Lake Keepers Camp: A Hidden Treasure in Central Maine
There is something rather peculiar going on in Liberty, ME. It involves sixteen 8 to 10 year olds, four junior counselors, a state park, and five women with a desire to spread knowledge of lake science throughout their community.
Each summer for the last seven years the Lake Keepers Camp has assembled at Lake St. George State Park in Liberty to teach children about watersheds, erosion, invasive plants and animals, and water quality. The cost to attend this camp where children play and still learn, where the counselor to camper ratio is 1:1.5, and where they are plugged into a community event for years to come? Absolutely nothing.
Linda Breslin, President of the Citizens’ Association of Liberty Lakes (CALL) for the past 13 years, first had the idea to start a camp for kids that would teach them about what it takes to keep a lake clean and healthy while still enjoying the summertime. Her vision was to turn children into lake monitoring stewards, so that they may spread information and promote responsible lakeside living practices for years to come. With the help of Toni Clark, a retired teacher, and Denise Blanchette, an outreach educator from the DEP, they were able to develop a curriculum for the five-day camp that includes ‘Erosion’ and ‘Invasives’ days, activities from Project WET, ‘Hooked on Fishing’, and a lake-science boat trip.
The success behind Lake Keepers Camp comes from strong community support. All five women – Linda Breslin, Kerry Black, Pat Smith, H.L. Whitney, and Toni Clark – volunteer a week or more of their time every summer to prepare and run the camp. The same goes for the junior counselors, who after having attended camp for several years, now volunteer to ensure that younger kids enjoy the same excellent camp experience that they were privileged to. Liberty Graphics, a local screen-printing business, donates camp T-shirts every summer and helps sponsor the event along with CALL. Finally, the Ray and Nancy Smith Family annually donates $1,000 to cover the cost of the boat trip, which includes two tours for campers and an afternoon tour for lake association members. Because of this, the total operating cost of the camp is about $100 per summer, none of which has to be passed along to the attendees.
Although she realizes her circumstances are unique, Linda Breslin wants to encourage other lake associations and towns to develop programs like hers. She emphasizes that it is a relatively inexpensive way to run a camp, especially when connected to resources like Denise Blanchette and Maine COLA, which provides the boat trip. It can be a great way to connect the town and the lake association, where in many parts of the state differs significantly in goals and ideals. But, as experienced in Liberty, cohesion between the two groups can occur and give way to new and exciting programs.