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mspigner52

...Do you really want to send your child to Camp Onteora

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On the morning of Fri., July 28th, my husband, myself and my eldest son drove into Camp Onteora to pick up our son Frank, who had just completed five weeks as a volunteer Counselor in Training (CIT) at the camp. My husband has spoken to Chris Wieczkowksi, the CIT Supervisor, earlier in the week, and obtained his acknowledgement that our son would be transported along with his gear, to the Administrative area after breakfast.

 

The following letter, summarizes our interaction with the leadership of that camp during that morning:

 

 

Dear Mr. McLaughlin:

 

As a concerned parent I am writing to you to ask you a simple question: WHAT IS GOING ON AT CAMP ONTEORA? Both my boys have been boy scouts since they were little. Now my oldest is working on his Eagle project and my youngest, who is a second class scout decided to volunteer five weeks of his summer vacation to be a CIT at Camp Onteora. Every year since they were very little they went to Camp Yawgoo in Rhode Island, so this was my first interaction with Camp Onteora.

As a matter of record, my husband, has and continues to been very active with our Troop 71, as a past Troop Committee Chairman and through his organization and participation of many activity functions within the Troop. He, in fact, encouraged my youngest to get involved with the CIT program at Onteora and made a point of going up every Saturday during my sons stay there to take him out for the day and make sure he was have a safe and fun experience.

Contrary to what the Camp claims, it is quite obvious that parents are not welcomed and that converted efforts are made to prevent parents from actually seeing what is going on or have direct uncontrolled access to their children. On the five consecutive weekends that my husband drove the 130 miles from Long Island to Camp Onteora, he was most certainly NOT welcomed when he went to see his son. The camps single access road is spanned by a steel padlocked gate, which prevents access by anyone, other than an individual in possession of a key. Once through the gate, the road is horrible. In fact it is not a road: it is little more than a rocky dirt trail through the woods that is not regularly serviced and traversable by other than emergency vehicles! If there was ever an emergency and a child was in need of medical attention and time was of the essence, you can be sure this camp is NOT prepared to get emergency vehicles in and out. In other words very little money is spent on maintaining the infrastructure of this camp and no consideration is given to the safety of the boys inside.

Now I would like to specifically relate the circumstances of Fri. 7/28, when our family went to pick up our son and why I, as a concerned parent and long-time Scouting parent, am so outraged.

We had planned to pick up Frank early in the morning so that we could take our oldest to visit two colleges while we were upstate. We had appointments to tour Binghamton at 10am, meet with a professor at 1:30 and a tour at Cornell at 3pm. We had a busy day and we wanted to make sure to be on time so we got up a 5am that morning. During the week my husband had spoken to Chris on several occasions over the telephone, requesting that he ensure that our son Frank, along with his belongings, receive transportation to the Admin building. We had received assurances that this would not be a problem. Our son Frank was also reminded to mention this to Chris, as well.

That morning, we called Frank at 8:15 while we were on the road. Frank was ready and waiting at his tent. At 8:30 we called, he was waiting at his tent. We arrived later than we expected at 9:00 no Frank. My husband went to the Admin building and he was told that someone was getting him. We waited, and waited, 9:05, 9:10, 9:15, 9:20. We realized no one was going to get him and since jeeps were coming off the road and the gate was opened we decided to get him ourselves.

Any concerns relevant to our ability to find and pick up Frank, were satisfied by our knowledge that my husband had been instructed to traverse the dirt road in the middle of the night a couple of weekends earlier, by Edward Mallay, who couldnt make himself or his staff available to transport our son by to his site at the conclusion of a days outing off campsite. On another Saturday evening, upon returning to camp with our son, he was not allowed to drive Frank back to his campsite, even though it was 11oclock at night and there was a pouring rain. Rebuffed by Reginald Butts in the administrative office by the remark that his son wouldnt be doing (walking back to his campsite in the dark and in the rain) anything he wouldnt be doing anyway [if my husband wasnt there], my husband drove the 130 miles home with a sickened stomach. Is it really OK for my son to walk in the pitch black in the pouring rain because this is what he would do if my husband was not there? And, in other words, .Im nice and warm in the office so I dont really care if you son lands in ditch because he cant see where he is going in the dark. As I said earlier, rules are variable at Onteora and these policies are most certainly not biased in the direction of our children.

