Constructed in the 1940s as a summer camp for children of Electro Metallurgical Company workers in Alloy, Camp Brookside is transforming to a residential youth camp.
Camp Brookside, located near Hinton in Summers County, is a 30-acre island in the New River. It is set to join the ranks with two of the nation's renowned national parks -- Yellowstone and Yosemite -- by offering youth from across the country the opportunity to spend their summers working, learning and playing outdoors.
Robin Snyder, chief of interpretation for the New River Gorge National River, said Camp Brookside will be the country's premier East Coast residential work camp.
"We're very excited about this camp," Snyder said. "Everyone has heard about CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Yellowstone and Yosemite... we want people to know about Camp Brookside. It's going to be great for those on the East Coast."
The camp, which is adorned with bunkhouses, a mess hall and graffiti, is full of history -- the graffiti is from the early days of Camp Brookside and is still found on the interior walls of the bunkhouses. Union Carbide owned EMCO in the '40s and ran seven additional camps in the state, with names like Cliffside and Camp Apache.
The National Park Service acquired the property in 1992. In 2009, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., secured a $900,000 earmark to pay for construction costs associated with giving the camp a much-needed facelift. Construction began in June and has been ongoing.
The service chose to do all the labor in-house -- they did this because they wanted to respect Byrd's vision for providing employment opportunities for local workers.
Snyder said the project will bring the camp up to modern standards, as well as preserve its original landscape.
Although the park service is preparing the site, it doesn't have to capability to operate it. That's where the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia steps in. It's been a partner on employment programs for more than 10 years.
Snyder said the plan is to raise funds through both private and public sources and then hand operations over to the CCC, which will then hire a handful of local staff from Youth Conservation Corps and Public Land Corps across the country.