Some of the best childhood memories are of days spent outdoors with friends. For many who were fortunate enough to go to summer camp, those experiences were ones we will likely never forget.
For children in Sandpoint, there are many opportunities to experience great adventure, and one of those opportunities just got even better.
Camp Kaniksu, which is operated by Kaniksu Land Trust, began its summer outdoor camp program in 2017. This upcoming summer, the camp will move from the previous location at the University of Idaho property on Boyer Avenue to the soon-to-be-acquired Pine Street Woods property.
“We’re very excited to be able to move camp to Pine Street Woods next summer. One of the many things which our campers do is choose a ‘special place’ during camp, which they are encouraged to re-visit with their family outside of camp,” said Cami Murray, programs and development associate for Kaniksu Land Trust. “The permanence of Pine Street Woods will take this idea to new levels. We hope that one day our campers will bring their own children, or grandchildren, to their ‘special place.’ Additionally, because Kaniksu Land Trust will own this property, we will have more leeway to allow campers to do projects and work on substantial and diverse natural areas that are removed from distractions like train whistles and traffic.”
Camp is open to children ages 7 through 12. “We do split weeks by age group, offering weeks for 7 through 9 and 10 through 12,” said Cami. “This allows all of the kids to have a more tailored experience.”
The camp is offered in one-week sessions, and in 2019 each child will be permitted to enroll in one week-long session. The camp is Monday through Friday from 9am to 3pm.
This past summer the camp had approximately 100 children attend, up from 60 attendees in its first year. In order to ensure a high-quality experience for each camper, Camp Kaniksu limits the number of children to 25 per session. In 2019 they are planning to hold six sessions of camp, which could allow for up to 150 children to participate in Camp Kaniksu. “We do recommend signing up early as camp fills up fast,” advised Cami.
The camp experience is diverse, with each day’s activities guided in part by the weather and the mood of the campers, as well as the time of year and what resources are available.
“On any given day, kids might be learning about tracking, preparing wild food, playing games, building forts, learning ‘survival skills’ such as how to make bow-drill fires or locate water sources, making crafts or just being given free time to explore,” explained Cami.
Camp Kaniksu is run by Dave Kretzschmar, Kaniksu Land Trust’s outdoor education specialist who has a remarkable background in nature connection education, a master’s degree in environmental education and years of experience engaging youth in the outdoors.
“He is assisted by several amazing counselors, all of whom also have backgrounds in education and nature-connection. We also offer a limited number of ‘junior counselor’ opportunities for stand-out campers from previous years who are now too old to attend camp,” said Cami.
While Camp Kaniksu is relatively new, Kaniksu Land Trust has stood at the forefront of the community conservation movement for the last several years.
“For us, this has meant that we work to not only preserve land but also to engage with our community on the land and provide opportunities for them to get outside. In particular, we recognized that for many children in our community getting time outside can be difficult, especially for those with working parents,” explained Cami. “We know that time in the outdoors has a measurable effect on developing brains and that kids need nature for proper growth and development—be it physical, social, cognitive or emotional.”
Kaniksu Land Trust’s goal through the camp is to provide a safe and affordable way for children to spend time outdoors during the summer and to create a lifelong connection to nature. Kaniksu Land Trust is able to offer both full and half scholarships to anyone who requests one, no questions asked, to ensure that all children are able to have access to this amazing opportunity.
There is also an opportunity for anyone in the community to sponsor a child for camp. With an $80 donation, one can cover the cost of one child to attend camp. And as we enter into the holiday season, it can also be a wonderful Christmas gift for a child in your life or to sponsor a child in someone’s name; perhaps a gift for the grandparent who has all they need but would find joy in knowing they are helping a child. The gift of memories is something that lasts a lifetime.
The words the children write in their nature journals reflect what an amazing experience it is for each one of them. One 7-year-old camper wrote:
“Camp Kaniksu was so much fun, I can’t wait to go again next summer. The things I liked most about the camp is exploring, seeing animals like deer and meeting friends. Dave taught me to make a floor mat and headband out of bamboo and that you can eat cat tails.”
Another wrote, “In my secret spot, a bird landed right next to me.”
The parents also have expressed their gratitude to Camp Kaniksu for providing such an amazing experience for their children. One parent wrote, “By far the best wilderness camp of the season. Great blessing to have the land, resource and personnel to run a camp with such greatness. Our children have expressed the joys of learning and the want/need to continue to learn.”
Camp leader Dave Kretzschmar and his staff also receive great fulfillment by providing this unique opportunity to young children.
“I had a shy girl show up to camp last summer who took a couple hours each day to warm up and get engaged. She always did by the middle of the day, but she was never very vocal about whether she was enjoying herself. I saw her last week and she couldn't stop talking about how much fun camp was and how she is definitely coming next summer,” shared Dave.
The holidays are a time of giving to not only our friends and family but also to those less fortunate. If you would like to donate to Camp Kaniksu and help to sponsor a child for camp, stop by their office at 1215 Michigan, Suite A in Sandpoint, or you can contact them at 208.263.9471 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on Kaniksu Land Trust and all their programs, visit their website atKaniksuLandTrust.org.