Camp DREAM in northern Vermont receives support from conservation community

Fletcher, VT — The DREAM Program (DREAM), a Vermont nonprofit, worked with the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) to buy an island on Metcalf Pond, the two organizations announced today. DREAM bought and conserved the one-acre island with funding support from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and will add it to Camp DREAM, its overnight, year-round camp for youth from low-income housing neighborhoods and rural communities across Vermont.

“This is a great example of our Vermont community coming together to ensure that all youth have access to incredible out-of-school time, opportunities and adventures,” said DREAM Director Mike Foote.

Located at the northern end of 71-acre Metcalf Pond, the island was privately owned and locally known as Rich Island. DREAM purchased it in January to add to Camp DREAM, their 50-acre overnight camp less than a quarter mile to the southeast.

Credit The DREAM Program

Approaching the one-acre island on Metcalf Pond. The island offers the possibility of day-expeditions by canoe, occasional, small-group overnight primitive camping, and educational programs.

Credit The DREAM Program

The island will be available to about 800 youth each year, as part of the beloved camp. Camp attendance, including all transportation, is free, to ensure access for youth from low-income households.

Lindsay Vajda from the Bennington Housing Authority said: “Opportunities for overnight camps, eco-friendly activities, introducing them to the outdoors and inspiring the next generation of environmentalists is not an option to most of our children and youth living in subsidized housing, without Camp DREAM.”

For 20 years, Camp DREAM has focused on building the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and stewards, offering environmental programming and a safe space for youth to play, explore and connect with the natural environment. Through no-cost programming, trusting relationships with caregivers and committed transportation assets, Camp DREAM reduces barriers to Vermont’s outdoors.

“Coming out of the pandemic, it is clearer than ever that all youth, and especially the most vulnerable, need opportunities to connect with each other, find meaning and purpose, and engage in healthy outdoor activities,” shared Elise Oshlag, Camp DREAM’s Director.

Marsh and wildlife habitat protected

The island boasts a stunning marsh to the north and a boating entry on its southern shore. Its forested, wetland and shoreline spaces provide habitat for a range of wildlife, including loons and bald eagles, and contribute to the diversity on Metcalf Pond. The island’s conservation ensures the land’s natural resources will remain undeveloped and be thoughtfully managed.

“This is a wonderful little island in a spectacular setting,” said VLT Project Director, Bob Heiser. “You just have to see a kid’s face light up at the mention of visiting an island to know the impact of ensuring this type of access for all kids, now and into the future.”

Woods with pine trees and dappled shade. Camp DREAM in Fletcher Vermont

With woods and wetlands, the island has a diversity of habitats and places for kids to explore.

History of Camp DREAM, plans for the island

Camp DREAM began in 2003 when DREAM bought and conserved 50 acres with over 600 feet of shoreline on the eastern side of Metcalf Pond. Over the years, DREAM has transformed the mostly wooded property into a place for kids to be in nature and experience the wonder and adventure it can bring. The camp welcomes youth from across Vermont and further afield who would normally not have access to an overnight camp.

DREAM plans to use the island to expand waterfront adventures for their campers and offer ecology education programs. Possibilities include transforming the small hut into a nature lodge for ecological programs, day-expeditions by canoe and occasional, small-group overnight primitive camping.

“Among the many new adventures that this island will catalyze, it will be a special canoeing destination, create new overnight camping options, provide a unique environment for campfires and ceremonies, and act as a basecamp for marsh exploration and pond stewardship,” said Mike Foote, Director of DREAM.

DREAM is planning a ribbon cutting ceremony later this summer and are currently running a campaign inviting their camp alumni and other community members to name the island.

The conservation was funded by a significant grant from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

“This project is a stellar example of how our conservation and housing goals complement each other,” said Gus Seelig, Executive Director at the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board. “The DREAM Program was started in part by a VHCB AmeriCorps alum, so we are proud to see DREAM’s impact continue to grow and we’re pleased to support this project. We congratulate the Vermont Land Trust and the DREAM Program for ensuring that Vermont youth have equitable access to all the outdoors have to offer.”