The sun has set on Nature Camps Inc., a camp that offered the area’s children and youth traditional summer memories — campfires, hikes in the woods, swimming and learning about nature — for almost a half century.
In a “Letter of Gratitude” posted on the company’s website just before Christmas, founder Don Webb announced that Nature Camps held its last summer camp season in 2022.
“It is with profound gladness and appreciation, celebration and abiding love that I share with you today that Nature Camps will be closing permanently; after 46 years of service, I have decided to retire,” said Webb, 81. “Since 1974, we have welcomed thousands of children and teens to our program, rooted in four incredible locations and including the trails, bike paths, lakes and rivers all around us.”
Nature Camps specialized in environmental education and adventure education in mixed-age learning and offered children the option of picking activities of their choice each day. Nature Camps had four locations — the Happy Hollow camp facility off Padonia Road in Cockeysville, two locations in Monkton and one in White Hall.
“Nature Camps is decidedly unique, and will always occupy a special place in our hearts and minds as we move through the world, forever changed for the time we spent there together,” Webb said in his goodbye letter. “Year after year, through personally interacting with the marvels and intricacies of nature, we deepened our sense of wonder — and discovered the teacher within.”
For many campers, Nature Camps was a way to connect through the mutual love of nature. The connections and memories made during the 46 summer seasons went beyond the summer.
“Camp was always home to me, a place where I found deep connections in the natural world and among friends,” said Amanda Brown, a former camper from Baltimore. “Camp’s reach is so far beyond the happy summer days we spent together. It’s the way all of us who were touched by camp live our lives, raise our children, experience and share the world in our communities.”
Webb’s family couldn’t continue the camp since his children live in Colorado, said his daughter, Polly Webb. He tried to get camp alumni to run it but he couldn’t find the right person, said Polly Webb. However, Polly said her father is content with his legacy.
“Don Webb is more than the founder and director of Nature Camps,” said Scott Waldman, a friend of the family from Washington, D.C. “He is the soul of the place, the reason it operated for almost a half century, and generations of children were forever changed because of who he is as an educator and a human being. Nature Camps was the kind of experience for kids that they rarely get in this world anymore. At Nature Camps, time slowed down, the forest became something more than the trees and children discovered that wildness that lives inside us all, but that is actively squelched by the modern world.”
Although Don Webb has retired from running camps, he remains involved in the community as a counselor for families and couples through his Infinite Bluebirds Counseling.