We get a lot of press releases from the Columbia Association, but rarely ones that mention the Middle East crisis.

We received such a document last month, and it conjured a picture in my mind of Iraqi tanks tearing up open space and troops stringing up clothes lines in brazen violation of . . . the Covenants.


The release announced that the CA's camp coordinator, Debbie Thompson, attended a management conference by the American Camping Association: "The conference addressed how the Middle East crisis, energy pressures, recession and other influences are affecting the camping industry," I read.

Camping industry? Middle East crisis?


Perhaps our little campers won't be able to go on that ever-popular Mesopotamian Pot Sherd Hike this year, or worse yet, maybe the Al-Hamad DesertDude Ranch will be closed for the winter.

"I think what they're talking about is the recession," which might have something to do withevents in that part of the world, explained Ann Scherr, assistant director of CA's community services division.

Most of the camping association's members run expensive sleep-over camps, she said, which tend to get hit when people start banking their disposable income against hard times.

CEOs from major corporations gave some of the unhappy campers tips on how to brace against the prospect of kids stayingat home to watch the news about the Middle East.

As for the Columbia Association, which runs day camps that are "not as pricey" as thesummer camps most camping association members run, the recession is not expected to cut back on enrollment.

"In many instances, our camps are used as day care," for children of working parents, Scherr said, while "a residential camp, a go-away, sleep-away camp, is much more of a non-necessity."

So, while the dock on Lake Elkhorn will still be awash with little campers, the Shatt-al-Arab Crewing Camp may well be a lonely place next summer.