Regis-Applejack: more than a camp

I am writing in reaction to the ongoing conversation that intern Dana Hatton and Managing Editor Peter Crowley have entertained at the expense of one of our area’s richest commodities: a family-owned small business that has been passed down over decades and educated, entertained and employed thousands of people, regardless of economic fluctuations which many small businesses have fallen victim to.

I am speaking as a person who also owned and operated a children’s camp in Essex County for decades, transitioning to another use of our property in 2005 due to the struggles facing the industry of children’s summer camping. The Humes family has been friends and colleagues of mine since I met them in the early ’80s. Theirs is a family deeply committed to providing children and their families the abundant riches known to those who understand the value of children’s summer camps. Families like the Humes and all small business owners face huge challenges maintaining successful operations in both Clinton and Essex counties. It is difficult to put into words how disappointing it is to read articles like the one written by Ms. Hatton, accusing the current generation of Humes, headed by Michael, of something less than integral. In reality, in the face of a disappearing gem called summer camps, facing personal medical challenges, facing the economy that we all know too well called Essex and Clinton counties and its glorious Adirondack Park — in the face of all that, we know as small business owners, Michael also has to deal with a local newspaper writing an accusatory article that now, with the internet, is memorialized forever.

Does anyone who read that article actually believe that any business owner would choose to have a number of campers/customers below the number that the New York State Department of Health considers required to be licensed? The language and innuendo used is spent on accusing Michael Humes of trying to fly beneath some regulatory radar. The family has been in business for 72 years! Really?! Anyone who has been in business for that long knows how to comply with DOH regulations with their eyes closed. The fees are minimal, and the guidelines required by NYSDOH are all very valuable guidelines, based on precedent, and exist for the safety and wellness of all involved. The Humes are extremely well respected in the camping industry for their commitment to the care of children, employing local people, donating to local charities and donating scholarships to local families who might not afford summer programs as rich as theirs. They are not spending their time trying to avoid any regulations.

The authors of the article are trying to drive some sort of wedge between a small business owner and the Department of Health. Speak to any business owner who deals with the safety of children, including Michael Humes, and they will tell you that the guidelines provided by the DOH are only helpful. They guide the health and safety of both children and employees. As an agency, the DOH stands behind the small business whenever any type of incident or illness arises within a children’s camp and defends the program as licensed. There is no reason in the world for the Humes family to try to avoid licensure. The industry is in a downfall, the Humes family is taking a step back, reorganizing their business plan to address the changes within the industry, and will be back stronger than ever next summer. In the meantime, to keep the name active and the property available to local families, Michael and his family have run a very limited program. This article has now inflicted a wound on the name Regis-Applejack by printing this material, which will show up when a family is searching for a camp for their child. Instead of scaring people away from our struggling economic area, instead of stepping on a small business owner, please cover the true Humes legacy. Focus on the thousands of children they have helped raise and the thousands of people they have employed, the tens of thousands of dollars they have pumped into the local economy. THAT is the real story. I applaud Michael Humes and his family’s resilience to the struggles of keeping his remarkable camp operating into this generation who otherwise might be on a sofa staring at their cellphones.

Molly Wynne lives in Westport.