Camp Information for Summer 2020


6/15/2020: We are very sad to announce that we will be canceling all Roughing It Day Camp programs for the 2020 season. Please read below for more details. We have also put together an FAQ below and refund request form.

Camp Update - Summer 2020 Camp Programs CANCELED

Dear Camp Families, Campers, Staff, and Friends,

We are very sad to announce that we will be canceling all Roughing It Day Camp programs (including Session 2) for the 2020 season due to the uncertainties posed by COVID-19. This is the most difficult decision we have ever had to make since opening Roughing It Day Camp in 1972.  It is heartbreaking to know that instead of celebrating our 48th season together, our campers and staff won’t be here to experience the magic of Roughing It.

Despite the sadness and difficulty of this decision, we know it is the correct one. The health and safety of our campers and staff will always be our top priority.

We worked hard to make camp happen this summer, but there are still too many uncertainties. 

This week, with the reservoir still not open for groups this summer, we realized that there are still too many uncertainties for us to run camp safely for our campers and staff. We worked hard to find a way to make camp happen and we hoped by choosing to delay the start of camp to July we would have more clarity on the opening phases and plans from the Lafayette Reservoir and the county. The head rangers talked with us about the park district’s concerns for public safety and mitigating risks from COVID-19. They have been very open with us but have been unable to offer many answers or a timeline that fits with our camp plans. Even now, it is still uncertain if/when they will be opening the Lafayette Reservoir park in a capacity that would allow us to operate camp this summer. Currently, the Lafayette Reservoir has only opened the upper rim trail and lower lake trail to walkers with limited access to bathrooms and water. There are other restrictions including no groups, no gatherings, no picnicking, and no boating. It is possible that the Lafayette Reservoir could loosen restrictions later this summer, but it is still unknown if they will permit many of the activities our camper love. At this time, it isn’t fair to our camp families and our staff to delay this decision any longer. With so many unknown factors about Summer 2020, this is the best decision we can make at this time.

The risks of running camp this summer are still too great for the safety of our campers and staff.

Even as many parts of the bay area are opening up, we feel there are still too many risks and unanswered questions for us to ensure the health and safety of our camp community. Since March, our camp administrators have spent hundreds of hours in webinars and in meetings with health experts and camp directors to set up the best protocols to operate camp in the safest way possible in the current COVID-19 environment. We worked closely with the Contra Costa County Health Department and the Lafayette Reservoir, and followed the CDC and the American Camp Association guidelines as we updated our camp policies. We were prepared for summer 2020 with new camp plans, health and safety procedures, and sanitizing practices. Even with all the preparations we have made, the newness of this pandemic still leaves too many uncertainties and factors out of our control.

And finally, once all the changes were put in place for 2020, we aren’t sure this will be a real Roughing It summer for our camper and staff.

As we put plans in place for Summer 2020, so many of the parts that we cherish at Roughing It were going to be significantly different or unavailable altogether: camp at the reservoir, bus service, horseback riding, swimming, and boating programs. We can make many of the adjustments for social distancing and the new safety procedures, but in the end it is very difficult to replace the outdoor elements of the Lafayette Reservoir and the special camp programs we do there.

We know you may have more questions than we have addressed here. Please see below for FAQs and more in-depth answers to questions you might have. We have tried our best to answer all of the questions that have come up in talking with our camp families: we did consider other locations for camp, we will be offering full refunds, and camp will be back and better than ever in 2021. As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have additional questions for us.

Roughing It Will Return in 2021!

We will really miss seeing you this summer, and we are already counting down the days until Summer 2021, using the plans we made for this summer.  We look forward to the day when we are back at camp together having fun outdoors, connecting with camp friends, and experiencing new adventures at the reservoir. ‘Til then… keep your RI Camp Spirit going strong, stay healthy and happy!

Thank you for being a part of our camp family and camp hugs to all!

