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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Martin

Peconic Dunes Camp — A Timeless Tradition in a Modern World

Shore beach at The Peconic Sound
The Sound Beach

Take a walk with me through the tree-covered path, across the ball field and over to the dock atop the fresh water pond. The reflection off of the water shows a colorful history of children laughing, familiar sounds of splashing and the ritual of summer camp. What if we hiked further down the sandy trail, just over the dunes to the Sound beach? Yet, further still into the timeline of a unique spot on the Northern edge of Peconic where a hidden jewel of a park lives.

In a time of progress and technology, where immersive gaming, virtual reality and mobile computer phones intermix with everyday life, it is refreshing to know that there is a place where children can go back to basics. At Peconic Dunes Summer Camp, cell phones and game consoles are left behind and classic summertime fun comes to the forefront. It’s interesting to see what happens when a day is spent outside – jumping off of a dock, learning how to sail, creating art from what you find on a nature walk.

“Camps have the power to change lives forever,” American Camping Association

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic Dunes Camp offers an array of activities that include outdoor skills, archery, fishing, canoeing/kayaking, swimming and snorkeling. But what makes Peconic Dunes different? What can campers experience beyond the expected? To answer these questions, I met with Christopher Colahan, managing director, who has been working with the camp for the past five years.

Mr. Colahan has implemented elements to programming that have had quite an impact. One program is Expressive Arts, which offers sessions in videography, photography and performance art as well as environmental arts & crafts. “This program is giving kids an opportunity to be creative.” Chris explains, “It teaches them media literacy.” Another branch of instruction that has been added is the Leadership Development Program, which is a training model that customizes the education of counselors and future counselors, offering them invaluable lessons that they can take with them after camp and into their professional lives.

The park location at 6375 Soundview Avenue in Peconic has a 79-year-old history. Summer camp has obviously evolved over the years and I was interested in learning more about how, exactly. One of the fascinating ways it has incorporated the new priority of environmental awareness is the eight-week ECO program, partnered with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). During ECO, Peconic Dunes collaborates with DEC to develop a “place based” program that teaches children to connect with their surroundings by learning the species that co-exist in our own backyard. This methodology increases knowledge as well as an active interest in caring for the environment.

“Camps are uniquely structured to provide mentors to kids that they can’t find anywhere else.” States Chris Colahan, “Collaborating with school programs, we can creative the most impact in building supportive relationships. By encouraging youth to extend into their challenge zone as well as identify their interests and creative abilities, we bring out self-confidence and independence within each individual.”

The camp along with Cornell Cooperative Extension is making an increased effort to raise awareness and support throughout the community. Hopefully, these projects and fundraising initiatives will allow for the immediate growth and improvement of the facilities, thereby reaching new goals and helping to always move forward.

“Camps have the power to change lives forever,” American Camping Association quote and a favorite among Peconic Dunes Staff. If you would like to learn more about the camp for your child, or find out how you may be a part of its supporting community, please visit


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