Anyway, we decided to drive up the dirt path and pick Frank up ourselves. We proceeded uneventfully up the dirt road to his tent site. We loaded the car and were about to leave when a large suburban sped up behind us and none other than Edward Mallay, jumps out of the vehicle screaming at the top of his voice that we are criminal transpassers, that we should immediately leave HIS camp, and that we shall never again be permitted back at Camp Onteora. Blocking our ability to return down the road, he ordered my family to drive our minivan through narrow horrendous sections of this dirt trails, only to wind up exacted where we began. All the while, tailgating our vehicle, as if we were going to make a run for it through the woods. Returning to the locked gate, Mallay and Butts pulled in behind our vehicle, locking us in a punitive fashion, between gate and Suburban. Confronting him on his belligerence and abusive behavior, this man claimed to be a police officer, but showed us no badge. He once again ordered us off of HIS land and threatened my husband that if he every saw him outside the camp, he had better watch out; so much for A Boy Scout is courteous Is this the kind of person we want as a role model for our boys? Was this the thanks we got for letting our son volunteer for five weeks?

We left the camp and I questioned my son about some of the things he had observed during his five weeks at the Camp. He related a story of a CIT scout, within the last several weeks, who stole money and belonging from other boys and who went home unreported and undisciplined. I also have personal knowledge of Scouts being taken off the camp site with just a telephone verbal consent. As a teacher, for many years, I can tell you that such a policy is totally unacceptable and puts children at needless and excessive risk.

In conclusion, it would appear that there is a serious issue with Camp Onteora and that it is being run as a private money making operation (400 Scouts per week x $300 x 8 weeks) by a few individuals who seem to make up the rules to suit their own best interests. Although the line counselors that work with the children are dedicated and look after the best interests of the boys, there are serious flaws in the administration of this camp and certain individuals who run it as their own business venture and these need to be looked into.

Safety issues aside, I think that there is a need to audit this facility. Issues relevant o emergency access and managerial/administrative controls, need to be immediately addressed. Where do these monies go? Has this camp ever been audited? Do we really want something terrible to happen to a boy before the camp is looked into?

I hope that this letter is taken seriously and some good comes of it. I am looking forward to hearing from you on this matter. Incidentally, my husband asked for letters of reference for Frank stating the hours he volunteered. They were to be picked up the day we picked him up. They were not ready and to day we have not gotten them.

Thank you for you attention to this matter.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. C. Furio

 

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I may be putting my foot in it but I have a few questions.

 

1) when you called about the time you wanted to pick your son up did you call your son or the camp director? If you called your son I have a problem with that. I have directed our day camp 4 years. Any parent that wanted to pick their child up at a time other than the normal dismissal time had to go through me, not their child.

 

2) I have 400 boys in camp and I am suppose to drop everything and make sure one boy gets to the admin area at a certain time. It might be nice if that COULD have happened but I am dealing with 400 other boys.

 

As far as not having gotten the acknowlegdment for your sons time served. You picked him up on the 28th and it is now the 31st and you haven't gotten the information. Think about it for a second. You are talking about records kept on 3200 boys over the span of the summer.

Two of the boys that went to camp with us they messed up their badge data. They said they would correct it and mail it to us. We went to camp June 18-24. I got it last week. And felt lucky it didn't take longer.

 

I would never have tried to drive to camp and think I was picking up my son at 8:15 and set an appointment to be somewhere else in less than 2 hours. Any time I have picked one of my kids up from camp it always takes at least 2 hrs. Sorry scout camp simply doesn't run on a rigid schedule.

 

 

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Regarding the road I got this form the camp's web site. Seems road work is being done in the area and the camp has made this known. They also acknowledge the condition of the road and urge people to use "high clearance vehicles or 4WD vehicles."

________________________________________

 

Road Detours to OSR for Weeks 2-6

 

Go to exit 96 , exit and go to the end of the exit ramp.

 

Turn LEFT and turn onto DeBruce Rd. Go toward Grooville Rd, which is the normal turn off for camp.

 

USE CAUTION. Use courtesy on this road and all local roads because many residents are using the same detour and the traffic on these roads has increased. There are deer that cross the roads that do not care if you have the right of way, and the local residents walk on the road - there are no sidewalks.

