Funding woes threaten summer camp program

By Michael Anderson

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 1 2014 8:54 p.m. MST

At the end of the camp and as the busses leave the councilors all gather to wave goodbye at Mill Hollow Outdoor Recreation Center.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY — A popular Granite School District summer camp program is facing a funding crisis that may shut it down.

Each year, nearly 2,000 Granite District elementary school students participate in Mill Hollow Outdoor Recreation Center, a summer program in the Uinta Mountains. But if district leaders can't come up with a funding solution soon, the nearly 50-year-old program may go away.

The nearly $500,000 it costs to run the program was funded through a recreation levy. The state Legislature voted to cut that levy in 2011.

The funds were gone a year later, and Granite spokesman Ben Horsley said the district used temporary funding to keep it going for another year.

Levi Romney, 11, attended the camp last summer just after moving to Utah.

"It was great for me," he said. "It might be great for other people, too."

The camp not only helped Levi make new friends, said his mother, Stacey Romney, but also gave him an education he couldn't get in the classroom.

"After three days at Mill Hollow, (Levi) came back energized and excited to go to school," Romney said. "To be able to combine outdoor activity with learning is a great opportunity.

"It's an effective program," Horsley said. "It gives students a chance … to go out in nature and to be able to go and have a summer camp experience."

The current fee for the Mill Hollow camp is $65, and nearly half of the students who go qualify for a fee waiver. Without subsidies from the levy, the fee would increase to $250 per student.

On Feb. 20, Granite School District's director for the Mill Hollow program sent a letter to school principals asking for suggestions to keep the camp running.

District administrators are also reaching out to potential business partners and county leaders for ideas on how to possibly share the site and cost with other districts.

Romney is part of a parent group that plans to meet with Granite School District Superintendent Marvin Bates to offer their own suggestions.

"You can't teach this with screens," she said. "It has to be outside."

Email: manderson@deseretnews.com

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