4-H Camp Cherry Lake renovations in full swing

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photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

by Samantha Murray

Construction is ramping up on the expansion of the recreational pavilion at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake in Madison, Florida. The pavilion expansion is part of a larger, multi-year renovation of the residential camping facility that has served hundreds of youth in the north Florida region each year and is preparing for future service.

These renovations, including the addition of a new classroom facility to the pavilion, were made possible by the generous support of 4-H alumni and advocates, said Stacey Ellison, associate state program leader for Florida 4-H, the youth development program of the University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

“These improvements to the camp will allow us to provide more educational experiences for our campers, especially in the areas of environmental and agricultural sciences. With the pavilion expansion, we’re excited to see this vision for 4-H Camp Cherry Lake becoming a reality,” Ellison said.

For Morris Steen, a Florida 4-H Foundation board member, Camp Cherry Lake will always be a special place. Steen joined 4-H at age 10 and camped at Cherry Lake nearly every summer as a youth, and later serving as a counselor while a student at the University of Florida.

“It is really heartening to realize construction on the Cherry Lake Camp Pavilion is ready to commence and the benefit to 4-H campers will last for generations to come,” Steen said. “Its impact on our community is enormous and who knows the leadership that may emerge because of experiences gained at Cherry Lake. It is an exceptionally positive event for Florida 4-H members!”

In addition to the pavilion, additional improvements to facilities and cabins are planned to begin in phases as fundraising continues, Ellison said. UF is investing in a new residence home at Camp Cherry Lake that will house the camp director. The old home has already been demolished and construction is expected to start soon or shortly after construction has begun on the pavilion.

cabins

photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the pavilion took place in January, and construction was originally scheduled for fall 2020, after the summer camping session. However, when the coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension of residential camping this year, the renovations were moved up.

Since it opened in 1937, Camp Cherry Lake has hosted thousands of youth. The 4-H camping program helps youth find confidence and independence in a safe, fun environment. Campers participate in a range of social and educational activities, from archery to biology to campfire songs.

In addition to Camp Cherry Lake, Florida 4-H operates Camp Timpoochee, located in Niceville, and Camp Cloverleaf, located in Lake Placid. Together all three camps serve youth from across Florida.

Florida 4-H is the land-grant youth development program providing hands-on educational programs and experiences for youth ages 5-18 through a diverse portfolio of project areas. In Florida, 4-H is administered by University of Florida/IFAS Extension and Florida A&M University.

Want to help Florida’s youth experience camp? Your support of the 4-H Camping Program provides opportunities for youth to grow as leaders and responsible citizens while fostering the community and support they need. If you or your organization would like to discuss partnering with 4-H, please contact Caylin Hilton at grow4h@ifas.ufl.edu or 352.392.5432.