Amy, Ann & Hobie + Gus (the camp dog)

P. S. See below for special messages for our campers, parents and staff.

We cannot imagine a summer without seeing you at Roughing It. We know you’ve been looking forward to camp all year. This is our first summer in 48 years that we have not had camp, and we feel your sadness.  We really wanted camp to happen this summer so you would be able to have a great summer outdoors, learning and growing in new ways.

For our returning campers: We know you were looking forward to coming back to reconnect with your camp friends and staff. This would have been a milestone year for some of you, as this would be your 5th, 7th or 10th year (or more) at Roughing It. Some of you would be taking on new leadership roles as CILTs and JCs. We will miss seeing you have these new experiences this year and understand this is disappointing for you. Keep remembering the lessons you’ve learned at camp and all the fun you’ve had at Roughing It over the years. We will all get through this and come back stronger next year.

You will be so missed by all of us at Roughing It. This would have been Gus, the camp dog’s, 13th summer.  He’s been coming to camp since he was a puppy.  Some of you may remember he was a handful when he was young!  He is sad to not spend his summer with his beloved camp friends and to meet new campers too.  Gus joins us to say we will miss your smiles as you get off the bus on the first day, seeing you trying to catch “Big Fred”,  ride your favorite horse, or canoe to the “beach” in Capt’n Rough’s Cove.  We will miss the hugs, hands to hold, friends to treasure and all the amazing times we’ve had together at Opening and Closing Circle. We’ll be here for you and thinking of you all summer.

In the meantime, keep your RI camp spirit going strong! We’ll be ready to welcome you back to camp next summer!

Camp Hugs to you!

Amy, Ann & Hobie + the Roughing It Staff

PS:  Stay connected to Camp!  See Camper Caboodle to relive your camp memories.

Dear Parents,

We know that you were hoping camp would be the bright spot your children’s year during this time while sheltering at home.  We were too!   We believed with all our experience and expertise of 48 years, we could persevere and make it happen for you, our camper families. We agonized over having to make this decision because we know how disappointed you and your campers will be to spend a summer without Roughing It.  In the end, we felt the current uncertainties and risks of operating camp now are too great for us to be able to ensure the safety of our campers and staff.  We know this news will be very sad for your campers. As a parent and grandparent, we see how challenging these past months were for kids having to shelter at home, social distancing, missing friends and not being able to do activities that they love. As we are all being asked to do hard things during these times, it is important to give kids time to be sad or upset and then find a way to work through this. We are here for you and want to help your family during these times. (See resources below).

Thank you for being a part of our Camp Family and your support this year!

Amy, Ann & Hobie

Additional Resources for Parents:

  • A video on how to talk to you child about camp being canceled Helping Our Kids Manage Summer Disappointments from Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.
  • KidCare at Home:  While nothing can replace camp, we are offering our camp families the opportunity to hire camp staff to do fun activities with campers at your home this summer.  We want to help campers and your family make the most of this summer during this time at home. We will send you more details on this new program soon.
  • Refund Form

Dear Staff,

It’s with great sadness that we announce that, due to all the uncertainties posed by COVID-19, all Roughing It day Camp summer 2020 programs will be canceled. This is the hardest decision about Camp we’ve ever had to make. It is heartbreaking to know that instead of celebrating our 48th season together, our campers and staff won’t be coming to camp to experience the magic of Roughing It this summer. 

And, despite the sadness and difficulty of the decision, we know it is the right one. Our first priority will always be the safety and health of our campers and staff.

Every summer, one of our favorite parts of our jobs is connecting with you, our staff. We love building our team during staff training, working with our staff throughout the summer to give our campers the summer of their lives, going through the exciting work of Camp together, and reliving the highlights during the staff party at the end of summer.

One of our best parts of camp is seeing you as staff grow as leaders, and learn new things about yourselves. We love that experience for you, and we love being a part of it. This growth won’t happen as it should this summer, but we hope for you that it does happen. We encourage you to use this time to develop and grow.

