CLARK, NJ – Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo made the recommendation to cancel Clark Recreation’s Summer Camp for the 2020 season in an address to the Town Council on Monday evening.  In his address, Bernardo said there were too many safety concerns for children and many limitations put in place by New Jersey’s government officials that make camp impractical this year.

On Tuesday morning Bernardo sent an email to parents explaining why he was canceling and expresseing his desappinment .  “Those that know me, know I live for the summer camp and prepare for it all year long. There is nothing more I want than the camp to be held each summer. We had so much fun planned for the children. I promise we will be back next year in full force better than ever,” said Bernardo.

Bernardo’s letter to parents included the numerous restrictions required by New Jersey to run a summer camp in the age of COVID-19.  Some basics included groups limited to ten campers that must function independent of other groups and no share any equipment, supplies or communal eating.  

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In addition, counselors would be required to wear personal protective equipment and campers wear masks.   Counselors could not touch campers bags, and no outside entertainment would be permitted.

“I am sincerely saddened for the children who absolutely love the camp, you have endured so much in your young lives and were looking forward to finally having some fun after months of anxiety, disappointment, seclusion and uncertainty,”  said Bernardo. “I am so sorry.”

Bernardo’s full letter can be viewed here:

Dear Parents, Guardians, Counselors, Applicants and Staff:

I hope this email finds you and your family healthy and safe during the Pandemic and very turbulent time we are living in. It pains me beyond words to send this email. It is with deep regret and genuine sadness that I inform you that the Summer recreation camp will not take place this summer. For the first time since its inception over 40 years ago, it is being cancelled.  Those that know me, know I live for the summer camp and prepare for it all year long. There is nothing more I want than the camp to be held each summer. We had so much fun planned for the children. I promise we will be back next year in full force better than ever.

With COVID-19 changing all of our lives and with the additional threat of Pediatric Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome linked to the Coronavirus affecting young children, we simply cannot take the chance of infecting campers, counselors or staff. With the number of campers that attend daily 500-600 + 140 counselors, there is NO way to social distance, wear masks in the heat, alternate days, hours, grades, and conduct the camp even if we made major modifications. The Summer camp, like all camps in New Jersey must follow the State Laws of New Jersey and the CDC. Here is a snapshot of the guidance restrictions that were sent to us in order to hold the camp:

Snapshot of Summer Recreation Department Based Camps Under COVID-19

As you continue planning your summer camp, it may be helpful to understand that the CDC considerations are recommending minimum behaviors. Each state can impose stricter requirements due to the COVID-19 activity in their state. Keep in mind NJ was number 2 in deaths and positive infection. The NJ DOH has released minimum standards that do not preclude an agency from going above and beyond those standards based on local sensibilities.

To make your local decisions, here is a snapshot of the changes you have to experience this year in your summer recreation camps and programs per the CDC. These are only the highlights to consider until NJ guidance is fully received. 

  • Limited group size to 10 including the Counselors per location.
  • No group interaction. Each group must remain independent and removed from other groups to minimize risk.
  • No shared equipment, supplies, sports,  etc.
  • No communal eating. Each child, employee brings their own lunch and drinks and does not handle each other’s food. No group meals/shared plates and cups.
  • Social distancing in all activities. When social distancing cannot be accomplished or the activity moves inside, campers must wear masks.
  • Counselors must wear masks (PPE) provided by their employer.
  • No guests or outside entertainment to minimize risk of exposure.
  • No large gatherings or celebrations that integrates all groups.
  • Staff must have daily temperatures taken and recorded.
  • The person taking daily temperatures – what are their qualifications?
  • Should a camper or counselor become ill, the local health department will be notified and all those in contact with the individual have to be quarantined. Local health department working with Contact Trackers will handle notification.
  • Department must follow their lead and inform parents and staff.
  • Department provides sanitizer for each Counselor and provides stations for handwashing and hand sanitizer.
  • No handling of camper’s bags, clothing etc. No sharing of phones.
  • If bathrooms are provided, they must be sanitized multiple times during the day.
  • No water fountains available. Provide individual water bottles or have them brought from home.

As you can read – these guidelines make it impossible to enforce with the size of our camp. Science and safety must come first and foremost, but we have to be realistic as well. We desperately want to provide this great service to our community but only if it makes sense – health wise, safety, financially, and implementation.

For those of you that have paid in full by check or cash, we will administer full refunds via a check from the township – Please allow 2-3 weeks for the refund. Credit card payments will be credited online by our office. If you wish to apply the payment to next year’s camp, email Emily at elambert@ourclark.com and instruct her. We will keep record of all this.

For counselors that want to return to work for the camp next year or for those that had applied for the first time, communicate to me in February. You do not have to reapply. We will keep your application and paperwork on hand, so you do not have to go thru the entire process again.

My heart goes out to all those counselors that were to work their last summer with us. I thank you for your years of service and dedication to the camp and the children. My heart goes out to all the counselors and my staff that will be hurt monetarily this summer. I am sorry for the parents that depend on the camp for childcare. If there are any counselors willing to babysit – please email your information to me and in turn parents if you are looking for childcare, please send me your information. I do have some resources for full time childcare with adults. But above all, I am sincerely saddened for the children who absolutely love the camp. You have endured so much in your young lives and were looking forward to finally having some fun after months of anxiety, disappointment, seclusion, and uncertainty. I am so sorry.

Stay safe, stay positive and pray they come up with a vaccine/drug/cure to end this nightmare we are all living.

Best Regards,

Ralph Bernardo

Director of Recreation

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