June 17, 2020

A Different Clientele This Summer For Princeton-Blairstown Center

AN ANTIDOTE TO CABIN FEVER: The 2020 Summer Bridge Program for underserved kids at Princeton-Blairstown Center is a casualty of COVID-19. But starting July 6, the roomy cabins on the 264-acre campus are being offered to the public for Family Camp.

For the children from Trenton, Newark, and Camden who look forward to spending an idyllic week at the Princeton-Blairstown Center’s Summer Bridge Program each year, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 season.

But administration of the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) is not about to let the cabins, woods, and Bass Lake waterfront in Warren County go unused. For the first time, PBC is offering “Family Camp” this summer, inviting household groups to rent five of the cabins on the 264-acre campus and take part in staff-led, socially distanced activities as well as spend time on their own.

Rental weeks are planned for July 6-August 1, but PBC is considering extending Family Camp through August if demand is high and public health conditions are favorable. Depending on the accommodation, rates range from $1,000 to $1,500 a week, with daily breakfast and dinner included. It’s not exactly roughing it — cabins have Wi-Fi, full bathrooms, and air conditioning.

“They’ve all been outfitted with kitchenettes if they didn’t have them, to make them more comfortable and homey,” said Maren Morsch of PBC. “It’s a way for families to get away from home and be in a safe environment while enjoying what we have to offer.”

The Princeton-Blairstown Center began in 1908 as a summer camp run by Princeton University students and faculty. From there, it evolved into a variety of year-found programs that serve more than 7,000 young people from the mid-Atlantic states. PBC’s Summer Bridge Program started five years ago as a one-week leadership and enrichment program designed to serve approximately 550 to 600 low income young people, free of charge, helping them keep learning and emotional skills going during the summer months and form positive relationships with peers and adults.

When the pandemic hit a few months ago, PBC leaders knew the 2020 summer might be in jeopardy.

“Our Summer Bridge Program normally occupies our facilities to capacity,” said Morsch. “The board and executive leadership made the decision pretty early on. In listening to what other camps, locally, are doing, and thinking about what would make sense for us and our staff, Family Camp seemed right. The idea is that people will be staying with their household groups, and we can offer a number of activities as a way to get away and be in a safe environment.”

As for the Summer Bridge campers who would normally have been attending this summer, there will be a week of virtual activities with different things to do each day. The focus is on environmental topics.

Those attending Family Camp will have a mix of socially distanced daily activities led by staff including canoeing, kayaking, hiking, paddle-boarding, and more, plus an evening activity. “The idea is to offer folks a mix,” said Morsch. “So you can do up to three hours of sponsored activities, and then do things on your own. Just sitting on the porch and reading can be part of the fun.”

PBC fielded the idea of Family Camp with some people who have longstanding relationships with the organization, and there was immediate interest.

“Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do something like this,” said Morsch. “We are at 100 percent capacity almost all summer long. It’s a departure from our usual focus, but in terms of what we thought would be safe and responsible and a mutual benefit, this was it.”

For information, visit princetonblairstown.org/familycamp.