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Outright Vermont acquires camp property to serve LBGTQ+ youth

  • 4 Min Read
  • June 7, 2024

Conservation helps nonprofit secure and expand popular summer camp

Outright Vermont, a nonprofit that has been serving LGBTQ+ youth for over 30 years, has purchased a 100+ year-old camp in Addison and Rutland counties. This will allow Outright to expand its overnight summer camp, named Camp Outright, to meet the needs of more LGBTQ+ and allied youth in Vermont and across the nation – connecting many, many more kids to the land through the simple, wonderful experience of summer camp on a lake!

A permanent Vermont home for unique LGBTQ+ youth summer camp

VLT worked closely with Outright, along with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), for over a year to help Outright buy and conserve the property. A significant grant from VHCB supported the effort with conservation funding, and the land was conserved.

Outright offers one of only a handful of LGBTQ+ friendly camps in America, but has had to run Camp Outright on rented property with limited capacity in central Vermont. The organization has had to turn away many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning youth eager to attend Camp Outright, because of limited capacity.

“As summer approaches, many LGBTQ+ youth in Vermont and across the nation lack access to summer camp experiences where they can feel safe, seen, and truly celebrated,” said Dana Kaplan, Outright’s Executive Director, after the closing on May 16.

“This acquisition brings to life the power of radical hope for LGBTQ+ youth,” he added, “telling them they are worthy of an experience designed for them where they are safe and celebrated. It says to them, ‘You deserve to just be a kid at a typical summer camp where you can safely enjoy the incredible outdoors and the camaraderie of a shared experience full of roasted marshmallows, ghost stories, and laughter.’”

A group of six young people in the Camp Outright program on a cabin porch .

Credit: Outright Vermont

Partnering to connect more kids to the land

The 146-acre lakefront property, known as Camp Sunrise, had served as a Scouting America camp since 1923 and already has a dining hall, cabins, docks, amphitheaters, and other camp structures. As the new home for Camp Outright, the land will enable Outright to expand its camp programming to serve more LGBTQ+ campers through extended sessions and more outdoor programming for families.

“We are proud to partner with Outright to ensure that the Camp Sunrise property continues to serve youth, and its waters and lands are forever protected,” said Tracy Zschau, VLT President and CEO. “We applaud Outright’s vision and their dedication to expanding connections between people and the natural world — creating safe access to the outdoors for those who have historically felt excluded.”

VLT Project Director Donald Campbell worked closely with partners on this project. “It’s been a privilege and a career highlight to contribute to this milestone,” he said. “Changing and improving our relationship with nature means connecting people deeply with the outdoors, especially children. Summer camp is an amazing opportunity to develop a land ethic while having fun — it should be available to as many people as possible. How great that the natural treasures of Lake Sunrise and surrounding woods can remain a summer camp, now one serving LGBTQ+ youth!”

“Partnership was essential to making this happen,” he added. “VHCB’s support for this phenomenal project was unwavering from the beginning and they really stretched to make it possible.”

Large timber-framed dining hall with pride flags hanging from rafters

Woods, streams, and lakes to explore

The property lies on the shores of two lakes, is surrounded by wetlands, forests, and ridgelines, and is bordered by 700+ acres of conserved lands. Lake Sunset, the larger of the two waterbodies, is a conservation priority in the region. The parcel is also home to several plants uncommon in Vermont such as Cyperus-like sedge, Canada buffaloberry, and Four-leafed milkweed that nourishes bees, flies, and many butterflies, especially the monarch butterfly.

At the new and permanent Camp Outright, LGBTQ+ youth and their families will be able to experience a safe and peaceful retreat on the shores of Lake Sunrise. They will also have the chance to explore nearly 100 acres of forest, numerous streams and headwater tributaries of the Hubbardton River, wetlands, and multiple vernal pools.

Outright will evolve and adapt the facilities at Camp Sunrise into a safe place for LGBTQ+ and allied youth to enjoy nature. They plan to engage with youth, families, partners, and community stakeholders in a process to design the changes needed for program accessibility and expansion.



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