Study: Western North Carolina camps crucial to kids, economy

January 18th, 2011

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,, 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.”

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Jane Murray Named NC Youth Camp Association’s Executive Director

September 20th, 2010

jmurrayJane Cox Murray has been named Executive Director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, a trade association representing youth-serving camps throughout North Carolina.  She replaces Chuck McGrady who is leaving to become a member of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Jane owns Carolina Creative Services, a marketing communications company serving clients across a wide range of fields including nonprofits, retail, architecture, retirement communities, historic attractions and museums, real estate, galleries, retreat centers, law offices and foundations.

Jane Murray brings broad experience to this position. Jane has experience in camping, and has worked with a range of nonprofits. Our board was impressed with her vision for how we can continue to grow the Association and provide benefit to our camp and business members.”

Jane grew up in camping, first as a camper at Camp Kanuga and then at Camp Ton-A-Wandah, where she spent a little more than a decade as a camper and counselor.  Her immediate family has been campers and counselors at several of the camps in western North Carolina, including Gwynn Valley Camp, Camp Pinnacle, Camp Rockmont, Camp Henry and Falling Creek Camp.

Murray is a native North Carolinian, born in Winston-Salem. She grew up in Columbia, SC. Jane has worked in various aspects of leadership and marketing for historic properties, festivals, attractions, and various nonprofit organizations and businesses. Her work in South Carolina included positions with Historic Columbia Foundation, Columbia Action Council, and the Children’s Trust Fund of South Carolina.

Upon moving to Black Mountain, North Carolina in 1993, Jane workedin the marketing department of Biltmore Estate as Creative Services manager until she left in 2000 to start her own business.

Murray serves on the vestry of St. James Episcopal Church in Black Mountain and as vice-chair of the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce marketing council. She is a past president of the Junior League of Asheville and has served on the boards of various nonprofits, including The Health Adventure in Asheville and the Public Relations Association of Western NC. Jane lives in Black Mountain with her two sons, James (11) and Thompson (5).

Adam Boyd, director of Camps Merri-Mac and Timberlake, chaired the NCYCA’s Executive Director Search Committee. Boyd said there was a strong group of candidates for the executive director position, but Jane Murray stood out. “Jane has broad experience in marketing, communications and nonprofit leadership. She also understands because of her own camp experiences how important a role summer camp can play in the life of a child.”

The North Carolina Youth Camp Association was formed in 2009 to expand public understanding of summer camps in North Carolina and to represent their interests with local, state, and federal policymakers.

To date, 34 summer camps have joined the association, and 17 businesses that work with the summer camps have joined as business members.

The Association is working with NC State University on a study of the economic impacts of the summer camps in Buncombe, Henderson, Jackson and Transylvania counties.  The study is expected to be completed early in 2011, and is an update of an earlier study which showed the summer camps had an economic impact of nearly $100 million in the four county region.

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Update – Forest Service Proposed Temporary Use Permits for the Nantahala River

September 10th, 2010

Update -  Forest Service Proposed Temporary Use Permits for the Nantahala River 

Representatives of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association met with several Nantahala River outfitter guides just prior to the expiration of the comment period on the Forest Service’s proposal to issue temporary use permits to camps, school groups and other organizational users of the Nantahala River.  The hope is that the summer camps and the outfitter guides may jointly propose a solution to the recent impasse over summer camps access to the river for kayaking, canoeing, and rafting.    

The Forest Service extended the comment period on its proposal to September 17 from September 10.  No reason for the extension was given.

The Association gave conditional support to the temporary use permit proposal in its comments on the Forest Service proposal.   While supportive of the proposal because it would allow summer camps that currently do not have a permit to get one, the Association felt that restrictions on the number of boats and on the time a camp could stay on the river did not reflect the camps’ current usage.

“The Forest Service’s proposal is a step in the right direction,” said Chuck McGrady, the Association’s Executive Director.  “However, there are a number of ways that summer camps might regain their historical access to the river, and we’re open to discuss any proposals that might treat all summer camps the same.”

Three NCYCA summer camps - Camp Rockbrook, Eagles’ Nest Camp, and Camp Highlander – currently have permits which date back to when the current permit system was instituted in the 1980’s.  The majority of summer camps that use the river, however, do not have permits and currently have to use an outfitter guide to get access for their paddling programs.

Senator Richard Burr’s office has been working with the Association to reach an equitable solution to the river access issue.  The Forest Service has indicated that any new user permits would be issued early next year.

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Chuck McGrady goes to Raleigh!

August 10th, 2010

Our own, Chuck McGrady, will join the North Carolina General Assembly as one of its freshman members when it convenes on January 26, 2011.   He is currently a Henderson County Commissioner, but qualified for the legislative position and drew no opposition.  Thus, his election is virtually assured.

Having been Falling Creek Camp’s owner and director for the better part of twenty years and been active in the camp community and with the American Camp Association on public policy issues, McGrady says he expects to remain interested in issues which affect summer camps.

“I’m interested in working on a better school calendar law and also understand how building and health codes sometimes don’t allow camps to operate in the manner they’ve operated for decades.  While I’m going to miss working with the Association, I suspect I’ll be more valuable to the summer camps by being in the General Assembly than I can be working as their lobbyist.”

McGrady is a long-time environmental advocate who has worked on a variety of public lands issues.  These issues are likely to also be of interest to the camp community.

McGrady has always pressed the summer camps to be involved in influencing public policy and that it will be really good to have someone with his background representing Henderson County, the home to many summer camps.

