PEPIN — Camp Pepin, which has been part of the Red Wing YMCA since the 1930s, will not host a youth summer camp this year. In coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Health, and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Camping Association, the Y decided to close down this year’s summer program.

Camp Pepin Executive Director Martha Harris had participated in weekly phone calls with camp directors from across the country since March trying to decide best practices and ultimately concluded that this summer just wouldn’t work out.

“What it finally boiled down to was kind of a yes-no template on preparation on if you’d be able to open and keep your children and staff and your local community safe,” Harris said. “Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services and Pepin County Public Health are still saying that camp can only have 10 people on it. Which is not enough to make it work.”

Examples of high-risk sports are wrestling, football, and karate. Examples of medium risk sports are baseball, basketball, and soccer. Examples of low-risk sports include running events, biking, and golf. Minnesota Department of Health graphic
Examples of high-risk sports are wrestling, football, and karate. Examples of medium risk sports are baseball, basketball, and soccer. Examples of low-risk sports include running events, biking, and golf. Minnesota Department of Health graphic

The trickle down effect of camp closure impacted more than just local families however. Harris said Camp Pepin had an international pool of counselors lined up from Sweden, the United Kingdom and Australia.

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Local families that have completed and paid for registration will be issued a check refund if desired or they are able to push their registration forward to 2021.

Not all is lost though. Staff at the YMCA have been brainstorming ways to make use of Camp Pepin.

“Our camp offers so much but I think the thing we’re really going to focus on this year is bringing families out to camp,” Healthy Living Director Heather Flock said. “There’s not a lot of places you can go out and rent a canoe or kayak around here but you can at camp. It’s a beautiful area so why not take advantage of that?”

No campers will earn any badges or patches the summer because the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in Camp Pepin canceling traditional session this summer. file photo
No campers will earn any badges or patches the summer because the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in Camp Pepin canceling traditional session this summer. file photo

More than just equipment rentals, the Y is hoping that if and when the state allows larger group gatherings, it can rent out cabins. Initial planning would allow for cabins to have their own designated bathroom specific to a family as well as personal floatation devices and paddles. There would also be a fire circle outside the cabin.

“Basically families could come and use camp as more of a vacation experience,” Harris said.

The hope, Harris said, is that families with children who’ve experienced Camp Pepin would get a chance to enjoy some of that same experience as a family.