COPAKE — Coarc announced Tuesday that its 55-year-old day camp in Columbia County is closed permanently.
Camp Mahican, a day camp run by Coarc, which advocates for and serves as a resource for children and adults with disabilities, is permanently closing after losing state funding.
“We couldn’t make ends meet without that funding,” said Ken Stall, the organization’s CEO. “That represented about a third of our funding.”
Late last year the organization was told that some of the camp’s funding from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities was going to be discontinued, Stall said.
Coarc lost around $25,000 in state funding.
The camp had three forms of funding: State aid from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which was eliminated, funding from Columbia County and a family support contract that has also been discontinued.
“Once we lost the state funding and we weren’t going to run the camp, then that family support contract went away as well,” Stall said. “So even if we were able to find fundraising to replace the first state funding that was lost, it would be very difficult to be able to reinitiate that family support contract at this point.”
The loss of state funding led to the loss of the family support contract, Stall said.
Camp Mahican opened in 1966 as a day camp for children and youth ages 6-16 with disabilities, according to a statement from Coarc.
The organization looked into the possibility of fundraising to make up for the budget shortfall, but it didn’t seem feasible, Stall said.
“We’re a very grassroots organization, so for us to come up with $25,000 to $30,000 of fundraising in a very short time wasn’t something that we felt we could be successful at,” he said. “Not only that, if we were going to do that we would want a long-term solution. We wouldn’t want to have to try and go out and fundraise $25,000 every single year to keep the camp running. So we were looking to find a more permanent solution at that point and we weren’t able to find any, and when I say permanent, even three to five years out.”
Enrollment at Camp Mahican has been declining for several years, Stall said.
There are a number of school districts in the area that run summer programs, but not many summer camps support youth with disabilities, he said.
The camp used to run for almost two full months during the summer. That was eventually shortened to six weeks and was later reduced further to three or four weeks each summer.
“Generally speaking, on average we would probably have 18 to 20 children on any given day,” Stall said. “Some days are more than others because not all of the children come every day.”
Hudson 5th Ward Alderman Dominic Merante had been the director at Camp Mahican for 15 years and was saddened to see the camp shut down.
“Camp Mahican is the only camp in the area for children with disabilities,” Merante said. “So for it to close is terrible.”
At one point the camp had 50 to 60 kids attend each day, Merante said.
The funding from the state is considered “100% state aid,” meaning there is no federal match, Stall said.
“It’s very unlikely that that funding would ever return,” he said. “The state of New York and OPWDD (Office for People with Developmental Disabilities) have been cutting those solely state-funded dollars for years. Their goal is obviously to eliminate all 100% state funds in favor of funding that is matched by the federal government.”
Most of the funding Coarc receives is through Medicaid and includes a 50% match from the federal government, with the state paying 50%. That is not the case for the summer camp.
“The money that was coming for the camp was 100% state dollars,” said Stall. “The goal of New York state and OPWDD is to eliminate all of those 100% state-share dollars in lieu of the federal participation, but there’s no money right now for the camp from the federal perspective, either.”
Campers and their families are disappointed the camp is no longer operational and some have attended for several years, Stall said.
“We’ve heard from the families themselves, we’ve heard from the county. The county was concerned the camp was going to be discontinued as well,” Stall said. “We’ve heard from a lot of different parties about the disappointment in regards to the camp.”