Anyone who thinks that it’s quiet on the hill because summer campers departed Bethany Birches Camp in August would be wrong—very wrong. Drive up Lynds Hill Road in Plymouth and when you reach the Camp you’ll see a frenzy of activity. A new camp Pavilion is under construction. Get out of your car and come walk with us to see the construction site and meet three people, among many, who are critical to the Pavilion Project.
Robert Buchan of Plymouth, Vermont, is the Pavilion Project Architect. Robert, who is a member of the American Institute of Architects, is also the father of two long-time campers, daughter Lily and son Andrew. Born and raised north of London, England, Buchan completed his training as an architect in the U.K. before coming to the United States where he is a Vermont Licensed Architect. Robert, who has been an architect for 31 years, is also a member of the Bethany Birches Camp Association.
As an Association member, Robert has been thinking about camp facilities for a long time. He participated in a long-range planning process which asked the Association and the Camp Board to look at how the camp’s mission might develop and change to meet the needs of future campers. “What will make Camp better,” Buchan said, “is a question we have grappled with for several years.” “What worked for camping in the 1960s has changed and we needed to look at the type of structures that would facilitate those changes.” For example, if Bethany Birches desired to move to year round programming then it needed a facility that would support all season activities.
Were there challenges in designing the new Pavilion? “Yes,” Robert said and he mentioned several. “We needed to design something in keeping with the character of Camp. The building needed to be like Camp—a comfortable place for kids to have fun. We wanted there to be room for lots of activity but we didn’t want the building to look like a gym or be cavernous. The new “Pavi” is much larger than the old one but we don’t want it to feel too much bigger.”
As with other building projects the budget presented a challenge. “A big, quality building doesn’t come cheap,” said Robert, “but we also had to live within budget constraints.” How to build a new Pavi that would not be exorbitantly expensive was the question. According to Buchan, in order to deal with these budget questions some aspects of the planning and designing process have been more stretched out than would be true with a building project where money was not an issue.
What does Robert hope for the new Pavilion? “I hope the kids will find it a comfortable place where they can have fun and explore.” The building is a symbol as well as a catalyst for change at Bethany Birches Camp. “I’m getting excited now that it’s coming together; the building will enable Camp to do more and encourage campers to grow and explore.” Robert is grateful to be part of an active and supportive Camp Association which is totally behind the project.
The “Pavi” Project Construction Manager is Phil Wilkerson of Bridgewater, VT, who started work on the project in April, 2014. Many people who are currently working on construction of the new BBC Pavilion have some previous family connection with BBC, which opened in 1965. In Phil’s case the connection is his wife, Mary, who as a youngster attended Bethany Birches Camp, as did her two children Kevin and Sarah. Mary is now the General Manager at Woodstock Home and Hardware.
Phil is a builder, a profession he has pursued for the past 40 years. In addition to the new Pavilion, Phil also currently has two other ongoing major building projects. Are there challenges with his work on the Pavilion? “Yes”, says Phil. Why’s he doing it? “I’m doing it for the kids. If I can make a difference in one kid’s life, then any frustrations and headaches involved in being construction manager are worth it.”
Raised in Maryland, Phil moved to Lyndonville, Vermont, as a young person, to attend school. Living in Lyndonville gave Phil the chance to know his grandmother who was a school teacher and, according to Phil, a “real people person”. Phil learned many of his people skills from his grandmother. It’s a good thing that Phil picked up those skills because he works with many people—employees, camp staff, volunteers, as well as a team of other professionals working on a variety of tasks related to the “Pavi” construction project.
How does Phil see the new Pavilion impacting kids and the life of the camp? His answers to this question were plentiful and enthusiastic. “It will be a gorgeous building providing youngsters with a safe and comfortable place to be in nasty weather.” The “Pavi” will include a “great kitchen”, he said. That should be music to the ears of anyone and everyone who has ever worked in the old Pavi kitchen. The building will facilitate the merger of indoor and outdoor spaces illustrated by a fireplace which will be open on two sides—inside and outside.
“The new Pavilion will provide a positive environment,” said Phil. “It will permit the light to shine in on work and play.” These words make us think of Jesus’ saying as recorded in Matthew 5:14—“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.”
See that man bustling around the Pavi construction site, the one with a black dog named Fischer following him? That’s Greg Jenne, the Pavilion Construction Project Supervisor. Greg has been worked on this project since late summer 2014. Like many others involved with the project, Greg has a personal connection to Bethany Birches; both of his daughters, Piper and Izzy, have been enthusiastic BBC campers. “Both of my kids had a great time at Bethany Birches, and I want to see this project succeed.”
Greg has numerous ties to Central Vermont; he’s a Bridgewater native, graduated from Woodstock High School and has served on the Bridgewater School Board for nine years. He’s a General Contractor who has been meeting residential building needs in the area since 2002 and has headed up his own incorporated business—Jenne Construction, Inc.—since 2011. People who want to see examples of Greg’s work should check out his Facebook page.
When asked, “What is the best thing about working on the new Pavilion?” Greg was quick to respond with enthusiasm. “Knowing that this awesome structure will be enjoyed by lots of children for many years to come,” was his answer. The old Pavilion lasted for about fifty years and Greg hopes the new one will last for one hundred years. “It will be a beautiful building.” For those who think this will simply be a newer version of the old Pavilion—think again! There will be lots of warm comfortable space for a variety of indoor activities on wet, soggy days. There will be a separate camp store and nurse’s station and, says Greg, there will be something known as a ‘Flying Squirrel’—sort of like an indoor ropes course.
Have there been challenges for Greg and others? “Yes” says Greg and there will be more such as working through the winter. “Winter work is tough,” Greg tells me but “It’s OK because I’m committed to this project. I try to maintain a positive attitude and that helps us get through the tough days. We want this project ready for next summer.” “It will be a beautiful building with neat features,” Greg said and with that positive comment he was off to another meeting.
As Greg Jenne reminds us, winter is almost here bringing with it cold, short days and long dark nights. But, at Bethany Birches Camp the lights are on as construction of the new Pavi continues. God offers his light on the hill which will bring life to the full for all future campers.
– Margaret Campbell