 

 

 

DO NOT USE GROOVILLE RD. OR WHITE ROE LAKE RD. THE TOWN OF ROCKLAND HAS CLOSED ALL PUBLIC ACCESS TO GROOVILLE RD. ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY, CAMP STAFF WILL BE POSTED OUTSIDE THE CAMP GATE TO DIRECT VEHICLES TO THE OLD HUNTER ROAD DETOUR.

 

Follow DEBRUCE RD. for approximately 5.5 miles. The road has been repaired, so use caution on this road.

 

At approximately 5.5 miles , there will be two left turns. The first left turn is Knickerbocker Rd. DO NOT TURN HERE. Go to GOFF RD (which is the second right), and make a left.

 

Take GOFF RD. to the end (2.2 miles), and make a left onto OLD HUNTER RD (unmarked). This is a dirt road.

 

Follow OLD HUNTER RD. for approximately 2.1 miles to the camp main gate. There will be a snowmobile crossing sign before the gate, which will be on the right. Make a right onto the main camp road.

 

It is important to maintain a speed of LESS THAN 10 mph on the camp road coming into camp. While bluestone is being brought in to top the road, many repaired areas are still soft. Low clearance vehicles must use caution. If you are not used to driving on unpaved roads, please consider carpooling with individuals from your units with high clearance vehicles or 4WD vehicles.

 

 

 

 

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Lynda,

 

You are most certainly not putting your foot in your mouth, and I thank you for taking the time to respond to my posting. I will try to address your excellent questions in the order posed.

 

1) when you called about the time you wanted to pick your son up did you call your son or the camp director? If you called your son I have a problem with that. I have directed our day camp 4 years. Any parent that wanted to pick their child up at a time other than the normal dismissal time had to go through me, not their child.

 

I have had fairly regular telephone and one-on-one contact with Chris W. As the Director of CITs at the camp, he is a direct report to Donald Smith (Camp Dir.) and Edward Mallay (Assist. Camp Dir.)

 

2) I have 400 boys in camp and I am suppose to drop everything and make sure one boy gets to the admin area at a certain time. It might be nice if that COULD have happened but I am dealing with 400 other boys.

 

Frank was one of a grand total five CITs, stationed with, eating with and camping with a large contingent of paid staff. What wasnt mentioned in the letter, was that Reg Butts, who sat next to my son at their 7:45am breakfast, had been the one assigned to take my son down to the Admin. Bldg. Staff helping staff. Again, this had been discussed and agreed to days earlier. Butts, who couldnt be bothered to drive his 15 year old, five-week volunteer down to the Admin Bldg., accompanied Mallay in his Suburban, when his boss charged up the road.

 

 

I would never have tried to drive to camp and think I was picking up my son at 8:15 and set an appointment to be somewhere else in less than 2 hours. Any time I have picked one of my kids up from camp it always takes at least 2 hrs. Sorry scout camp simply doesn't run on a rigid schedule.

 

I disagree. I had phone contact with the CIT Director for an hour and a half prior to reaching the camp on his cell phone, as well as several reminder phone calls starting earlier that week.. I was extremely proactive. He and Butts sat in the Admin Bldg. the entire time I waited for my son, all the while telling me that someone had been assigned. Little did I know (until I picked up my son) that Butts was the one who was supposed to be providing the lift.

 

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The posting of the warnings associated with the roads leading to Camp Onteora are accurate. The main access road is impassable at this time; One must use White Roe Road to get to the camp.

 

This is irrelevant to the posting above, however, inasmuch as I am referring to the single, padlocked dirt road which provides the sole access to large numbers of children camping within the woods, that comprise the Camp property.

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Radar O'Reilly calls out "Choppers!"

 

The camp staff pops in a CD of "Suicide is Painless".

 

Yes, it's incoming Helicopter Parents...

 

 

 

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I can only, at this time, reply to the padlocked gate. Our summer camp also has a locked gate just beyond the parking area. Only camp vehicles are allowed inside.

 

During summer camp, the camp ranger pulls trailers to campsites and/or campers carry their gear to their campsites. This is stricly enforced.

 

My older son spent several weeks as as CIT years ago and we complied with the rules of camp. If he had to leave early, he/we had to carry his gear to the parking lot from his campsite. Even if he didn't leave early, when it was time for his 24 hour break (noon Saturday to noon Sunday) we had to help him carry his gear from his quarters to the parking lot. We NEVER showed up at camp just to take our son out for the day and find out how things were going. (now, your son may have had this break time too, but your post sounded like you just showed up to spend a day with him on the weekends).

