According to a recent study, the annual total economic impact of camps in Western North Carolina on the area’s economy is $365 million in both direct and indirect spending.
On Thursday, two speakers gave an overview of the study’s findings and how camps are making an impact in youth development during a seminar held at the Mountain Lodge. The study was funded through a partnership between the N.C. Youth Camp Association and the American Camp Association and was researched by North Carolina State University.
There are 50 camps between Henderson, Transylvania, Buncombe and Jackson counties, with the majority in Henderson and Transylvania. The study found a 25 percent growth in the number of campers over the past 10 years.
Each year, new tax revenues of $33 million are produced because of camps and 10,335 full-time equivalent jobs are created in those four counties beyond camp staff, according to the study. Strayhorn said five issues “threaten the camping industry:” school calendars, building codes, urban growth, taxes and public land permits.
The study was a year-long endeavor, and the findings will be posted on the Youth Camp Association’s website, nccamps.org, in the next few weeks.
Steve Baskin, national board member of the American Camp Association and owner of Camp Champions in Marble Falls, Texas, addressed the crowd, saying, “Camp is the single most powerful source of youth development other than parents.”
“Summer camp is formative and powerful,” he added.
Baskin addressed how camps have not been very good in communicating the benefits to outsiders. He stated that three studies — two done by the American Camp Association, one in 2005 and one in 2006 — and then a third done at Baskin’s camp and outdoor school show camps “build positive identity, physical and thinking skills, social skills and positive values.”
“Camps are even more relevant now,” Baskin said. “I argue this for two reasons. One is obesity and the second is the over-dependence on technology.”
Baskin argued camps help provide healthy alternatives to unhealthy eating habits and the lack of physical activity. Camps also cut out the technology, having kids give up cell phones, computers and televisions to interact with fellow camp-goers.
“It’s not about what we do,” Baskin said. “It’s who we are.”