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A valley so green; Where summertime campers learn about the environment

Local sportsmen’s clubs in Sullivan County volunteer to help teach fishing skills and hunter safety, as campers learn to appreciate time-honored outdoor pursuits.
Photos courtesy of DEC

May 15, 2014

LIVINGSTON MANOR, NY — Summer camps come in all shapes and sizes, from those offering the traditional experience (recreation, arts and crafts, games and activities) to specialized camps focused on a particular interest (the performing arts, or science education, or instruction in a sport, etc.).

Right here in our own backyard, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) runs a specialized environmental camp focused on bringing the outdoor experience to 11- through 13-year-olds. Eight miles east of Livingston Manor, NY, Camp DeBruce is located adjacent to the Catskill Forest Preserve, two miles from Mongaup State Park and right next to Mongaup Creek. It is the oldest of four environmental education camps operated by DEC (www.dec.ny.gov/education/29.html) and the greenest—literally, according to Randy Caccia, DEC’s camps administrator, pointing out its rural field and forest setting.

The website (www.dec.ny.gov/education/1881.html) tells how “campers learn science, solve challenges, play games, keep a journal, catch salamanders, net butterflies and discover the interconnectedness of life on earth... and [learn about the] human impact on the environment.”

“The purpose of our environmental education camps is to give more experience and awareness of the out of doors to our campers,” Caccia explained. “We offer hands-on experience for kids to learn about forest, stream, field and wildlife ecology.

“With this age group we have an eager audience,” he continued. “They’re wondering about the world around them and wanting to explore it. They’re excited to learn about the outdoors and come wanting to know about the environment.

“These are new experiences for many of them. We have campers who have never really seen the stars at night, gone hiking in a forest, or gone fishing.”

Camp DeBruce is best described as rustic but with modern amenities—electricity, showers, flush toilets and camper cabins. During each session, the campers also leave their home base to go out for one overnight.