 

Camp vehicles were only scheduled to pull troops out from their campsites on closing day. ALL Staff was left to handle their gear themselves.

 

And, I believe, if a staffer (or CIT) is leaving early, then they SHOULD have to fend for themselves. You should have left your vehicle where you were supposed to and walked to your son's campsite and helped him carry his gear out if you were asking for him to leave early.

 

 

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"The following is the URL for the bios of Camp Onteora's leadership.

I repeat my earlier question, 'ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN AT CAMP ONTEORA?"

 

I looked at the website and I don't understand what your point is. All I see are photographs of two gentlemen and their brief bio, which look remarkably like the bios of any of us.

 

From what you wrote, the main issue seems to be that a staffer did not provide a ride for your son from his campsite to the parking lot in order to meet YOUR schedule. Based on that, your reaction appears to be way out of line. If you were treated rudely, perhaps it was in reaction to your demanding and critical attitude. Scouters are human, too.

 

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I too saw nothing wrong with the biographies of the camp leaders. Seem like dedicated, veteran Sscouters to me. It seems there was a little over reaction on both sides of this coin.

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I also looked at the bios and see nothing out of line. I can tell you that, as someone who worked for many years on staff and in administrative positions at camps, there is far more work to be done than may meet the eye. Those people were likely too busy to keep track of the special scheduling desires of one boy in the minute-to-miute fashion you may have liked. And I'm in agreement that it would have been better for you to have walked back to your son's site (particularly given the condition of the roads as you describe them - your poor car!). But I also know, from my own experience, that having people wander around the camp grounds (from the perspective of the staff - not yours) is problematic; although you know what you're doing there, most of the camp staff does not and so you may become, unwittingly, a disruption or even a safety concern to the entire camp. Having visitors driving where they aren't supposed to can also be a danger to the other campers, who may not be expecting to have cars in camp to watch out for.

 

In the end it sounds as though the camp administrators may not have treated you with the kind of courtesy one would expect, and that's not acceptable. There are also some people who should really never be camp directors because they lack the interpersonal skills and I suppose it is possible that applies in this case too. But - again from my experience - they were probably harried by the thousand other things they needed to keep tabs on that day, more important in their "big picture" of safety and program demands than whether or not your son had a ride through camp to accomodate his special schedule, and it does not sound as though your approach to the situation was particularly helpful either, I'm sorry to say.

 

 

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I tend to agree with scoutldr.

 

Without replying to the original post, I'd like to point out that this year, new legislation went into effect in our state regulating youth camps. Among various new procedures designed to ensure camper safety, is the requirement that ALL adults must register with camp administration immediately upon arrival, even if they are only parents just dropping off some dry socks for Billy.

 

 

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I don't know if it's a law in my state, but all of our council camps for years have had signage clearly posted that requires ALL visitors to check in at the camp office upon arrival.

 

Why in the world would Mom and Dad need to drop off dry socks for Billy? Can't he just hand wash (if necessary) his wet/dirty ones and hang them on a clothesline or inside his tent to dry? Maybe he'll learn to pack more socks next time around. Methinks the parents should stay home.

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Kevin will be doing Staff Training at camp this coming summer. He will be there 6 weeks. I plan on going up when I take him, once during and when I pick him up. And believe me I won't expect the camp staff to operate the last day of camp on MY schedule. I also will sign in when I get there and sign in when I leave. I will also be more than willing to help where I can when I go to visit. And show my training cards. One other thing. I also accept the fact that when a Scout goes and acts as Staff. They have responsibilites to the campers. If Kevin has to do things the last day of camp as part of checking the campers out that is part of the job he signed up for. And he will complete those responsibilities.

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Qoute:

 

"...Is it really OK for my son to walk in the pitch black in the pouring rain because this is what he would do if my husband was not there? And, in other words, .Im nice and warm in the office so I dont really care if you son lands in ditch because he cant see where he is going in the dark..."

 

No raingear or a flashlight? Essential eqipment when camping! After all, no streetlights in the woods.

 

"Be Prepared"

 

Seem to have heard that somewhere before...

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