Updated May 12, 2020

Dear White Pine Community,

I hope that you and your family are safe and finding small moments to enjoy the outdoors during these uncertain times.

While we have become comfortable with the flow of our days, we are all questioning what the next few months may look like. At home and at White Pine we are doing the best we can with the information we have. Based on the Governor Mill’s “Stay Safer at Home” Order, which outlines a phased approach to opening businesses in Maine, we have made the difficult decision to continue our pause of in-person programming at White Pine through the end of the spring session.  We recognize that this is disappointing for many and heart-breaking for others, especially those who are aging out of programs this spring.

While Distance Nature Connection is not the same as spending time together, we do hope your family is finding our calls and resources valuable. In the coming weeks, we will continue to diversify our distance connection offerings with new non-screen activities and challenges.

With White Pine Summer Camp due to start just over two months from now, I’d like to provide an update on our planning process. As you might imagine, we are doing the best we can with the constantly changing recommendations around COVID-19. However, I feel that it is critical to be as transparent with you as possible, as we all need time to plan ahead.

As mentioned, Maine’s Governor, Janet Mills, has established a phased approach for opening our state up for business. Day camps are allowed to open in Phase 2, which begins June 1.  Currently, only Maine residents and those who have quarantined for 14 days within the state of Maine can attend Maine day camps In addition, Weeks 1 – 4 of our camps are all located on public lands; currently, these lands are closed for use.  The Town of York has announced a June 30 re-opening; however details regarding use are still unclear. 

While day camp-specific guidelines have not been released by the state, there are some guidelines that all organizations that open will have to follow when opening. For White Pine, they will undoubtedly introduce some changes into our check-in policy and hygiene practices through the day. 

With all that in mind, we are looking at how White Pine can deliver a fun and enriching Summer Camp experience by working on a plan that considers as many factors as possible.  Camp is unlikely to look exactly how it has in the past.  The safety of our campers and staff has been, and will continue to be, a primary focus at White Pine.  The situation is forcing us to get creative.  Some changes we are considering include:
  • Temperature check-ins with parents to ensure no signs of illness;
  • Hand washing stations;
  • Wearing masks throughout the day; 
  • Extended days rather than overnights;
  • Consolidation of locations and possibly of camp weeks; and
  • Additional waivers to confirm quarantine, if still required. 
Understanding that not everyone will be able to participate in an in-person Summer Camp, we are planning for other alternatives. This might include a virtual Summer Camp incorporating online, written and independent activities. It might also include Summer Camp “in a box” for a technology-free, self-led model.  While these options are certainly not ideal, they would provide campers with structured nature connection time and enable the continued development of naturalist and survival skills.

Last but not least, I’d like to address the issue of Summer Camp refunds and/or credits.  To be clear, we have not cancelled Summer Camp at this time and, like many non-profits and small businesses, White Pine is in a fragile financial state.  To minimize cash flow out of the organization, we are asking two things of our community.  First, we ask that you hold off on cancelling your child’s Camp registration until we have determined what kind of Camp we can host this summer. Second, if you do choose to cancel, please consider donating some or all of your registration fee (which will then follow the normal course and benefits of a charitable donation for tax purposes) to help continue White Pine’s legacy to future years. Our insurance does not cover for losses associated with pandemics. As a result, should we have to return a significant portion of our collected registration fees, the future of White Pine will be in danger. 

We recognize that donating some or all of the registration fee is not an option for every family and will happily take requests for refunds or credit toward a future program. A process will be established in the next few weeks to handle these requests. 

I will be reaching out again by the end of May; we are committed to keeping you informed. We invite you to communicate with us if you have concerns, questions or ideas.

Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to deliver a safe and valuable Summer Camp experience even under these unusual circumstances. 

Thank you again for being part of the White Pine community. I wish you all well and look forward to a time when we can connect in person.  

With Gratitude,

Heather With Gratitude,

Heather Campbell

Heather Campbell Executive Director, White Pine Programs