The campgrounds at Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock were unusually quiet this summer — as they have been for more than a year. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled 4-H camp in 2020, and two hurricanes lashed the facility last year, leaving damage that couldn’t be repaired in time for the 2021 camping season.
Pine trees fell during Hurricane Laura, smashing into a bunkhouse, a log cabin, two outdoor pavilions and an arts and crafts building. Structures that managed to escape Laura unscathed were flooded a few weeks later when Hurricane Delta brought heavy rains.
“It’s a little sad,” said camp director Christine Bergeron. “This place is very busy, not only during the summer with 4-H camp, but also during the fall and spring because we’re a rental facility. We have groups out here almost every weekend. We haven’t had that. It’s been quiet. It’s been different.”
Bergeron and her staff are patiently waiting for the rebuilding process to begin. They traveled around Louisiana this summer to conduct one-day events with educational and recreational opportunities for individual parishes.
A group of 4-H agents from the Central Region recently did their part to get Camp Grant Walker ready to welcome kids again, too. They painted a new backdrop for campers to use in photos and put up new designs on bulletin boards in classrooms.
“Camp is near and dear to our hearts,” said Esther Boe, 4-H coordinator for the Central Region. “All of the agents were very excited to plan the activities and to come out here and just to be at camp together. We hope one day to be back here with our kids.”
Attending camp and being away from home offers a chance to grow, said Evangeline Parish 4-H agent Kim Deville. Campers have responsibilities in their cabins and have to choose what “tracks,” or activities, they participate in.
For many, “it’s the first time they get to actually make choices and do things that they know they picked for themselves,” Deville said.
Camp also provides unique experiences that create lifelong memories, such as swimming in a creek and attending nightly dances with new friends from across the state under one of the pavilions that was damaged by Hurricane Laura.
“Camp is something we can’t really replicate somewhere else,” Boe said. “Camp is a special place.”
A pine tree fell on an outdoor pavilion at the LSU AgCenter Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock during Hurricane Laura in 2020. LSU AgCenter file photo
A fundraising effort also is underway to help fund repair projects at Grant Walker Educational Facility. The center sustained major damage from hurricanes Laura and Delta. If you are able to make a gift to support repairs and the restoration of Grant Walker, please consider contributing to the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center Support Fund.
Throughout the year, the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center offers spacious meeting facilities, lodging and youth camps. During the summer, youth from all 64 parishes in Louisiana have access to the center’s 10-week camp program. These beloved experiences and community spaces have long had an important role in the local community, as well as in uniting youth statewide during the summer for swimming, canoeing, creating and learning together. Each year, campers are supported by a trained staff of student educators and certified lifeguards along with parish extension agents, teen counselors and adult volunteers.
Donations can be made through the LSU Foundation by visiting https://bit.ly/3fhwMtj.