By State Representative Gabe Firment
Rep. Joe Orgeron(R-Larose) has filed HB362 which creates an individual income tax checkoff for the La. State University Agricultural Center Grant Walker Educational Center (4-H Camp Grant Walker). If this bill becomes law it would give every LA citizen who files an income tax return the option to donate a portion of their refund to Camp Grant Walker to repair Hurricane damage and make needed improvements. Please support this important legislation and consider donating to restoring this great facility nestled in the beautiful piney woods of Grant Parish.
History and Background
The Camp Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center has a rich history as deep as the state of Louisiana. Purchased in the early 1920’s by the Louisiana State University as a 4-H camp to serve the youth of Louisiana, it was developed and built through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Not only did the camp provide a much-needed recreation and education center for youth, it also provided employment to the community during a much-needed period of American history.
From its early beginning to today, camp still serves youth from all corners of Louisiana as well as a place for family reunions, weddings, and corporate events/retreats. While the main purpose of camp is to provide a summer educational experience to more than 4,500 Louisiana 4-H members, it is also the camping location for other youth-serving organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Louisiana National Guard Child and Youth Program. Additionally, throughout the year, events for organizations such as Louisiana FFA, church groups, collegiate events, and various Grant parish school and 4-H events are also held on the property. Beyond serving the youth of the state and central Louisiana, Camp Grant Walker is also a place for corporate and government events and retreats. Overall, more than 8,000 individuals participate in experiences annually at Camp Grant Walker.
Through the various 4-H programming opportunities, youth are gaining and learning valuable life skills through experiences at camp. Many youth attend camp during their 4th through 6th grades. During this time, each of them participate in hands-on experiential educational tracks that not only instill subject knowledge but also teach skills such as public speaking, conflict resolution, planning/organizing, problem solving, service learning, and goal setting. These skills help propel youth into having a successful academic career and a stronger understanding for civic involvement and engagement. Recent research through the 4-H Positive Youth Development Study showed that 4-H members are four-times more likely to give back to their communities and two-times more likely to be civically active —traits that our country and world need more than ever.
Status of Camp Grant Walker
The year 2020 was a challenging year for all of us, and especially Camp Grant Walker. The LSU AgCenter and Louisiana 4-H started cancelling events in mid-March and some of the first ones were leadership camps scheduled at Camp Grant Walker. Throughout the spring, additional events were canceled because of the COVID-19 virus. The first of May brought the devastating news that all summer camping sessions would need to be canceled as well. For the first time, Camp Grant Walker did not hear the laugh of campers, the energy of being away from mom and dad for the first time, and the opportunity to make lifelong friends. It truly had an emotional impact on our 4-H members, parents, alumni, and 4-H agents across the state.
As the summer ended, the hurricane season begin, and unfortunately Camp Grant Walker was a significant target for both hurricanes Laura and Delta. Hurricane Laura bought massive winds which toppled trees across the campus with several falling directly into six buildings. Once the damaged was assessed it was determined that one bunkhouse will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt, while others had significant, but repairable, damage. Thanks to the community and friends of 4-H, such as Cleco, we were able to remove fallen trees and debris from the campus. Unfortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel was short lived by the arrival of Hurricane Delta which created a 100-year flooding event throughout camp. It is estimated that more than 22 inches were received over a day’s time, leaving sixteen camp buildings, including all large common area/educational buildings with significant water damage. In addition to the loss of many walls and floors, equipment and other vital components of camp were either damaged or destroyed by flooding.
Due to the status of the facilities at Camp Grant Walker that remain damaged from these two significant weather events, Louisiana 4-H is unable to hold summer camp again for 2021. It is our hope that the summer of 2022 will bring 4,500 Louisiana youth back to a fully functional, safe campus.