Four of North Carolina's six 4-H camps will close at the end of the year because there is not enough money to keep them open.
State 4-H Director Marshall Stewart said this week that the camps have been struggling financially for years and that the costs of operations and upkeep at the aging facilities have continued to go up during the recent economic downturn. The 4-H educational and youth development centers spread across the state are supported by fee revenue collected from campers and community groups.
"It's been a struggle," Stewart said Thursday. "We just found we could not continue."
The camps set to close are Swannanoa in Buncombe County, Sertoma in Stokes County, Betsy-Jeff Penn in Rockingham County and Anita-Alta in Caldwell County. Swannanoa is the state's oldest 4-H camp and opened in the 1920s. The camps serve about 9,000 children a year.
Stewart said after downsizing operations the state's 4-H program intends to focus on upgrading its remaining facilities, Eastern and Millstone. Altogether, N.C. Cooperative Extension serves about 237,000 children, ages 5 to 19, through its 4-H youth programs.
"This is going to allow us to have a higher quality program by being smaller," Stewart said. "We want to give young people the highest quality experience we can. It is not a decision that's been come to easily."