City youths scouting country camp
Neil's dark eyes lit up as he rattled off the reasons why he likes going to day camp
The way they treat me. They act so nice. The (swimming) instructor taught me the backstroke." the 11-year old Trenton boy chattered, while some 10 other Cub Scouts peeled off T-shirts and towels and scrambled into the shallow pool at the George Washington Scout Reservation on Belle Mountain just inside West Amwell Township.
If the man whose name the reservation bears could again stand on Belle Mountain, as legend holds he once did, he would probably find that the boys of 1982 aren't much different from those that romped on the mountain 200 years ago.
He might also be flattered that those making Belle Mountain their stamping ground today also hold him in such high esteem.
A huge tapestry bearing the first president's likeness hangs from a hall in the specious lodge at the George Washington Scout Reservation.
The late James Kerney Jr., longtime editor and publisher of The Trenton Times, donated the rustic lodge that sits on the 200-acre reservation that was granted to the Boy Scouts of America by Col. Kenneth McIntosh of Princeton in 1964.
The camp, whose schedule is broken into five five-day weeks, brings 50 to 100 eight to 11-year olds together every year in activities embodying scout rules.
"Basically we have them follow the Cub Scout ideals -- do your best, help others, etc. And we try to have them establish new friendships, since they come from all over," said Elizabeth Septer, who is in her sixth year as program director at the reservation and eight year with day camps.
The cost of one session of camp is $38 for those having transportation and $58 for those who don't. Bused in from an area stretching from Trenton to northern Hunterdon County, the boys are divided into "tribes" and get a chance to participate in each of the day's planned activities.
While archery and swimming remain the overwhelming favorites, camp organizers also have a crafts session, nature walks, and games for the youngsters.
The Scouts are also treated to outside lectures by safety instructors, law enforcement officials and Dr. Bill Guntrie of Rider College, who teaches the boys about the Lenni Lenape Indians that were native to the reservation area.
Through Mrs. Septer said the council doesn't encourage non-scouts to participate in the program, the camp doesn't turn them away. Ron Green of Trenton, who is one of four adults on the camp's staff of 12, is using the program to recruit more scouts out of the inner city.
"I'm getting the kids out of the homes. Half of these kids come from broken families," he said as five additional boys lined up at the shooting range -- a portable stereo blaring from the nearby picnic table.
"I've been bringing inner-city kids up for the last six years to show them what scouting is all about," Green added, swatting at a cluster of pesky gnats.
He wearily shook his head after a skinny boy in red shorts had asked him if he was holding his bow correctly.
"Turn around there and shoot," he yelled back. Under his breath, he muttered: "They're here a whole week and they don't know how to shoot yet," in much the same tone an exasperated teacher uses after a day with restless pupils.
The scouts' itinerary runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Thursdays bring a special treat for the Cubs, as they must prepare their own lunch of hamburger, potatoes, carrots and onions in sealed aluminum foil over an open fire.
"It's a fantastic way to cook and they love it," said Mrs. Septer
Discipline -- which is never a problem at camp, according to Mrs. Septer -- handled by the camp director and the reservation's full-time ranger, Robert Fletcher.
If the don't want to do something they are scheduled to do, "we let them go talk to the ranger," explains Zachary, who, at 13 is the first black full-time den chief at the camp.
The soft-spoken Trenton teenager spent each of his four eligible years at the camp and is in his second year as a staff member. Mrs. Septer works with a staff of 12 Boy Scouts, in addition to the four adults.
"I'm one that if my kids are involved in something, I'm involved, too," she explained as she sat in front of the lodge's monstrous stone fireplace.
With camp at the reservation completed until another summer Mrs. Septer is getting packed for next week's week-long camp at the Yards creek Scout Reservation in Blairstown.
"We found it was just impossible for those boys to come to this camp so we started one up there," she explained.