Camp Clifton celebrates 85 years, receives grant

By Nathan Pilling npilling@civitasmedia.com

July 10, 2014

YELLOW SPRINGS — Nestled on the south side of Clifton Gorge and John Bryan State Park lies what one man believes is the best kept secret in Greene County: 4-H Camp Clifton.

His name is Glen Satchell, and he’s the executive director of the camp.

“I bet if you went six miles in any direction, most people wouldn’t know we’re here,” he said. “Which is kinda good and kinda bad. It’s a fine line.”

Recently the camp’s leadership set out to attract the attention of the Dayton Foundation – a local charitable community foundation that assists nonprofits – in hopes of receiving funds to help renovate the camp’s dining hall.

On June 25, the foundation announced the awarding of grant funds to several local not-for-profits and 4-H Camp Clifton was on the list. The $15,000 they’re receiving will go primarily to renovating the dining hall’s floor.

The camp is celebrating it’s 85th year of operation, so those funds will act as a pretty nice anniversary present. Since it was founded all those years ago, the camp has expanded from its initial 18-acre property to 68 acres. It’s added activities throughout the years as well.

Today two ropes courses, a zipline, archery, fishing, swimming, sports, crafts, line dancing and a whole host of other activities attract over 3,000 youth from seven local counties each year. The camp is rarely not a hive of activity once it’s open for the season.

This season will see eight 4-H camps and seven non 4-H camps taking advantage of all the camp has to offer. Those camps range in size from 150 to 250 campers.

While the camp has expanded and changed throughout the years, according to Satchell, the essence of what the camp was designed to do back when it opened is still there.

“We’re still reinforcing responsibility with kids and still giving them a safe environment,” Satchell said. “The biggest thing we try to do is have a safe environment that kids can grow in.”

Satchell is proud of the camp and how it has survived through the years. When he started at the camp 29 years ago, there were five camps in the gorge area. Satchell said two have closed, one has sold out and another is struggling.

What’s perhaps most impressive about the camp’s success is that it runs almost entirely off its own user fees. While it’s associated with the Ohio State University Extension Office, Satchell said the camp doesn’t receive assistance from the university or the government.

Today the camp is running strong, having weathered the storms of recession and changing children’s interests.

“Everybody wants a piece of the pie with these kids’ times,” Satchell said. “There’s so much that these kids can do nowadays, and we’re able to maintain a business. It’s pretty neat.”