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Winter work underway at summer camp

WINCHESTER — Snowy winter weather may be just around the corner, but it will be a busier than usual off-season at one of the Northwest Corner’s summer adventure camps.

Officials at Greenwood Trails, formerly the Delaware Outdoor Adventure Center, will spend the next several months overseeing a series of renovations and new construction projects to prepare for next year’s summer camp season.

The adventure camp, which sits along Crystal Lake in Winchester, first opened its doors in 1921.

New owner Owen Langbart is looking to build on the camp’s tradition of delivering summer fun and memories by enhancing and expanding the opportunities it is able to offer its young campers.

“It’s exciting,†he said.

Langbart purchased the camp from its previous owners, Alex and Terry Thomas, in the late spring. The husband-and-wife team had been running the 150-acre camp for most of the last 10 years.

But after meeting with the couple, Langbart said it soon became obvious that not only did they all share the same vision of what a summer youth camp should be, but that the two should stay on board to help run and manage Greenwood’s day-to-day operations.

“We felt it was a kind of a perfect situation,†he said. “We really fit together well. It’s a perfect partnership.â€

Langbart has been involved in camping his entire life. His family has owned and operated the Merrick Woods Day Camp on Long Island for more than 30 years. As a youngster he spent his summers at his parents’ camp, and as a teenager and young adult, he served as a counselor there.

After completing college, Langbart teamed up with his brother to head the Merrick Woods management team.

“So, I grew up in camp,†he said.

Over the last few years, however, Langbart said he and his brother began to explore the possibility of opening up a second camp. But instead of another day camp, the two decided that they wanted to operate an overnight camp.

“We always loved the concept of an overnight camp. And so we felt it was a natural progression,†he said. “It’s not right for every child. But the ones it is right for, it is one of the greatest experiences they can have.â€

After visiting several sites throughout the region, Langbart said he first visited the Greenwood Trails site in March. It didn’t take him long to decide to make an offer to purchase the camp.

“I thought it was great,†Langbart said, adding that several people he grew up with in Long Island had spent their summers here when it was still known as Camp Delaware.

“We liked everything. It was the perfect fit,†he said.

Langbart spent most of this past summer at Greenwood Trails, familiarizing himself with the grounds, its young campers and the Winsted area.

Now, with the camp closed for the season, several projects are already underway to get the grounds ready for next summer’s opening day in June.

Those projects include the construction of several new tennis courts, a new street hockey court, renovating the camp’s pool and pool deck area, installing a new skate park, building new sleeping bunks and renovating some of the existing ones, as well as the creation of a new gaga court.

Gaga is a summer camp game that is similar to dodge ball, but played with feet instead of hands, Langbart said.

“Any kids who play it, love it,†he said.

In addition, Langbart said he has developed a five-year plan, which will include additional physical improvements and expansions to the grounds and revamping the camp’s programming.

The site will also continue to be available for weddings and other group gatherings, and the staff is working on enhancing the Web site.

“It’s exciting to help shape a camp,†he said. “And we’ll be working to create a good balance of activities here.â€

Langbart said while summer camps generally are a time for kids to have fun, explore and experience new things, they also serve as an important opportunity to develop leadership and decision-making skills that will serve them well into adulthood.

“Learning how to work together and team building is one of the big parts of camp,†he said.

And while there are many changes and improvements on tap for Greenwood Trails, one summer camp staple will always remain.

“You have to have s’mores. You just have to,†he said with a laugh.

For more information about Greenwood Trails, visit the camp’s Web site at greenwoodtrails.com, e-mail info@greenwoodtrails.com or call 516-483-7272.

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