3:00pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

Junior Conservation Camp got it right

FAIRPLAIN, W.Va. — I rolled into Cedar Lakes last week hoping I wasn’t too late. I was on the grounds to pickup my daughter from Junior Conservation Camp where she’d spent a week with no contact with us. I walked in on the middle of the closing ceremony, but in time to see her presented with her awards and to watch the camp slide show.

Savannah is 12 and for the first time expressed a desire back in the winter to go to camp this summer. Initially she wanted to go to a dude ranch in the western United States for the ENTIRE summer. I shared her desire since I watched a lot of really cool movies growing up where kids spent a summer ropin’ and ridin’. However, Daddy’s not made of money.  Plus I’m starting to realize she’s growing up and in the not too distant future, she’ll be gone EVERY summer.  I don’t want to rush those days.  I suggested church camp, but she didn’t seem interested.  I researched a little and found the Junior Conservation Camp. It seemed to peak her interest.

She saved enough money through various chores and gifts to pay the entire cost herself.  I signed her up.

I admit I had reservations. The camp is run by the Department of Environmental Protection. Any time I see the words “environmental protection” and “youth education” in the same sentence, my radar goes up. I feared having to unteach a load of propaganda and extreme left wing radicalism when she returned. I worried for next summer’s adventure she’d want to go chain herself to a bulldozer to halt the progress of something in defense of a ground mole or a supposedly endangered strain of minnow.

Thankfully, as usual, my fears were vastly overblown. I realized it had been a positive experience from the non-stop chatter on the way home. Some of that may have been fueled by the sweet tea from McDonald’s she craved as we pulled onto the interstate.

During her four days at Cedar Lakes she had learned about earthworms, trapping, fur hides, and turtles.  She was able to go fishing, swimming, and demonstrated her prowess with a .22 rifle in the camp shooting range. She’d regaled me with tree identification skills and we played “name that tree” all the way home. She explained the finer aspects of geocacheing . She also told me there were several cute boys in her “whitetail deer” group. I ignored that statement and turned the conversation back to butternut hickory and white oak leaves.

The folks at DEP did it right. I could tell from her stories the education had been solid information. She’d been exposed to the truth. The curriculum at Conservation Camp was one which clearly stressed a need for protecting our environment and striving for clean water and air. However, the lessons weren’t taught with the automatic assumption man and progress were the root of all environmental evils. Savannah seemed to understand instead of standing on the outside looking into nature, with no option other than causing problems, man is in fact a part of nature. Our presence isn’t detrimental, but actually an important part of the ecosystem.

She learned the merits of hunting, trapping, and fishing.  She was shown how to effectively enjoy the outdoors and all the many natural wonders we are blessed with in West Virginia. She was taught about “conservation” rather than “preservation.” There’s a huge difference in those two attitudes toward our natural environment.

I’m glad she had a good time. I hope she’ll return next year and for many summers to come. She’s better for the experience and so are the rest of the West Virginia kids who were there. Next year, I won’t be so worried. Well, at least not about the camp curriculum. The “cute guys” in her group is another matter.

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