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Breaking Ground at Mahackeno for the New Family Y (Photos)

A Vision of the Future for the New Y and Camp at Mahackeno

Work is under way at the Westport Weston Family Y’s Mahackeno campus to prepare for construction of the new Y facility, which will begin as a 54,000 sq. ft. building that will include a 10-lane, 25-yard lap pool and adjacent warm-water family/teaching pool; expansive Health & Wellness Center; multi-purpose Gymnasium; three group-fitness studios; a Child Watch/Kids’ Adventure Gym area; and other amenities of a modern, family-oriented Y facility.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for its new Y facility will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 2 pm. The landmark occasion at Mahackeno will involve leaders from the Y’s volunteer governing boards and staff, major donors, public officials, representatives from local community groups, construction partners, Y members and other supporters. The public is also welcome.

The Y’s lead contractor is Turner Construction Co., the company that has helped our community build the Bedford Middle School and Westport’s Center for Senior Activities, as well as the renovations of Staples High School and Saugatuck Elementary School, among other local projects.

These trees have been tagged to ensure they are protected during the construction process.

Over the past two weeks, Turner and its subcontractors have installed protective barriers to prevent erosion from the building site from entering local waterways and erected fencing around trees to be preserved through the construction process. A trailer has been moved to the site to serve as temporary on-site headquarters and a meeting place. Additional work crews have been taking the steps necessary to properly demolish several existing houses along Sunny Lane and two buildings that have long been a part of Camp Mahackeno’s seasonal operations. (To view more photos of this initial work, please see the photo gallery below.)

Our construction partners are also in the process of clearing the building site of trees, brush and stumps, in preparation for the excavation of the foundation. Our new Y and the ample parking for it will occupy only a small percentage of our Mahackeno campus – less than six acres – and will be situated in the northeast corner of the 32-acre property, bordered by the Merritt Parkway and the escarpment overlooking the Saugatuck River.

Building What Matters – a modern new home for the Family Y – will be a transformative event for the communities it serves. Our Mahackeno campus, home to summer campers since the early 1940s, will now be accessible year-round and offer a range of programming and recreation that is possible in very few places anywhere.

With such major changes taking place at Mahackeno, now and until our new Y opens in late 2014, we asked Meg George, the Family Y’s Camp and Youth Director, for her comments. Meg has been instrumental in helping arrange our Y’s collaboration with Earthplace to conduct a joint camp this summer at their nearby facility while construction proceeds at Mahackeno. No one holds Mahackeno closer to her heart than Meg.

Meg George, Camp and Youth Director for the Family Y.

“Understandably, it can be a little tough for a Mahackeno camper of any era to think of their camp as a construction site. But I know the construction group recognizes and respects the special space that they are working on. They are going out of their way to protect all the trees that they can, and although our field and a portion of the wooded areas of upper camp will be affected during construction, I know a great deal of planning and care has gone into making sure they are returned in as good of condition as our campers deserve and expect.

Yes, in exchange for the new Y facility, we are losing the old Rotary Pavilion and the Arts and Crafts building. Both buildings have served the camp well for many years, but many would agree that their time had come to an end as is. Frankly, both wooden structures were getting to a point that was a bit beyond ‘rustic.’

We’re fortunate that our town’s two Rotary Clubs are generously supporting the construction of one of two new pavilions at Mahackeno. Situated closer to camp operations, these new open-air pavilions will provide the shaded program areas and rainy-day space that any camp our size needs. They will also be used at other times for special events and activities for Y members and, for special occasions like Fall Family Fiesta, the entire community.

Our arts and crafts program will be relocated to Beck Lodge, which also houses our locker rooms for the outdoor pool, the camp store and nurse’s station. Once renovated, the lodge will have a more up-to-date studio feel to it.

The Camp Mahackeno that I see just around the corner will be just as wonderful as the Mahackeno of our memories, even better. Camp areas like Archery and Outdoor Living will be enhanced and re-located slightly, with those moves being made with the campers’ safety in mind.

When most people think of Camp Mahackeno, they think of the ball fields, the pool, canoeing on Lees Pond, and our “LOGS” amphitheater where we start and finish each day of camp. When we return to camp for the summer of 2014, these areas will be very much the same, except for a few improvements to them.

With our new Y on the other side of the brook, Mahackeno will become more than just an amazing summer camp. For many years, the children of our area have brought the site to life for nine short weeks of summer. But then school begins, the equipment gets put away and we put camp “to bed” for nine long months.

Camp Mahackeno's Archery range will be one of the areas to be enhanced during the construction of the new Y

This won’t be the case anymore.  When I picture the future Mahackeno, I see young children enjoying their first fall soccer class on the ball field, while their parents participate in an outdoor Boot Camp class on the trails that wind through the property. I see a group picnic taking place in one of the pavilions, organized by one of our many community partners.

And looking across from camp headquarters to our new Y, I see a Fitness Center filled with people exercising to their own private views of the tree-lined banks of the Saugatuck River. I see an Adventure Gym filled with young children on the cold days of winter. I see Y members of all ages and abilities walking straight from the cars into a modern new (and fully accessible) new Y.

Mahackeno is going to become important in the hearts of many more people than just our campers. All generations are going to find something to enjoy at our beautiful camp property. For those of us who love Mahackeno so much, what a great thing to know that others are going to be able to experience all the site has to offer year-round.”

To find out more about the Y’s Building What Matters capital campaign, please click here. For more information about Camp Mahackeno and Earthplace’s summer camp, click here. Photo highlights from Camp Mahackeno last summer are below the first photo gallery. Enjoy the views and the memories!