Association (ACA) definition of camp (top of this page). The natural setting (site) and group living (facilities) are two key elements that distinguish camp and outdoor education/conference centers from a childcare center, a school, or a conference in a hotel. There are many ways to describe these elements. These include space, environment, geographic location, site features, property, land, buildings, context, place, program activity structures, natural resources, etc. Since people make significant strategic and tactical decisions for their operation based on the vision/mission/values statements, it is critical to include the site/facilities with the programming/educational aspects in the vision, mission, and values statements.
As the ACA National Board has facilitated discussions throughout the industry about the nature of camp and the priorities that the organization should address, one belief has been articulated consistently — camp is assumed to have some relationship to the outdoors. The ACA Section delegates noted this in their hearing discussions; the preliminary research revealed that it is an expectation of the public.
While it is common that all camps value the outdoors, it is uncommon to agree upon the relationship between site and program. Because of this, it is critical that you describe the inter-relationship between the two areas in your vision, mission, and values statements. If we hold that "it just wouldn’t be camp" without being in the midst of the natural environment, that creates equal value for site/facilities and programming. The buildings, land, and activity structures are not secondary, a supporting role, nor only “context” — they are vital, essential components to accomplishing the camp’s or conference center’s mission and need to be acknowledged as such.
How Can You Articulate the Value of Site and Facilities?
Below are some phrases, divided into four groups, to illustrate some ways camps and conference centers may include site/facilities in their focus:
Context for Program
Why Include Key Phrases About Site/Facilities?
If you are convinced that the physical environment is a critical aspect of the camp experience, you should articulate those beliefs in your vision, mission, and values statements to guide decision-makers and staff as they bring the mission to life. Incorporating specifically defined belief statements regarding site/facilities into your camp’s mission can guide your camp’s operation and the people acting on behalf of your camp. Site/facilities belief statements can influence:
Property and Building Decisions
Without a doubt, a camp or conference center is about positively impacting a person. By clearly articulating how the site/facilities work in equal partnership with the program, it creates a stronger foundation on which your entire operation revolves, including the impact on your campers and guests.
Wynne Whyman, M.A., M.S.S., is president of Callippe Solutions, LLC, offering site/facility management software. She has worked in the camp industry for twenty years in a variety of positions including staff, board member, and ACA visitor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Originally published in the 2004 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.