Though Seeds of Peace has given up on opening its Otisfield summer camp this year, most of the state’s 175 camps are taking a wait-and-see position.

Ron Hall, executive director of Maine Summer Camps, said Monday that most operators “are still optimistic they will open in some fashion this summer.”

Ron Hall, executive director of Maine Summer Camps Submitted photo

If they don’t, it would add a further blow to Maine’s economy – the camps are estimated to bring in more than $200 million to the state each year – and some camps might not survive the financial blow of missing out on an entire summer.

Hall said the more than 140 camps that are part of his association are generally moving forward with plans and getting ready to open if they can in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He said most don’t have to decide until late May what they’re going to do.

Since “everything changes every day,” he said, camp owners and operators are stuck waiting for guidance from state and federal officials about what they should do as COVID-19 continues to claim victims across the globe. Under present rules, they would not be able to operate.

In the end, Hall said, camps have three possible options: open as usual, open late for a short season or stay shuttered until 2021.

He said he hopes they can open as much as possible.

“It’s probably more important this year than it’s ever been before,” Hall said, because so many children are socially isolated, out of school and “really struggling” at times with the distance they must keep from one another.

Having the camps open, he said, will provide them a chance to interact socially again and be ready for a new school year.

But before that can happen, public health experts and government leaders have to weigh what’s best, Hall said.

Getting the chance to open, even for a truncated season, is a necessity for camps, he said, because they have to shell so much in yearly salaries, marketing budgets, taxes and more. If they can’t open, then they won’t have any revenue, he said.

“The financial hit would be huge on camps,” Hall said.

Some are seeking federal help, but it’s not clear how much will be available, he said.

Hall said the camps have never seen a situation like this.

During the swine flu epidemic, Hall said, some had to set up tents and quarantine sick campers, but “it was nothing compared to this.”

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