Millboro Springs Camp has welcomed Richmond youth to the mountains since 1917
2014 was a special year for two Bath County Camps. Camp Mont Shenandoah, and Camp Alkulana both in Millboro Springs, received designations as Historic Landmarks from the Virginia Department of Historic Resourses. Beth Wright, the director of Camp Alkulana, said,
“We are just honored to be considered, and to be added to the registry. Of course you know we have thought that our history and our story were important for a long time, but it’s always nice when others hear it, and validate that importance.”
Wright shared some of the camp’s early history,
“We have been at that site since 1917. So, two years into our existence we moved from around the Ashland area near Richmond out to Bath County. Our first director, whose name was Nannie West, used to vacation at the old Millboro Springs Hotel. That was just where she used to go to get a way from the city. She had already started the camp, at its’ site hear near Richmond, but really wanted a place that was out in the mountains, and could teach the girls about nature, and so when she was vacation there, at the Millboro Springs Hotel, she mentioned to the owner that she really loved that area. And he offered her a spot of land to borrow, which is where we are now, just down from where that hotel used to be. And um, the Davidsons, that’s who owned the hotel, they let us use that land for a long time until they sold it to us.”
Children in Richmond learn about Camp Alkulana through local churches, many of which are part of the River City Faith Network, and the Richmond Baptist Association. These churches also take care of the funding and volunteering for the camp.
Most families understand camp is an ideal place to learn to swim, or paddle a canoe, or especially to make new friends. Is there something that makes Alkulana different from other camps?
“Well our camp in particular is for Richmond City kids, and in particular for children who wouldn’t be able to afford a camp experience otherwise.” Wright responded.
“ I think for any child summer camp is important because it teaches them independence. Nowadays it’s very important to help children get unplugged from all that technology that we’re all glued to all the time. It also sort of gives them a sense of new community outside of their parent’s world, and it’s also really important, the relationship, that counselors and campers have together. It’s a unique relationship, and often last years and years past the camp experience. For our children in particular, it’s important because many of them have never been outside of the city before. And so, even the bus ride from Richmond to Bath County is eye-opening when they first see the mountains they’ve never seen before.”
In addition to recognizing why Camp Alkulana may be important to these children, Wright noted Bath County is part of what makes it special to them, “ We just think the area is so beautiful, and has so many rich resources, and we’ve been able to take advantage of those in our camp programming, so that we can take the kids into the wild caves in the area, or to Douthat State Park, or Lake Moomaw, or areas around there that are just beautiful, that otherwise our children would never have access to.”
While thrilled about its’ designation as a Virginia Historic Landmark, and waiting to hear it has also earned such a designation from the National registry, Camp Alkulana is also busy preparing for its’ 100 year anniversary party. Beth Wright concluded with,
“On March 21st at 2:00 PM at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, we are having a big celebration with generations of campers and counselors, and supporters of the camp. We’re expecting over five hundred people to be there, and it will be sort of a festival of storytelling and camp songs, and then afterwards we’ll have a reception.”