Aging South Florida youth camp to be spruced up

The Everglades Youth Conservation Camp in northwestern Palm Beach County, which has hosted generations of kids learning to shoot, fish and camp for the first time, is getting a big financial boost.

At the Wildlife Foundation of Florida’s third annual BlueGreen fund-raising event held last weekend in Weston, the gathering of some 400 environmentalists, outdoors enthusiasts, wildlife managers, researchers and others put up $800,000 to make much-needed improvements to the 55-year-old facility located in the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area.

Foundation chairman Rodney Barreto of Miami said the money will pay for a new education center, restrooms, cabins and roof on the cafeteria — among other projects.

“We’re excited about it,” Barreto said. “When I was a kid, it was all outdoors. We had a great time entertaining ourselves. My kids don’t do this. If you can turn two or three kids so they can shoot a gun, bait a hook, and shoot an arrow, it’s all good.”

The Everglades Youth Camp is one of five dedicated Youth Conservation Network facilities in Florida under the purview of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to Rae Waddell, the Network’s executive director. Waddell said 265 “partner sites” are spread across the state in county parks, recreation centers and private lands, and more are being brought on line all the time. A summer youth fish camp at Miami’s Tropical Park and a youth shooting program at Sunrise’s Markham Park are part of that network.

“Our programs will rise to a new level because of the BlueGreen event,” Waddell said.

The event was hosted by FWC commissioner Ron Bergeron at his Weston cowboy ranch.