Massachusetts camp operators, parents, and children hoping for a fresh-air respite this summer got a long-awaited bit of good news on Thursday, as Governor Charlie Baker announced that both overnight and day camp programs will be allowed to open this year.
The news, part of a broader reopening plan laid out by the administration, follows a year of uncertainty for camps across the state. Overnight programs were not allowed to operate in 2020, and many day programs were significantly curtailed to comply with regulations put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, with signs that the crisis is easing, and a year of industry experience operating elsewhere under increased public health restrictions, camp operators welcomed Baker’s announcement.
“Confidence has now been bolstered for resident camps to be able to effectively register their families, to plan for summer operations, to make the decisions necessary and the investments necessary to reopen their doors for the summer,” said Matt Scholl of the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA camps, and president of the Massachusetts Camping Association.
Camp operators and families had been growing increasingly impatient as the season drew nearer without a clear answer on what kinds of programs would be able to operate.
Scholl said the information released Thursday helps with planning, but camps still need more details about what the state public health protocols will be — and soon.
Such decisions will determine how many campers each program can accept, what supplies and equipment camps need to gather for safety, and how many staffers they will require.
The state public health department did not immediately respond to a request for information about the regulations.
State Senator Adam G. Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat whose district includes many of the state’s camps, said operators have told him that they ideally would like to know what will be required of them by the beginning of March, which is Monday.
The registration season for summer programs would normally be well underway. Overnight camps, in particular, are concerned about permanently losing families to camps in nearby states that were allowed to open last year.
“Camps have always said that once they have the green light to go ahead, and clear guidance on what is required to achieve that green light, then they will be able to meet that,” Hinds said. “The important step is having that clarity, and having that on-ramp, so that when people are making decisions about the summer — which is now — they are able to understand where they can send their children.”