Improvements Coming to Pair of Oswego County Camps

By MATTHEW REITZ editorial@palltimes.com

The ongoing projects at Camp Zerbe and others at Camp Hollis aimed at preserving the parklands and making them accessible to more people will be completed this spring, according to officials with the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau.

The main building at Camp Zerbe, which is located in Williamstown, hasn’t been operational since the late 1970s, according to Brandon Morey, coordinator of recreation and youth development for the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau. Construction on the Camp Zerbe lodge began in 2014 with funding from the state Department of Parks and Historic Preservation.

Morey said leftover funds from the Parks and Historic Preservation grant will then be used to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and put the finishing touches on parts of the kitchen area.

“The last step before we can offer it up for rental is making it ADA accessible,” Morey said. “We have a plan in place for an ADA walkway to a ramp landing in the building.”

Youth Bureau Director Brian Chetney said he hopes the lodge will be open for reservations later this summer.

If any funds still remain after those projects, they will be used for a site study that would help make future development at the camp easier, according to Morey.

“It’s a pretty elaborate, pretty intensive study where they would check everything and deem if there’s any historical, archaeologic or anthropological value in the site itself,” Morey said.

Having the study done would make the site more competitive for future grants as well, Morey said.

The Youth Bureau is also pursuing additional funding that could be used to update the camp’s other buildings, a walkway and a new floating dock system on Lake Lorraine. Chetney said there’s no firm timetable, but he hopes to hear back on the funding in the near future.

At Camp Hollis, located in the town of Oswego, improvements to the main building will be finished, and leftover materials will be used to re-side the campers’ cabins, according to Morey.

The site has 12 camper cabins, and Morey hopes two of them can be finished this year, then one to two more each subsequent year until all the cabins are sided.

However, plans to plant trees along the shoreline in an effort to curb erosion are not likely to move forward, Chetney said.

The trees were intended to be a temporary fix until some type of green infrastructure could be implemented as a more permanent solution, but Morey and Chetney said county officials thought the trees could block the view of the lake, which they say is a large part of the park’s appeal.

“It would diminish the view,” Morey said. “A lot of people who come to camp here and rent the facility are looking for that view.”

Wind erosion and drainage issues are largely to blame for the deterioration of the camp’s bluff along Lake Ontario, Morey said, and ways of handling that problem are also being considered.

“We have an erosion problem on the bluff,” Morey said. “For years, we’ve been looking at a lot of different means to take care of that erosion problem.”

Morey said there are plans to alleviate the surface water runoff and divert it away from the bluff. The cost of a permanent fix is currently out of reach, but digging ditches or drains is a less expensive alternative that can be accomplished at this time, Morey said.

“We’re looking at alternatives that we can do in-house,” Morey said. “We’re going to try to see what we can do ourselves to at least alleviate some of the surface runoff problem.”

Friends of Camp Hollis, a non-profit group that raises funds to maintain and improve the park, recently received a $20,000 grant from the Richard S. Shineman Foundation to construct a new playground at the site.

“We’re looking to tear out the old playground,” Morey said. “It’s just old and dated. It’s just not fun anymore, and it’s not appealing.”

Morey said the playground hasn’t been replaced in several years, and the new playground equipment will be installed at the same location within the park.

Applications have also been submitted to several local companies for additional playground equipment funding, Morey said.

A chairlift that would make the pool at Camp Hollis handicap-accessible is also being pursued, according to Morey, but plans for that are still being finalized. 

“It’s a pretty expensive piece, and we’re trying to make sure that, if we’re going to do it, we do it right,” Morey said.