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April 19, 2011 > 'Pickleweed' spills secrets of summer camp

'Pickleweed' spills secrets of summer camp

Submitted By Jennifer Koney (aka Pickleweed)

Each summer, the Hayward hills are alive with the sound of camp songs and laughter from Tenderfoot, Potowatomi and Vida Nueva campers. Generations of children have participated in this all-outdoor program of the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD). Hundreds of supervised campers sing the Flea Song, listen to camp stories, write countless skits with songs ("skongs"), splash in the creeks and build life-long friendships in the canyons and trails of East Avenue Park.

A long-time tradition since the 1960's, Camps Tenderfoot, Potowatomi and the more recent Vida Nueva and X-Camps have provided children, ages 5-14, with supervised outdoor play, nature exploration, getting dirty, discovery and connecting to the world and each other.

Many fond memories have been created at Camp, as has the tradition of having an ultra-secret Camp name. As a Recreation Supervisor, I have special dispensation to reveal my true identity, as well as my camp name, for the sake of accountability and quality supervision. I arrived at my Camp name as a result of careful thought and consideration of my multiple assignments: I oversee the Nature Unit for Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD), including the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center and Sulphur Creek Nature Center, in addition to supervising East Aveenue Camps and other programs. My primary office is at the Hayward Shoreline which boasts of plentiful shoreline plants, including pickleweed. With its crazy-sounding name, its strength and prevalence, its gorgeous changing colors and its usefulness as a tool for interpretive programs, "Pickleweed" was a natural choice for my Camp name.

Even adults, who have long since moved on from Camp into professional roles reference their camp name and identity with fond memories. "Jaguar" went to Camps Tenderfoot and Potowatomi as a camper, a Junior Counselor (volunteer) and a Camp Counselor. Although she now lives in her college town of Santa Barbara, she and her sons visit her parents in Castro Valley for at least one week each summer so her kids can experience camp. "Running Deer," now a Certified Financial Planner, was a Junior Counselor at Camp and has a son who is also a Junior Counselor with the Camp name "Sphinx". In collecting stories, I came across several current and former Camp staff members that were more than willing to share their Camp experiences with one caveat - their identity beyond their Camp name would not be revealed.

What is this delightful experience in the outdoors each summer? How is it that the camaraderie, camp traditions and supervised outdoor play have had such a lasting impact on participants? That is one of those questions to be asked by the side of Ward Creek in the canyon of East Avenue Park before hiking back up to the amphitheatre to catch just one more skort by Tenderfoot or Potowatomi campers.

Registrations are now being accepted for this summer's sessions of Camp Tenderfoot, Camp Potowatomi and Vida Nueva Leadership Camp. Please visit or call (510) 881-6700 for more information and to register.

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