A few things to know: 

Your 2020 job offer is good for 2021. Our hope for 2021 is that all of you will be on staff. We know that it’s not likely we’ll get 100% of you, but we do hope to see most of you at camp next summer. In the fall, we will begin filling 2021 positions with our 2020 staff first. You have a spot on our staff if you want one, and we look froward to working with you next summer.

Summer work opportunities:  While nothing can replace camp this summer, we put together KidCare, an online job board where Camp Counselors connect with local families to provide fun and engaging care for kids.  Contact us for more details.

Please reach out to us if you have questions or want to talk.  We are here for you. 

Again, we will miss having you at camp this summer. We hope to see you all soon!

Camp Hugs to you all!

Amy, Ann, Hobie, Jessie & the RI Team

Camp Cancellation FAQs

To receive a full refund, please complete our Registration Update Form.  We need this form to process your refund.  We have several refund options. You can receive a full refund; roll over all or a portion of your fee to Camp 2021; and/or donate all or a portion of your refund to Roughing It to help keep camp operating until Summer 2021.  We appreciate your patience as we process refunds between June 15 — July 15.  If you have extenuating circumstances that require an earlier refund, please contact us by email after you submit your registration update form.

The Lafayette Reservoir was closed to the public until last Friday, June 12.  EBMUD opened parking lots, hiking on the lower lake trail in addition to the upper rim trail and fishing. They have opened a few select bathrooms and 4 water fountains around the lower paved trail. The playground is closed.  There is no picnicking, no BBQs, and no group usage is allowed.  Boating rentals and boat launch are unavailable. The visitor center remains closed.

The timeline for opening to groups, including Roughing It Day Camp, is yet to be determined.  Since we are now a month away from starting session two for Day Camp, we felt this was too uncertain a situation and it is one of the reasons we cancelled camp.   We understand why EBMUD may need more time to put together their information for the public on how groups can operate and picnic in the COVID-19 era.  We were also faced with this problem and found it to be full of uncertainties.

EBMUD and the Park Rangers will have specific information available on the use of the park in COVID-19 era by groups and for picnicking by the time they open the park to the public for this usage but this information is currently under development and not currently available. 

We did consider other sites. Most schools are closed and unavailable as they are trying to prepare to re-open in the fall with new COVID-19 compliance requirements.  Several churches were an option but operating camp on the blacktop parking lot of a church, on a small patch of grass and in a social hall is not really offering what Roughing It is all about.   We felt we could only modify the camp experience to a certain point and be true to what our campers and parents value and look forward to doing at Roughing It. Using a new park was not an option because many parks did not open until after Memorial Day, and most still have not opened their bathrooms and have limited or no access to water. Obtaining the proper permit and all of the governmental administrative requirements takes much more time that we currently have.

We honestly thought that we had a very good chance of developing a plan that would fully protect the safety of our campers/staff and provide the very high quality program that our campers deserve.  Having operated Roughing It Day Camp for 48 years, we never thought we would be cancelling camp this summer. The decision to cancel camp for 2020 was a very difficult one and many factors came into play.  We believed with all our years of experience that we could use our expertise to successfully implement the American Camp Association best practices, CDC guidelines, state of California guidance and Contra Costa County Environmental Health Department policies to develop a plan to safely operate  camp for our camp community. We were hopeful that delaying our camp start date to July would provide all the time we needed to update our camp plans and policies with the protocols for dealing with COVID-19.  We have prepared for summer 2020 with new camp plans, health and safety procedures, sanitization practices and revised program policies.  As we developed each part of our camp operation in our plan, we realized there still were too many unanswered questions and risks because of COVID-19 that were out of our control.   That is why we made the decision to cancel camp.  As hard a decision as it was, we know it was the right one for the health and safety of our campers, staff and the community.

