Millstone 4-H Camp, in Ellerbe, is one of only two 4-H camps in North Carolina spared from closure. Earlier this week, it was announced that the other four camps in the state would close by the end of the year.
Closing the facilities is a financial decision for the state.
“As I understand it, Millstone and the Eastern Center were the only two camps that weren’t in the red,” said Laura Grier, Richmond County’s extension agent for the 4-H youth development. “Those two were the ones that were actually bringing in money.”
The four facilities to shut down had a combined deficit of nearly a half million dollars, according to published reports.
Millstone 4-H Camp was established in 1939, and it was once a site where granite was quarried by hand to provide grinding stones for mills located in the Piedmont area. The camp offers traditional camping programs for youth ages 5 to 19 along with specialty programs including environmental science adventures, horsemanship camp and shooting facilities.
“I am very happy to hear that Millstone will be left open along with the Eastern Center, but it is sad that these facilities are closing down,” Grier said. “Camping is a large part of 4-H training. Richmond County 4-H Youth Development serves and extends its educational opportunities to over 1,500 Richmond County youth a year, through community clubs, school enrichment, after school and summer day camp programs.”
Many of the camps the state is closing have had upgrades and renovations in recent years, including Millstone — which had its kitchen and cabins updated along with bathrooms and showers added to each cabin.
“A number of factors go into why a camp may make more money than another,” Grier said. “For example, Betsy-Jeff Penn Center is fully staff whereas Millstone is not.”
Youth will be affected by the closing of these camps because the only two camps left open will have a hard time trying to accommodate all the campers during the summer time, Grier said. Grier hopes it won’t come down to deciding who can go and who can’t.
“Richmond County had 17 kids at this year’s camp,” Grier said. “But we usually camp with Robeson County as well as Chatham County. Between just the three of us we usually fill up the camp.”
Every year, 4-H hosts one week of camp where kids can get the traditional camping experience — staying in cabins, getting to know the outdoors, activities galore and having the chance to gain some independence.
Shea Ann DeJarnette, Robeson County’s extension agent, said that there are around 140 kids from the surrounding area that go to camp every summer for the one week. DeJarnette said that everything is still up in the air as far as what to do, but they are hoping the remaining facilities will be able to expand their summer time to accommodate the children.
DeJarnette said the camping experience is incredibly important to a child’s life.
“I remember my own experience, and it affected me profoundly,” DeJarnette said. “You learn how to stand up on your own and take responsibility for your actions and choices. Mom and dad aren’t there to tell you what to do, so it is the first step away from home and first step towards independence.”
Grier agreed with DeJarnette of all the benefits a child receives from camping and both — while saddened by the closing of the facilities — will do all they can to create the same wonderful camp experience for children next summer.