Facility Profile - March 2011
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Camps: A Welcome Respite

Camp Colley in Phoenix, Ariz.

By Dawn Klingensmith

These days, children in Arizona have no shortage of camps to choose from, Spellman conceded. And many, like Camp Colley, have an environmental education component, along with outdoor recreation. But such camps are prohibitively expensive for many families. "Jim felt we should have a place to take kids where they could have these experiences and not pay a dime," Spellman said.

Camp Colley occasionally opens up to the general public for "family camping weekends," each centered on an activity such as horseback riding, kayaking, hiking and enjoying the fall foliage, and exploring the nearby fire towers under a ranger's supervision.

"Year after year, they fill up instantly, which shows us that families are looking for opportunities to go out in nature," Spellman said, adding that participants are charged just enough to cover "hard costs."

Spellman does not necessarily like to see repeat customers, as the goal is to teach families how to brave the great outdoors on their own.

It worked for Holly Hunter, who bought her own equipment and became an avid camper after taking her two youngest children to Camp Colley several years ago. She says the experience helped her overcome the "intimidation factor" she felt as a novice camper and showed her kids there's more to life than video games. In fact, her kids had so much fun that they cried when it was time to go home.

"They absolutely love the outdoors now," Hunter said, "and I give complete credit to Camp Colley."

Despite its successes, Camp Colley was nearly closed recently due to budget cuts. Fortunately, the Camp Colley Foundation came through with funding so the camp will continue to operate. The mayor of Phoenix presented the foundation with a "More with Less" award for its ability to achieve positive outcomes using fewer resources.

For the past two years, the foundation has been the largest contributor of operating funds to keep Camp Colley open. The foundation committed $160,000 in funds to the city, which has ongoing budget woes, for fiscal year 2009-10, and $120,000 for fiscal year 2010-11.

So though they may never see "rain deer" or "chipmimes," pint-size city slickers will still have a chance to skip stones, stoke a campfire and wish on a shooting star.


Camp Colley: www.campcolley.org

Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department: www.phoenix.gov