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Article Published October 9, 2019
A New Look at Camp Hazen
Karena Garrity

Big things are happening at the historic YMCA Camp Hazen site in Chester. Gearing up for its 100th anniversary in 2020 and embarking on the next phase of the master site plan, there has been a flurry of activity at the camp, the least of which has involved the removal of several trees lining the property’s entrance, creating a different look for the camp’s iconic property.

“It was a long, agonizing decision to take down the pines along the road,” said Camp Hazen Executive Director and CEO Denise Learned. “The white pines were planted in the 1930s and have been a big part of many people’s memories of Hazen. Sadly, many were dead and often branches came down on the power lines in strong winds and even during minor storms. They had unfortunately become very unsafe because of their age and their height.

“Some were over 100 feet tall and very spindly. Some were very weakened by the shaving that was done to them by the power company and others were very brittle because they hadn’t gotten any sunlight for such a long time,” she added. “All the trees were a real safety hazard and we made the decision, based on safety, that the best course of action was to take them all down.”

The good news is that the trees will be replaced with plantings planned for this spring. Currently the camp is talking with local landscape architects and contractors to devise a plan as to which species of trees to plants. There will be a total of 75 new trees planted along with 150 different various shrubs.

“The new trees will take time to grow in, but our goal is to blend back in to our neighborhood and we are excited for the project to be complete,” said Learned, who explained that additional parts of this phase of the master plan include not only tree replanting, but also a new entrance way to the day camp that includes a new pavilion.

“This will mean our day camp drop off will be on the lake side of the street, so we will decrease the number of times campers have to cross Route 148 on a daily basis, which will increase safety, which is our main goal,” said Learned. “Anytime we plan for the future, our number-one priority is safety and a close second is the camper experience. This time is no different.”

Plans are to have the foundation for the new 30 x 90-foot, timber frame pavilion in place before the winter freeze hits. All construction is anticipated to be completed by mid-May 2020 so there is little to no disruption to next spring and summer camp activities.

Learned explained that additional phases of the project, which will be implemented over the next 8 to 10 years, will include a redesign of the open spaces by the waterfront, a new boys shower house, and several other endeavors.

“This is a big project and a huge undertaking for us and we are very excited about it,” said Learned. “We are always looking for ways to meet our needs better and improve the camp, so we are working hard all the time.”

Camp Hazen will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2020 on a global scale, kicking off the year-long festivities with a January fund raiser in Sydney, Australia. Another event will be held in May in London, England, followed by a three-day celebration in Chester.