Camp Update – 2001

Infrastructure Watch

Large strides toward facility safety, working-boat longevity, and camper comfort were accomplished during 2000. A very generous private donation allowed for the electrical rewiring of the Bridge and the Fish House, necessary to bring those two buildings up to industry code.

An eleventh hour anonymous donation of $5,000 proved extremely valuable toward salvage and life extension work of the Osprey, our principal maintenance vessel. Barring any insurance complications, the Osprey may now enjoy one more year of work and possibly more.

In an effort to make the camp experience somewhat more convenient for those assigned to the Porthole, new bathroom facilities were installed on each floor. Consisting of two shower stalls and two toilets on each floor, the bathrooms drew rave reviews on camper evaluations. Indeed, favorable comments on the Porthole bathrooms were second only to the perennial camper favorite — Janii’s food!

Upon first glance, the view from the mainland Visitor Center’s glass doors toward the island is easy on the eyes. However, as many of you have remarked upon recent visits to the island, there is much work to do. Cosmetic coats of exterior paint would help the Bridge as well as trim on other buildings, ageing gangway rails and floats could use a boost, and the various flower beds and gardens could use some tender loving care. These easy-to-see items are reaching the point where attention is necessary.

The attention given to island as well as mainland facilities under the new management of Maine Audubon Society’s Management and Grounds Department has the entire facility moving in the right direction.

And, more importantly, there are some critical projects pressing ever so closely to the top of the priority list such that they can no longer be delayed. In the next year, we plan to address the foundations of the Binnacle and possibly the Bridge. The roofs of the Foc’s’cle and Binnacle must be repaired or replaced. As always, these crucial projects must be carefully and seasonally planned, timed with a sensitivity to the vagaries of weather and the press of an approaching season.

I am delighted to report that the attention given to island as well as mainland facilities under the new management of Maine Audubon Society’s Management and Grounds Department has the entire facility moving in the right direction. Private donations for specific projects or gifts for general use would be very much appreciated.

Summer 2001 Camp Highlights

Maintenance Department

  • New deck added to mainland visitor center
  • Deck replaced on the Helm (staff residence)
  • Upgraded mainland visitor center store interior
  • Upgraded caretaker residence interior and exterior
  • Construction of dumpster enclosure on mainland
  • Construction of Zelvin, maintenance apparatus for grinder pumps
  • New roof on Binnacle (staff residence)

Waterfront

  • Donation of Archer, new 14′ aluminum maintenance boat and motor
  • New fiberglass deck for Osprey (maintenance boat)
  • Sold out-of-service Puffin III (old program boat)

Program

  • 95% camper enrollment during July and August
  • Expanded scholarship allocations
  • Highest tally of hours of volunteer effort in recent history
  • Expanded mainland summer programs
  • Addition of Nature Literature and Journaling session
  • Half-day and day-long kayak explorations added
  • Friends of Hog Island work/study session

Special Events

  • Hosted Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group annual orientation
  • Hosted Midcoast AS Chapter annual dinner
  • Visited by National Audubon’s 2020 centers administrative team
  • Hosted opening event of Maine Audubon’s strategic planning process
  • Featured on CBS radio’s Osgood Files: “An Audio Portrait of Camp”
  • Benefited by hosting Maine Audubon’s all-staff work day

A Joint Commitment

Our visits to Hog Island last summer allowed us to see the spirit of the ecological teaching and learning going on there (not to mention just plain good times!). Camp director Seth Benz and his staff had another successful season. Comments from campers about the quality of the experience on Hog Island continue to be positive and supportive.

Remember the good times you had, share them with others, and plan either to return for a refresher yourself or find a friend to take your place!

Since the mid-1930s, Hog Island has provided an extraordinary natural setting for immersing people in the natural history and beauty of the Maine coast. Despite changing leadership, curricula, and needs at the camp, a major aim has always been to provide campers with a wonderful exposure to the outdoors so as to allow them to understand the ecological principles guiding the conservation aims of both the National Audubon Society and the Maine Audubon Society: the Audubon Cause.

The past year has been a productive period of interaction between the Maine Audubon Society and the Friends of Hog Island, aimed at assuring continuation of the tradition of environmental education at the Camp. Maine Audubon is committed to the Audubon Camp on Hog Island and plans a substantial development campaign including improvements to the Camp, as soon as the new executive director of MAS is installed. As MAS undergoes changes in leadership, the assistance of FOHI will be all the more important in keeping friends aware of the ways the Camp can benefit from our support.

