MINERAL WELLS - The Wood County 4-H Camp trustees are still recovering from damage done to the campground when storms moved through the area in June and later in the summer when lightning struck.
Fundraising campaigns are under way for renovations and repairs at the Butcher Bend Road camp.
The Wood County 4-H Program serves more than 1,000 children through its 4-H clubs, camps, after-school and other programs. The Butcher Bend campground was already in need of some repairs when the June 29 storms, followed by lighting strikes in July, added to the damage toll.
Debris is shown the night after a June storm downed trees at the 4-H camp’s Council Circle.
Camp caretaker Rodney Starkey has been busy removing downed trees, cleaning up the mess left from a lighting strike on one of the campground dorms and repairing barns.
Jodi Smith, West Virginia University Extension agent and 4-H coordinator, said estimated damage to the Council Circle alone is between $10,000-$11,000.
"It needs redone, some tree removal needs to be done for safety reasons. It is going to be made handicapped accessible, they want to add a retaining wall and some additional work under the seats," Smith said.
The June storm hit right at the end of 4-H camp. Since inclement weather was anticipated, Smith it was decided to have Council Circle inside the dining hall and that turned out to be a wise decision.
"We really had no idea what was going on outside, obviously the electricity was off and we knew some trees came down, but the derecho destroyed Council Circle. Trees fell across the circle, it took out our totem poles. We needed to do repairs before, the circle is probably more than 30 years ago, but it hit us hard," Smith said.
Trees in the camping area also needed to be removed.
"It took Rodney days to clear those out so the campers could come in for the interstate fair," said Annie Lewellyn, camp trustee board president.
Spaces are rented out to campers at the West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition as a fundraiser for the 4-H camp.
Livestock barns also sustained some additional damage.
The Council Circle, which sustained much of the damage, officials and 4-Hers alike agreed is the heart of camp.
"Council Circle is a big part of our camping program, everybody comes together each evening there. They get to showcase their stunts, songs, it brings a nice close to the day and they learn about tribal traditions," Smith said.
"They also do challenges to try and win the Spirit Stick," Lewellyn said. "Council Circle is also where all the awards and honors are given out and the older 4-Hers talk about their experiences."
Lindsey Shawver, 20, has been in the 4-H program for 13 years.
"Council Circle is a place for all of us to come together and have fun. It's my favorite part of camp. They teach life lessons at closing time. It's definitely one of the best parts of the camp," Shawver said. "4-H is pretty much my life. Camp was like my second home in the summer, I am always here," she said.
Smith said camp trustees hope to set up a work camp and the 4-Hers themselves are trying to raise funds.
"The work needs to be done by 4-H camp that starts in June, that's the goal at least," Smith said.
"I don't think people realize how much work goes into the camp, we are all volunteers and much of the labor is volunteer," she said.
"We are always trying to get grants, we just can't generate those kinds of funds. In addition to the property damage and ongoing repairs, we lost all the food that was in the freezer from the electricity being off for so long, and we lost a week's worth of rental income while the electricity was off as well," Lewellyn said.
In addition to the Council Circle and downed trees, during a July storm, lightning hit a tree outside one of the dorms, traveled through the ground, then came up through the concrete damaging a bed inside the dorms.
"It burned a hole in a mattress and it damaged an alarm clock and radio," Smith said, adding the lightning hit during the afternoon and no one was inside the dorm at the time.
In addition to being used for summer camps by the 4-Hers, camp facilities are rented year round to numerous groups and organizations producing some revenue for the camp.
Smith said there are a number of upcoming fundraisers, including a spaghetti dinner/auction scheduled for Nov. 10, from 4-7 p.m. at the campground. No tickets are required and the cost has not been set yet.
The annual ox roast will be 4-7 p.m. Oct. 6 at the campground. Tickets are $10 and include everything from entree to dessert. On Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m., there will be a homemade pie competition, auction and meet the candidate night at the Parkersburg Municipal building.
Groups or organizations interested in donating to the campgrounds, renting the facilities, making contributions or helping with labor, materials or funds can contact Smith at 304-424-1960.