  1. The reservoir is not opened for groups to use currently and is allowing only hiking and fishing. EBMUD and The Rangers will have information on the use of the Park and safety in the COVID-19 era for park users sometime this summer when they open the park to the public for group use and picnicking. The timeline for opening to groups is uncertain.
  2. Bathroom usage and sanitation at the reservoir: Roughing It has always shared the public space and bathrooms with the park users. This has never been an issue as the number of park uses is low on the weekdays.  In a COVID-19 era, shared usage becomes a very real concern.  We would not have control of how the bathrooms were used.  We requested a separate bathroom for Roughing It and be able to sanitize and clean it ourselves, but the Reservoir has not yet been able to approve this.
  3. Sharing public space for running our camp activities at the reservoir is a concern for the first time this year. For 48 years, we have been fortunate to operate Roughing It at the beautiful Lafayette Reservoir.  We share the many areas and facilities at the Reservoir with the public and this year we could not see how that would work for us.  We have always respected the public and had a very flexible way of setting up our activity areas at the park so we could share the park space with other park users.  In working through the details, we could easily put in place the protocols to properly sanitize the picnic tables and activity supplies. But the occasional co-mingling with the public who might also want to use the same space, could compromise our campers’ and staff members safety.    How to work around it?  We could not find an answer that was within the spirit of our use permit for our camp to operate at the Reservoir.  We are sure that with additional time and effort on the part of Roughing It and the EBMUD rangers we can develop a workable system but we have just run out of time this year.
  4. The reservoir may close at any time. The reservoir may close for up to 14 days if a park user or a Park Ranger comes down with COVID-19. This added to the uncertainty of operating this summer for us at Roughing It.

School bus companies, school districts, summer camps and any organization using van/bus transportation is struggling to develop safe and sanitary procedures for transporting children.  Neither the CDC, Contra Costa County Health Department, state health department nor the American Camp Association have yet had the time to develop guidance and/or policy in this area.   The current advice from our bus company on social distancing of children in a bus means that buses will operate at one-third capacity but they too are awaiting further guidance or regulation.   It is economically infeasible for Roughing It to use buses at much less than full capacity.  Since the buses cannot operate at maximum capacity, we are not able to offer transportation to and from home to camp.  Bus companies are currently working out these details with the school districts for year and this should allow us to again offer transportation for 2021.

The Soda Aquatic Center, where our swimming takes place, sent out a letter last week providing guidelines for using the pool   Our pool usage was confirmed but due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is no changing allowed in the locker rooms.  We requested permission to set up our own changing tents as we have done on occasion but this has been initially denied until the district has more time to review. Without a secure place for campers to change out of their wet suits, we worried this was a health concern to stay in a wet suit all day, and could be uncomfortably cold on foggy windy days.  In addition, sharing the pool deck space, bathrooms, and going through the locker rooms (which is the entrance and exit to the pool decks), concerned us because it was excessive mingling with other large swim team/groups in confined spaces.  These concerns will be worked out by the school district and we do not think they will be an issue next summer but it is just one more of the many items that Roughing It needs to refine in coordination with other agencies. Shuttling campers from the Lafayette Reservoir to our swim site is another area that we continue to struggle with to make safe in the COVID-19 era (see the above discussion on transportation).

Roughing It is known for our very high-quality horseback riding program and how well we teach campers of all age and ability levels to ride.  We teach campers in groups of 5 – 6.  Try as we may, we could not see how to keep in place physical distancing, provide sanitization of tack/equipment and still maintain the safety procedures.  Shuttling campers from the Lafayette Reservoir to our horseback riding site is another area that we continue to struggle with to make safe in the Covid era (see the above discussion on transportation).