Bill Hancock, Maine Audubon’s Environmental Centers director, with Seth Benz, has created an exciting schedule of residential and expedition camps for next summer. Filling each and every space for each session is vitally important, so please spread the word near and far. Remember the good times you had, share them with others, and plan either to return for a refresher yourself or find a friend to take your place! Your support and enthusiasm will help create opportunities for others. It can be a life-changing experience to spend time on Hog Island. We are all working to make sure that tradition continues!

FOHI’s Continuing Mission

Over the winter of 1999-2000, the Friends of Hog Island accomplished a few important steps toward our aim of furthering interest among alumni and friends for support of the Audubon Camp in Maine. Hard-working volunteers progressed with development of a FOHI web-site, produced the Across the Narrows newsletter, developed a brochure regarding alumni and development issues of FOHI to distribute to “graduating” campers, updated the address list (now over 1400 entries), and began plans for the July 22-24, 2000 annual FOHI meeting at Hog Island.

The Audubon Camp needs our support, not only in a general, philosophical way, but in concrete ways as well.

Of course, the biggest development of the season has been the evolution of the relationship between the National Audubon Society and the Maine Audubon Society, and the changes in administration and support of the camp brought about by their now “seamless” organization. Personally, I am supportive of the process so far, and excited about the opportunities their merger will provide for growth and productivity of the camp. With the cooperation that is developing between FOHI and the Maine Audubon Society, I am confident that FOHI will grow in such a way as to coordinate its efforts in alumni communication and development with parallel efforts underway in Maine.

The Audubon Camp needs our support, not only in a general, philosophical way, but in concrete ways as well. We have lots of opportunities to discover how we all can lend a hand to helping the camp and its staff into the next millenium.

Hog Island Camp Transferred to Maine Audubon

A new chapter in the history of the Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island began in September, 1999, when National Audubon Society conferred responsibility for operating the camp to the Maine Audubon Society.

The camp program has been partly responsible for the grooming of some of the nation’s finest ornithological, natural history, and environmental educators and leaders.

The state Audubon’s staff and resources will now be available to assist in planning, budgeting, marketing, registering, accounting, and fund raising for the popular educational summer camp.

As a first step, Maine Audubon hired Seth Benz, the camp’s director last summer, to begin work immediately coordinating plans for the summer 2000 season.

Maine Audubon also invited Dick Chamberlain, a consultant on camp operations nationwide, to provide an assessment of the facilities and program at Hog Island. A study is currently underway to determine the feasibility of a capital campaign that could help assure the camp’s financial viability for many years to come.

The transfer of responsibility for the camp from National Audubon to Maine Audubon is part of a larger mandate set out in NAS’s strategic plan that calls for the creation of a nationwide system of state Audubon Society offices. To date, offices in some 23 states have been established. Maine may soon become an integral part of that plan.

Although the broader details of the affiliation between NAS and MAS are still being worked out, the two Audubons are well matched to combine efforts. Nearly a century ago, at a time when the National Audubon Society was itself in its formative years, the seeds of Maine Audubon Society were sown by the merger of the well-established Portland Society of Natural History and the younger Maine Ornithological and Cumberland County Audubon societies.

The protection of “all non-game birds, nests, and eggs” was very much the focus of NAS, and Maine was a perfect case study of the problem. Colonies of gulls, terns, and other seabirds were being decimated by plume hunters for the millinery trade.

Maine Audubon, in like spirit, stated that “the goals of (its) organization were both to discourage the destruction of birds and to encourage an interest in birds and the study of natural history.” Its founders set forth a dual emphasis on advocacy and education that still characterizes Maine Audubon to this day.

Steeped in the storied history of Hog Island is the well-proven similarity of purpose that makes the camp a good fit with Maine Audubon. The camp program at Hog Island has been partly responsible for the grooming of some of the nation’s finest ornithological, natural history, and environmental educators and leaders. It has provided inspiration and ongoing support that has led to the return of the Atlantic Puffin, as well as the restoration of critical island habitat for terns and other seabirds. Thousands of eager campers have deepened their connection with nature and their understanding of conservation through their participation in the camp’s excellent programs.

Maine Audubon is excited to have the Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island to help forward its mission in protection, conservation, and enhancement of Maine’s ecosystems. In addition to pledging operational support and guidance to continue to deliver excellent educational programming, Maine Audubon is also investigating an expanded role for the camp in which it would be affiliated with a center dedicated to seabird research, a project spearheaded by Steve Kress.

Seth Benz is Director of the Audubon Camp in Maine.