Campers across the years say farewell to River Valley Ranch cabins prior to demolition, renovations

River Valley Ranch provided the opportunity for former campers to say goodbye to cabins before they are demolished and replaced this fall.

Six cabins sit on top of a massive hill — three each in two rows that run parallel to one another.

For more than six decades, the cabins have housed kids for a week at a time, providing them the opportunity to take part in a religious summer camp with a western twist.


Basic in style, the cabins are covered in messages of hope and love — the walls literally inscribed with words of former campers.

But, come the week of Aug. 27, those cabins will be torn down to make room for four larger and more up-to-date buildings, signaling a new chapter in River Valley Ranch’s long history in northern Carroll County.

Saturday, campers — some from the 1980s and 1990s, others from as recently as this summer — came to a final send-off to those cabins.

Shannon Baublitz, of Upperco, spent one summer at the camp in the 1980s, when she was about 10. Baublitz remembers staying in the cabins and, while a little homesick in those first few days, loving her time at River Valley Ranch.

“It was a wonderful experience,” she said, later adding that by the end of the week, she didn’t want to go home.

Baublitz said she remembers being active and having a lot to do at the camp, even though it didn’t have some of the newer activities like those that are available today. She said she enjoyed getting to go down to the camp’s bank to get money out, as well as the post office, to pick up her mail.

“You kind of felt like a big person,” she said.

One of her favorite experiences was getting to ride horses and do trail rides, Baublitz said.

It’s bittersweet to see the cabins come down, she said, but with life comes change, and the plans show there will be enhancements to the camp.

“It’s like mixed emotions because you can see that it definitely needs the upgrade but having been a previous camper and knowing that experience, there’s the attachment there [so I’m] sad to see it go,” she said.

Tina Blackman, director of development at River Valley Ranch, said most of the reactions have been like that of Baublitz — people are sad, but they know it’s time. Saturday was a chance to say goodbye and get one more picture with the cabins, she said.

“They are at the end of their life. We have patched and repatched and refurbished for [more than 60] years and they finally have to be replaced,” Blackman said.

The camp has seen change over the years. First started by two brothers who were preachers in Baltimore City, Blackman said, the camp had an American West theme. And while the camp still has those roots, it has evolved over the years and expanded to includes opportunities like paintball and horsemanship, she said.

Blackman said River Valley Ranch will do a controlled burn of the cabins, and will then begin work on the four new cabins. Two will be one-story structures in the style of Fort Laramie in Wyoming, and two will be two stories in the style of Fort McHenry in Maryland, she said.


“The new ones will have more bathrooms — they’ll have much, much better bathrooms. They’ll have heating and air conditioning [and] we’ll be able to use the buildings year round, and they’l have full basement storm shelters,” Blackman said.

Next summer, as the work is being done, Blackman said there will be a full displacement plan. There will be temporary dorms that are shaped like covered wagons, she added.

The entire project should be done in the next 18 months to two years. So far, River Valley Ranch has gotten almost $2.1 million for the project, and need an additional $1.8 million to finalize everything, Blackman said.

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