Camp Walden First Night Campfire
Camp Walden owners Scott Ruthart and Liz Stevens lead the first-night campfire last year.

The possibility of Family Camp is continuing to be explored.  

Camp Walden in Cheboygan, Michigan announced on June 6 that they will not be opening as a residential summer camp this year due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A previous update sent to parents in May by Camp Walden owners Scott Ruthart and Liz Stevens had announced the delay of the potential start date to mid-July. However, after analyzing every scenario, the decision was made to remain closed for the summer. 

Camp Walden is a popular destination for many Metro Detroit Jewish families, welcoming roughly 400-450 children throughout the summer. 

“It was a long and tortured decision-making process. We just felt that we needed to give it the time necessary to see how the pandemic would play out in our communities and in our state,” Stevens told the JN.  

“We had to envision what camp would look like if we were cohorting and social distancing from one another. We had to feel confident that if we had a case or cases at camp that we could properly address the quarantining and isolation that would be involved with something like that,” she said. We finally had to just admit to ourselves that we just could not see it coming together in a way that would be satisfying for our families and our kids coming to camp.” 

In Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order regarding statewide COVID-19 restrictions, day camps were permitted to open on Monday, June 8. As of June 9, no direction has been issued for residential camps, but Camp Walden owners say that guidelines for those camps to open is only a matter of time. 

“The state guidance, so we are told, will resemble that given to day camps, with some alterations for residential camps that perform rigorous and repeated testing, strict cohorting and constant health monitoring of campers and staff,” Walden’s statement read. “Regardless—regardless of the availability of testing, regardless of the “opening” of Northern Michigan—our own medical advisors, with whom we have been conferring for months, continue to raise questions we cannot answer and pose scenarios—as statistically unlikely as they might be—that would derail a camp session at Walden.” 

Camp Walden continues to explore the idea of Family Camps, which would begin in mid-July and run five nights each. The families would have to stay at the camp at all times for the five nights, socially distance from other families and wear face coverings during brief interactions with camp staff. 

According to Stevens, parents are entitled to a full refund of the money that they have paid towards the 2020 summer camp season, if desired. They can also roll the money over to the 2021 camp season. 

“We know your children yearn for their Walden summers. Their healthy development requires the socialization, the fresh air and the camaraderie of friends more than ever,” read the statement. “You, their parents, desperately want them to have this and, in some cases, truly need a mental-health break of your own. We are profoundly disappointed—crushed, really—that we cannot provide that outlet this summer.” 

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