Camp Grant Walker recovering after COVID-19 and hurricanes
GRANT PARISH, La. (KALB) - Camp Grant Walker in Fishville has been a staple in the 4-H community in Louisiana for nearly a century. The camp is much more than just a summer campsite for kids in the summer, but they host team-building activities and even weddings on the campground as well.
Thousands of kids from all 64 parishes go to Camp Grant Walker in the summer for camp.
Christine Bergeron, the camp director, said, "I’m a big believer in having kids come to this camp and not having their electronics for the week that they are here. I think that’s very important for them to kind of unplug, be here and be outside.”
In a normal year, the campground is full of life, but this year has been quiet after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the camp.
Dr. Toby Lepley, the Associate Vice President and 4-H Program Director, said, “As we saw the progression of COVID-19, we saw that this was going to be a long-lasting thing and it was going to have historical impacts to the program.”
“Pretty much everything that we had scheduled for Sping 2020 was canceled or rescheduled to Spring 2021. Our summer camp and all of our fall events were rescheduled. We tried to hang on to as much as we could but it didn’t work out," said Bergeron.
This was the first year in recent memory that Camp Grant Walker did not have a camp for kids in 4-H. Dr. Lepley said by the end of the summer, the COVID-19 pandemic started to have a financial toll on the camp as they were figuring out what they’d do in the future. As they were adjusting to the COVID-19 outbreak, the camp was hit by Hurricane Laura.
Bergeron said, “I guess the best way to describe it is unbelievable. We had many trees fall. We’ve had bad storms that have come through this area before, but the camp has not been impacted in such a way that it was after and during Laura.”
Several iconic spots on the campground including the arts and crafts building and the dance pavilion received roof damage from Laura. Cabins also had significant damage from the fallen trees as one bunkhouse, in particular, had several trees fall on it. Over the next six weeks after the storm, members of the 4-H community and the LSU Ag Center helped with trying to clean up the damages.
Dr. Lepley said, “We thought we were in good shape by having a plan and had a decision to move forward after devastation two and devastation three comes in in the form of Delta.”
Hurricane Delta brought significant rainfall leaving the majority of the camp underwater. Cabins had to be gutted from the floors to the baseboards, to the beds and other furniture. Bergeron went on to say that the front portion of the camp had never flooded like that before.
The 4-H community responded to Hurricane Delta as they did with Hurricane Laura and COVID-19 by providing support and helping with the recovery process.
Dr. Lepley added, “What we’ve learned is that not only do the kids need Camp Grant Walker, but Camp Grant Walker needs the kids. It’s not a facility that’s meant to sit there and be idle. It is a facility that’s meant to be used by young people, by the adults, and by the state of Louisiana.”
Camp Grant Walker thanks the community for the support they’ve received and are now planning on how they can have camp next year. The camp will either be shortened and allow for full capacity from all the parishes, or there will be a normal camp schedule, but with a limited amount of students.
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