McGrady is not the first summer camp director to serve in the General Assembly.  Former Keystone Camp owner and director, Bill Ives, served from 1992-1998, representing Transylvania County, another county that has many summer camps.

NCYCA is currently in the process of searching out another Executive Director to fill McGrady’s position by late summer/ early fall.

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Phase I of Economic Impact Study Nearing Completion

April 15th, 2010

The beginning phase of the Economic Impact Study for resident camps in western North Carolina is nearing completion.  After our research team from NC State distributed the first set of surveys to the directors of camps located in the the four county study region (Buncombe, Henderson, Jackson and Transylvania counties), they have collected data from over 75% of those camps polled.  This participation surpasses the previous EIS performed in 1998. 

The EIS is examining and quantifying the contribution summer camps make to the economies of western North Carolina. The next phases of the study will take place during and following the summer camp sessions. The research team will distribute surveys to the parents of camp children and camp staff members. The study will be completed in early 2011.

Hats off! to all camp directors who completed these surveys.  We understand this was not an easy task, and we thank you for your time and efforts. Without your camps’ individual information, we would not be able to compile this valuable study.

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March 1st, 2010
In partnership with the North Carolina Youth Camp Association and the American Camp Association, researchers at North Carolina State University have begun an economic impact study of summer camps in Western North Carolina. A similar study in 1998 showed camps in Buncombe, Jackson, Henderson and Transylvania counties generated nearly 100 million dollars for local communities. The new study will reflect current economic conditions and measure the economic importance of summer camps in the four-county region.  

Dr. Michelle Gacio Harrolle and Dr. Samantha Rozier-Rich of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management at NC State University are leading the research. The study is collecting and tabulating the local economic activity of summer camps’ direct impact, as well as that of their employees and camper families who visit the area each summer. A final report will be presented in January 2011.

“We are confident the study will confirm what most business and community leaders already know: summer camps are vital to the economy of Western North Carolina. We want to provide actual data as evidence to community leaders, business leaders and elected officials,” said Chuck McGrady, Executive Director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association.

Western North Carolina has one of the highest concentrations of organized camps in the United States. Erica Rohrbacher, the American Camp Association’s Southeastern Section Executive Director noted that this study will be invaluable to the camp community “There are approximately 55 summer camps in the four county area and we hope to get all of them to participate.”

The American Camp Association works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. This is accomplished through the only nationwide accreditation program, through professional development, and through public awareness programs and public policy monitoring. ACA-accredited camp programs ensure children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACAaccredited camps that meet up to 300 health and safety standards nationwide.

The North Carolina Youth Camp Association is a trade association formed by North Carolina summer camps to expand public understanding of youth camps and to represent their interests with local, state and federal policymakers. The Association seeks to strengthen and expand the educational, environmental and recreational opportunities provided by North Carolina’s camps.

Chuck McGrady (828) 692-3696

Erica Rohrbacher (919) 402-4336

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January 22nd, 2010

Over twenty North Carolina summer camps have formed a trade association to expand public understanding of their industry and to represent their interests with local, state, and federal policymakers.   The North Carolina Youth Camp Association seeks to strengthen and expand the educational, environmental and recreational opportunities provided by North Carolina’s camps.  The Association will encourage cooperation among camps, sponsor camp-specific research, communicate camp industry information, and build relationships with various private, non-profit, public, and governmental agencies.

North Carolina is home to many of the most respected summer camps in the country. In the three-county area of Buncombe, Transylvania, and Henderson counties alone, there are over 55 camps. These camps include residential camps, day camps, camps associated with non-profit agencies, in addition to travel camps. They represent camp families from every state in the union and have a significant impact on the economy of the region.

“The initial twenty-two camps formed the Association to work together on public policy issues, marketing, and professional development, and our association will educate the public on the value of summer camp and show how North Carolina’s youth camps provide children with the skills they’ll need as adults. We expect to grow to over forty camps this year alone.”

The Association is being formed at a time when summer youth camps are facing a wide range of challenges.   Changing school calendars have condensed summers, primarily in the southern states, and have made it more difficult to operate financially.   Public lands for paddling, biking and camping which were once freely available are sometimes no longer available to organized camping.   Building codes require camps to construct buildings which are more like motel rooms and restaurants than camp cabins and dining halls.

The NCYCA will be a source of information for parents about North Carolina’s camps and will also be the voice of these camps with local officials, in Congress and the state capitol.   It will also keep camp directors abreast of the public policy issues affecting their camps.

The Association has a Board of Directors made up of camp directors representing a variety of summer camps—boys camps, girls camps, coed camps, non-profit and for-profit camps, and camps associated with agencies.   The Association will operate as a 501c (6) organization—a trade organization.

The Association’s Board of Directors named Chuck McGrady as its Executive Director.  McGrady is a former camp owner and director of Falling Creek Camp, a boys camp in Tuxedo, NC.  He has been actively engaged in public policy and advocacy for decades and currently is a Henderson County Commissioner.

McGrady has also been active in camping nationally. He served on the national boards of the American Camp Association and the Association of Independent Camps, working primarily on public policy and legislative issues.

McGrady is a former national president of the Sierra Club, currently is a trustee of the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and has served on numerous nonprofit boards.

“North Carolina’s youth camps provide life skills for their campers and economic benefits to their communities.  My job will be to educate public officials on the value of these camps, and the Association will be an advocate for them in Congress and North Carolina General Assembly,” said McGrady.   “I’ve been lucky to grow up in camping and raise my family at a summer camp that I operated.   I’m thrilled to be back in camping in this capacity.”

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