Most camps have decided not to operate this summer and only a few camps are opening. Each camp must weigh the risks and decide what is best for their own organization. We have been working closely with our fellow member camps in the Western Association of Independent Camps and the American Camp Association to develop and share procedures to safely operate camp under the existing constraints of COVID-19.  Of the 55 members of WAIC all but four have canceled this summer and those four are fortunate enough to have sites that they own or very closely control so that they can more closely limit public interaction and more easily manage their camper safety.  We know from our shared involvement with both WAIC and ACA that camps who are accredited members of those two organizations have taken the planning and preparation of COVID-19 operations very seriously.  Almost all of those camps will not operate this coming summer.

Roughing It Day Camp is has worked closely with the Contra Costa County Environmental Health Department to stay informed and in full compliance with current directives.  Most other camps in the county are not required to register or be inspected by the county since they take place at a school site which allows them to operate without regulation.  Because we are an all outdoor camp we are required to be registered, supervised and inspected by the county health department and have been throughout our 48 year history.  At the current time we are the only camp in the county so regulated by the county health department.

Roughing It is a large camp with several different sites and vastly more program activities than most other camps.  We operate numerous program activities, including some that are high risk like canoeing, swimming, and riding.  We have a staff of over 60 members and 200 campers per session.   We were prepared for summer 2020 with new camp plans, health and safety procedures and sanitization practices.  When we analyzed each part of our camp operation in our plan, we realized there were too many unanswered questions and risks because of COVID-19.  The COVID-19 cases in our county continue to grow as we move into stage three, and the numbers have spiked in the last week. Even with all the preparations we made, the newness of the pandemic still leaves too many uncertainties and factors out of our control.   We, like almost all quality camps who are members of WAIC and ACA, have made the difficult decision to cancel this summer because the safety and health of our campers is our top priority.

In summary each camp must make their own decision as to whether to operate or not and parents must make their own decision as to whether they trust that decision or not.  The vast majority of the other camps in the San Francisco Bay area are not as closely involved with both the ACA and WAIC and have not benefited from the ongoing training, professional development and professionalism of these two important associations.  The vast majority of camps in the San Francisco Bay Area are not registered with their county health department and lose the benefit of that departments counsel and guidance. 

We remain very confident that our decision not to operate is the very best decision for our campers, our staff, our camp parents and the community.

Since March, our camp administrators have spent hours in webinars and in meetings with health experts and camp directors to set up the best protocols to operate camp in the safest way possible in the current COVID-19 environment. We worked closely with the Contra Costa County Health Department, the Lafayette Reservoir, the CDC and the American Camp Association guidelines as we updated our camp policies. We were prepared for Summer 2020 with new camp plans, sanitation practices, and health & safety procedures. Even with all the preparations we have made, the newness of this pandemic still leaves too many uncertainties and factors out of our control in 2020.

Various organizations around the state and country have developed and continue to refine policies, procedures, protocols, and best practices for safely conducting camp in a COVID-19 environment.  Some of these policies provide conflicting information and agencies continue to work to coordinate an effective response to the very real risks.  Roughing It continues to monitor and actively participate in this process. It is a time consuming, frustrating and yet very important process but it is also necessary if we are to continue to operate the quality day camp you have come to expect.

This summer, we will continue to work on and refine our plans for operating Roughing It with COVID-19 in 2021.  Other organizations like the health departments, school districts and park districts will be establishing guidelines and have them in place for a full year before we open in June 2021.  This gives us a chance to benefit from their expertise in setting up and modifying the protocols to operate Roughing It safely for our camp community next summer.

As always, we are here to help our camper families and staff in any way we can.  Please feel free to email or call at any time if you have any questions or concerns.  Our Camp Director, Amy Woods is normally the best person to talk with since she has been our primary interface with our county health department, the American Camp Association and the Western Association of Camps on these very important matters of camp safety during the era of COVID-19.

Camper Caboodle - Stay Connected to Camp


Check out Camper Caboodle for a daily new mix of fun favorite camp activities to do at home, along with video lessons for crafts, cooking, outdoor fun, and horse visits. (Contact Us if you don’t know the password)

Additional Resources