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COVID Update: Rustic camps on Squam Lake won’t open for the first time in more than a century

  • An antique ice box is seen at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • The ice harvest on Squam Lake for the Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Each morning, workers at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps deliver blocks of ice to the rustic cabins that have no modern refrigeration. The ice was harvested on Squam Lake by teams of volunteers in the winter and then packed with sawdust and stored in the ice house. Blocks are hosed off to clear away the sawdust. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/25/2020 3:48:51 PM

The coronavirus once again showed its distaste for tradition, adding an old and unique institution to its list of economic victims.

The Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness decided to cancel its summer season, marking the first time in the program’s 123-year history rustic cabins will be closed for the summer.

The camp is well known for its antique ice boxes that use blocks of ice for refrigeration instead of electricity. Each winter volunteers go out onto Squam Lake and cut hundreds of blocks of ice that are hauled up and stored in sawdust, waiting to be cleaned off and delivered daily to the camps at Rockywold-Deephaven.

General Manager Kathy Wheeler posted on the camp’s website on May 21, confirming what most guests already had suspected, that this summer getaway was moving on to 2021.

“Given this rigor and the historic significance of the COVID-19 disease,” Wheeler wrote “we’re confident that this is the right decision for all those who love RDC, and for the health of the institution in the future.”

She continued: “A year without revenue will have a profound financial impact on RDC, not just this year, but for several. We will be holding a virtual special shareholder meeting in the coming weeks to address the Camp’s financial future.”

Wheeler also said that guests can choose to receive a full refund or use the money to reserve a spot for summer 2021.

By design, the Rockywold-Deephaven Camps offer a rustic summer experience, which feels frozen in time. That’s in part to the old-fashioned harvesting use of ice.

In the dead of winter, a massive circular saw and chainsaws cut blocks of ice – 12 inches by 15 inches by 19 inches – that are loaded the onto a truck and moved to an ice house.

The blocks are packed in sawdust, which acts as a natural insulator, until they could be used to refrigerate food the old-fashioned way, with an old-style ice box.

That won’t happen this summer, for the first time in more than a century.

“RDC has outlasted two World Wars, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and more – sustaining generations of families with an unwavering calm and peaceful hand,” Wheeler wrote. “With your support and loyalty, it will also survive COVID-19 and we will gather again on the beautiful shores of Squam Lake for years.”

Back to school survey

The New Hampshire Department of Education is asking for input from parents, teachers and education leaders on the reopening of schools in the fall.

The School Transition Reopening and Redesign Task Force, or START, is looking into what school will look like in September once classes resume and is doing survey.

“We believe that parents have an important voice in what school will look like for their children when they return in September,” state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said. “So, this is an opportunity to make sure that voice is heard and is part of the broader conversation about how our schools will support our students as best they can in September.”

The survey can be found online.

School trip refunds?

A Massachusetts bill that would pressure companies to refund the cost of school trips canceled because of the coronavirus emergency will be the subject of a virtual public hearing.

The bill is set to come before the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

The bill would label as an unfair or deceptive act “the failure of any travel company, travel agency, tour business, or travel agent acting on behalf of a consumer, to provide a full monetary refund, upon request, for a school-related educational trip, tour or excursion canceled as a result of a declaration of emergency.”

Parents in Concord felt a similar sting when the international travel company that organizes an annual April trip to Washington DC, EF Explore America, said it was not contractually obligated to give the 88 local families full refunds for the three-day trip. Each family was offered a refund of $250 after paying upwards of $1,000 for the trip and services that were never rendered.

Many families paid for a basic $99 insurance plan, which calls for refunds in emergency situations as stipul ated in the company’s contract. A global pandemic is not explicitly listed as one of those scenarios.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

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