There were no kids to be found at the Nature Center on Wednesday, though, and not many to be seen elsewhere around the camp. That will change come June 8, when the camp’s first of eight 2014 summer sessions opens.
Fortunately, a group of special-needs kids were braving Flat Rock’s “Alpine Tower” on Wednesday and Sheppard took the Daily News to watch. The tower is a tall, simple structure built of logs. It looks like something one might find at a military boot camp, with a variety of handholds and ladders built into and extending between its planks, and a high viewing deck built at the very top.
Flat Rock outdoor education coordinator Katie Teal stood beneath and slightly behind the tower, with outdoor education staff member Ben Carson beside her. Both staff members were harnessed to a climber by a long rope, extending up and onto the tower itself. As Teal and Carson provided instruction and moral support, the two climbers – both securely harnessed and wearing helmets – made their way up, both thoroughly engaged and challenged.
Sheppard pointed out that no child at Flat Rock is ever forced to do anything they don’t want to do. That doesn’t mean they’re not challenged, though, Sheppard added. Flat Rock’s staff, however, works from a “Challenge by Choice” philosophy.
In regards to Decatur County, Sheppard characterized the camp as the area’s “best-kept secret.” “We just don’t have as much interest or attendance from Greensburg and Decatur County,” he said.
“Part of the problem is the fact that we’re so secluded,” he added, explaining that, in regards to Decatur County, the camp’s seclusion is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. “It’s not like people from this area can just drive by and see our camp in passing.”