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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 3, 2008

Wildwood gets water

By Zach Simeone

ALTAMONT — Camp Wildwood will finally be getting village water, after a unanimous vote of approval last month by Altamont’s board of trustees.

“We anticipate that we’ll have that water in the fall,” Thomas Schreck told The Enterprise this week. He’s the communications director for Wildwood Programs.

Camp Wildwood is part of Wildwood Programs, a not-for-profit organization that serves people with disabilities, ranging from neurological impairment to autism. The camp offers speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy in an outdoor environment. “They go to camp, but they’re going to school in the process,” Schreck said.

 “Our programs serve about a thousand people,” said Schreck. “There are about 230 kids at the camp, from about kindergarten age to 18. Our other programs serve adults who are into their 80’s,” he said. “[Wildwood Programs] has 17 community residences throughout Schenectady, Rensselaer, Albany, and Saratoga.”

The 86-acre camp, at the end of Leesome Lane up in the Helderbergs, has no natural source for water, so it transports water from the village of Altamont by truck, and purchases bottled water for drinking. Soon that will change.

“We’re thrilled,” said Schreck. “This is something we wanted for a long time and we certainly understood the issues that the village was having, and the fact that they’re helping us out with this is fantastic.”

The camp has tried other methods of obtaining a water source.

According to Gary Milford, Wildwood’s chief financial advisor, a well was dug in the eighties, which provided water for about three years. They’ve drilled in other locations since, but with disappointing results, Milford told The Enterprise in 2004.

Eventually, a pond was built for both recreational and water use, but the Albany County Health Department told Wildwood that it could not be used for both, Milford said.

Past requests from Wildwood for a water source were quieted by concerns that there would not be adequate water for village residents. New wells drilled on Brandle Road came on-line for Altamont last year, making more water available.

Also, being located on Leesome Lane just outside the village, the camp dealt with the restrictions of a moratorium that said that Altamont’s water could not be supplied outside of village limits.

“The problem years ago was that our water main was so far away that it wasn’t feasible,” said Timothy McIntyre, Altamont’s superintendent of public works. “The water main now lying on Brandle Road makes that feasible.”

Construction has not yet begun. “They’re still getting their permitting, and there are a lot of preliminary things that need to happen,” McIntyre said of Wildwood. “As far as actual construction, it’s a matter of installing a water main from our main on Brandle Road.”

Schreck said it couldn’t come soon enough.

“We’re a non-profit organization, so we rely on funding and donations,” he said. “The fact that we have to pay to truck in 4,000 gallons of water per week just isn’t economical or efficient. But we have to spend all this money on water rather than things we could do programmatically, or hiring staff, or buying other supplies for the kids.” Once the camp has water year-round, Schreck said, it can use the site for many different activities that both kids and adults can benefit from.

“We use about 4,000 gallons a week,” Schreck said. “When you’re flushing toilets, drinking water, swimming in pools, just think about the expense. So, we can only use that facility for a couple months at a time.” The lack of a water supply prevents Wildwood from using the camp for training or retreats, he said.

“We do have a swimming pool, but most of our water use comes from bathrooms, showers, drinking water, and water for cooking,” Schreck added. “When you’ve got all those kids, plus staff, that’s a lot of people washing their hands.”

The annual budget for all of Wildwood Programs is now $30 million, according to Schreck. “Four-hundred-thousand dollars of that goes towards the camp, which runs from the Monday after the Fourth of July to the third week in August,” he said. “Water costs are $3,000 dollars for that six-week period.”

With its own water, the camp will be able to spend more money in teaching its students how to swim, how to be safe in camping situations, and how to fish, said Schreck. “It was always unfortunate that we were restricted by our water expenses,” he said. “We are truly grateful to the village of Altamont for this gesture.”

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