CYO/Camp Howard photo
Campers gather around the Camp Howard fire pit to share stories.
CYO/Camp Howard photo
Campers gather around the Camp Howard fire pit to share stories.
This summer, Camp Howard set an attendance record, with more than 1,500 campers spread out over the six sessions.

That success was 60 years in the making.

Camp Howard — Oregon’s Catholic camp, run by the Catholic Youth Organization — will celebrate the anniversary in 2012.

While early campers would still recognize the camp, they would be amazed at the development that’s taken place since 1952.   

Early photographs depict the building of a main road through the camp and construction of the dining hall and main shower house. In those days, the dining hall and chapel each took half of the building. A new chapel was built in the 60s.  

Father Jerome Schmidt, director of Catholic Charities, was responsible for the early development of the camp and served as director in 1953 and 1954. Father Carl Gimpl in 1955 was appointed director of “Camp Howard of Oregon” — named to honor Archbishop Edward Howard. He served in that capacity until 1980 when CYO and Camp Howard of Oregon became one organization under the name “CYO/Camp Howard.”  Phil Murphy had just retired in 1979 and Father Gimpl was named executive director over CYO/Camp Howard.

Those early days of development were not easy and the camp depended on a lot of volunteers to help.  A group of Catholic women known as the Christ Child Society arrived on the scene and helped with the camp from early on.  The Dwyer Family, a well-known Catholic family in the area, supplied plywood for the camp. The Dwyer plywood stamp is still visible today in a few places.

The pond known as “the swimming hole” still exists but is used for canoeing.  A pool was built at the camp in the ‘80s to replace swimming at the pond.  

The original cabins — Fircrest and Greenwood — have been carefully maintained and updated with electric heat. Three newer clusters of cabins were added to the camp from 1995 until 2002. Aldergrove Unit was built with six cabins and a restroom/shower house, Sparpole was renovated removing the A-Frames and replacing them with five cabins and a restroom/shower house in 1997. Cougar Den Unit was built in 2002 with five cabins, a meeting hall and a restroom/shower house. A camper from the ‘70s and ‘80s would hardly recognize Camp Howard. With just more than 50 buildings at the camp, a lot of updating and renovation has been done over the past 15 years to appeal to campers and make their stay at camp enjoyable. All buildings have been painted, preserved, cleaned, new steps added where necessary, and boards replaced to make the buildings appealing and enjoyable.

The most significant program facility improvements as of late have been the Christ Child Basketball Courts, the Paintball Arena and the Archery Range. The Christ Child Society donated money for the camp to build three full-sized basketball courts. The camp installed a massive foundation under the courts to make way for the cover that will eventually go over them. The cover will cost almost $400,000 and will be installed when the money is raised. The Paintball Arena above the lower bluff is home to paintball wars, which campers love. Paintball has added some thrill. The Archery Range was built in late spring to accommodate 10 targets and 10 shooters at a time. Archery has become very popular.

The water system was updated this spring and the old redwood water tank was abandoned. A second well was dug and tied into the old system. New pipe was put into the old system along with a new pump, the old pipe being used to build the new archery range backdrop frame. Two 35-gallon pressure tanks were installed to assist with water delivery around the camp.

The new system has been used this summer with excellent results. The second well was dug near the upper field (Schmidt Field) and because of the proximity of the well to the field, it's possible to irrigate the field.

Camp staff have worked hard the past 15 years to update the camp, renovate it and continue to make it appealing to today's youths. Programming improvements, facility improvements and plant and foliage management have made for a camp that appeals to young people.

The green revolution has hit Camp Howard, which is one of few large camps in the state that composts its food scraps.

One thing about Camp Howard that has not changed in 60 years is that kids have a great time. Capture the flag, predator and prey games, swimming, archery, BB guns, arts and crafts, nature hikes, paintball wars, drama camp and a lot of other activities make for a memorable week. With the outdoor setting, it's a winning situation for campers.
Eight in 10 campers come from Catholic schools or parishes.