Farewell to Camp Ocala

The camping program is a huge part of the 4-H tradition. While non-campers may focus on thoughts of mosquitoes, sunburns, homesickness and incompatible cabin mates, those of us who camp know that 4-H camp creates lifelong friends and held fast memories.
Many of us have fond memories of 4-H Camp Ocala. As a 4-H member, parent, program assistant, and 4-H Agent, I have experienced and seen all the benefits of the 4-H camping program. In one week’s time, I have seen children’s confidence grow, the shy make new friends, skills increase, and independence take a leap forward.
We have heard that all good things must come to an end, and so, this summer’s camp will be the last at Camp Ocala. Not only could the lease not be renewed, but after the summer, Camp Ocala will be torn down and the campground returned to the forest. This is sad news for our current campers and counselors. It is even sadder, I suppose, for those who and now grown and hold Camp Ocala so close to their heart.
There are already plans to build a new camp, possibly in the Welaka State Forest. It will take a few years to build and after that will probably be as well-loved as Camp Ocala is today. The new camp will be in the woods and on the water.
Until then and starting the summer of 2016, our camp cluster will camp at Camp Cloverleaf in the Sebring area. Our camp cluster is Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk Counties.
A camping committee is planning a last gathering or open house to say good-bye to Camp Ocala. The tentative date is August 15, 2015. As more information is available, it will be posted on this page and the Camp Ocala Facebook page.
A last word to 4-H families: This is the year to send your 4-H’ers to Camp Ocala! It will be the best week ever! Pre-registration for 4-H members will start next week.
For more information on the 4-H camping program, please go to http://florida4h.org/camps_/.