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Camp Fire won’t run Camp Dart-Lo this summer

Camp Fire USA Inland Northwest Council is facing some tough economic times. In a letter sent out to its thousands of supporters in late October, the nonprofit organization said it’s facing a $135,000 budget shortfall in 2011.

As the organization begins a restructuring process, the board has decided not to operate Camp Dart-Lo as a day camp in 2012.

“We had to look at what we can do at Dart-Lo within our budget and what we can do to keep it available to our members,” said Colene Rubertt, executive director of Camp Fire USA Inland Northwest Council. At this point, Camp Dart-Lo will continue to be available for Camp Fire club uses, youth groups and rentals for special-use groups.

Day camp will be offered at Camp Sweyolakan on Lake Coeur d’Alene and at Camp Aowakiya, near Kellogg.

Camp Dart-Lo is located just 20 minutes north of downtown Spokane and has been a convenient destination for children in Camp Fire summer programs as well as children enrolled in summer camp at the Martin Luther King Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane and the Northeast Youth Center.

Rubertt said that Camp Fire had 600 kids in day camp at Camp Dart-Lo this summer, 240 of which were subsidized partially or fully by Camp Fire. Another 180 children came from different youth organizations to spend one to three days at Camp Dart-Lo. Aside from a $1 daily fee from each child to use the pool, these 180 children were also subsidized by Camp Fire.

“Some of the Dart-Lo day camp kids may not be able to reach day camp at Sweyolakan, or the Kellogg camp,” said Rubertt. “Transportation, even to Dart-Lo, is always a big issue.”

The cost of camp maintenance and a declining number of paying campers is the main reason for the $135,000 budget shortfall this year.

“The economic downfall has really hurt – and not just hurt the nonprofits but also hurt families,” said Rubertt. “Instead of sending kids to camp you go on a family trip in the woods, because that is what you can afford.” She added that as more households only have only one parent working, fewer families need the daytime supervision the day camps provide.

Camp Fire’s building on North Mullan Road has been for sale since 2010.

“The building has no impact on the programs we deliver,” said Rubertt, “but I sure wish it would sell.”

To help determine long-term sustainability goals, Camp Fire has brought in eight new board members and asked eight old board members to come back and help out.

The Inland Northwest Council serves 1,600 children with camp programs every year and has roughly 400 enrolled in its club program, plus an additional several hundred kids in after-school programs at middle and elementary schools in Spokane.

“The board has been very proactive and our community partners have been very good at working with us through this process,” said Rubertt. “We will continue to deliver great Camp Fire programs; that is the number one goal.”