Your destiny is often shaped by the choices you make. Will the improvements you make to your camp’s facilities keep pace with your demands of your campers? Are you gaining the most benefits from these improvements?
Perhaps your camp programming has outgrown its indoor recreational facilities. Do you expand the existing facilities or do you design a new facility in a more central location? Which of these choices will require less maintenance?
Before you can answer these questions and to avoid wasting money or pre-empting future expansion, you should develop a master plan for your entire camp layout.
Master planning is a purposeful and thoughtful process that is much like the planning made by a master chess player. Before the first move is executed, the second and third moves have already been determined.
In the case of expanding the indoor recreational facilities, how can you determine the optimal location if you don’t have a plan for the location of the next set of improvements? These possibilities need to be thought out before you expand the dining hall, infirmary, central parking area, or any other camp area.
It can be frustrating and expensive to discover that the area where the new recreational facility has just been constructed is the perfect spot to expand the dining hall.
Another example that underscores the need for master planning is the camp owner who realizes that the new storage area creates a logjam when large, cargo vehicles make deliveries.
The camp director finds that the storage area is in direct line with the prime parking spaces. It’s an expensive mistake to correct but a necessary one to ensure that safety and timely deliveries will not be compromised.
Master the Circulation
So how can these mistakes be avoided? Create a master plan for your facilities that incorporates at least five years of camp growth.
Two issues must be addressed in this master plan: the facilities which will be added at each stage of expansion and the anticipation how each stage of expansion affects camper circulation, safety, security, and camp maintenance.
Camper circulation has the potential to be most affected by expansion. Camper circulation is all about how people move from the main activities to the support spaces.
Strategically placed signage, gathering areas where people purchase snacks and merchandise, sequencing the movement to support spaces like restrooms and first aid, all can affect the safety and the satisfaction of both the staff and campers.
How will campers travel from waterfront to the dining hall? Do you want them traveling near high-risk areas, such as an access road or be tempted to venture into a maintenance building?
Every camp has its own center of gravity — the point where people tend to gravitate as they explore and participate in camp activities.
Each time there is a camp expansion there is a potential for changing where people are drawn. This change should be a conscious effort and part of the master plan.
Security can be enhanced and supervision costs can be reduced by creating one main entry point with direct access to all main activity areas.
The use of quadrangles, strategic planting of trees, and open balconies not only enhance the staff’s ability to supervise the facility, they also evoke an open and inviting feeling from your campers which cultivates a feeling of community.
Maintenance costs are always a concern for camp owners. The decision to have one main parking area rather than several, more intimate areas with extensive landscaping, can be difficult to make. The labor costs of landscaping and snow removal should always be considered first and may be the pivotal factor in the master plan.
Unfortunately, most camp facility expansion is planned without the vision for the second and third move. Unless you have a plentiful number of options and the money to invest in them, utilizing this approach could eventually force an expensive compromise, or worse, an investment to correct the mistake by demolishing part of your facility that is in the early stages of its life-cycle.
Who should create this master plan? The expertise needed to create a master plan will depend on the complexity of the camp’s programming and its potential for growth.
Also, the need for outside advice is dictated by how accurate the geographical survey information and blueprints of existing facilities are.
If you already have invested in a feasibility study for your business and know the potential of your land and the existing facilities, you could develop your own master plan under the advisement of an architect.
There are architectural firms who specialize in master planning. These firms are most valuable when there are many unknowns and the improvements to be made are extensive.
But what outside experts cannot provide is the knowledge from being part of the camp operations. The people who know how the business works are vital to the master planning process and they should give input before decisions are made.
The challenge to systematically develop your camp facilities that can keep pace with your campers and your programming will require vision, creativity, and a careful eye on the synergy of your camp business.
A master plan can be a powerful tool to meet this challenge. There is also an added bonus from master planning: the new energy that you can gain from visualizing future expansion and the satisfaction of determining the destiny of your camp business.
Dr. Langlois has more than 20 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. Her undergraduate education was at the University of New Hampshire in physical education. She earned her Master’s and doctoral degrees from Springfield College. She is active in several professional organizations including NASSM, AAHPERD, ISCHPER, AAUP, NACWAA.
Sharman Hayward has directed sports camps at every developmental level, and has coached intercollegiate field hockey and lacrosse for ten years. Sharman earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Colby-Sawyer College and has a Master of Science Degree in Athletic Administration from Springfield College. Sharman currently serves as Associate Director of Athletics at Endicott College.