The Star-Herald

Baptist Park marks 90 years of camping

Baptist Park in Mapleton just completed its 90th year of providing summer camping and Christian education.  

In 1932, Rev. A.C. Berrie founded “The Baptist School of Christian Training in Mapleton and was the first dean of the school. 

In 1935, the school was formally incorporated.   Classes at first were held at the Presque Isle First Baptist Church, taught by ministerial staff and adults from the Northern Aroostook Baptist Association.

In 1939, the first residential camping-style programs were offered, and in 1954 the name was changed to Baptist Park.  After the school acquired acreage from the Higgins family, the school started to build its own camping and religious education facility in Mapleton.  With the construction and expansion of Baptist Park facilities, camping and religious education programs have continued to be offered at Baptist Park.

Residential overnight camping was provided each year except for 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.  During those two years, “Camp in the Box’ was provided through the use of daily zoom sessions with the campers.  

On July 3, a 90th anniversary celebration was held to honor the work done by many church volunteers and paid camp counselors, cooks and administrators.  The keynote speaker at the celebration was 15-year camp director Adrian Hagerstrom.

“The goal of the original school was to provide an atmosphere and setting designed for fun, spiritual learning, and adventure through an outdoor camping experience,” Hagerstrom said.

New camp director Erin Ackerson said, “For many years, thousands of overnight and day campers have enjoyed the traditional experiences of archery, biking, team sports, trail hiking, high and low ropes courses, canoeing, rock climbing, tenting under the stars and campfires.    For older campers, leadership and communication are encouraged, while younger campers learn independence as well as the value of teamwork.”

During each week of camp, evening chapel services, daily devotional sessions, talent shows and camping activities continue to be standard routine events.  Ackerson is a former camper who knows what Baptist Park can offer to young people as well the personal impact the camp’s education and camping program can have on each camper. She was excited and happy to have had the opportunity to lead the camp that meant so much to her.

The littlest day campers of Baptist Park were excited to swim in the park’s indoor heated pool. These Pre-K to second graders enjoyed day camping activities like arts and crafts, games and “Veggie Tales” videos. (Courtesy of Terry Sandusky)

To keep up with changing times, Baptist Park has designed different experiences.  Horseback riding was replaced with more current camper interests such as digital arts, drama and theater arts, sports camps, zip lining and rock wall climbing.  A most favorite activity for all campers is the daily swims in the park’s indoor heated swimming pool.

One of the most exciting weeks at Baptist Park is the Flight Camp Week, where campers learn the basics of flight, experience of briefly taking the controls of a plane and the importance of pilots who support missionaries in remote places in the world. Campers pose with their instructors and ground crew.
(Contributed photo)

Ten years ago, the park created its Flight Camp.  Over the last 75 years, missionaries all over the world have been supported through the work of missionary pilots.  Building on this theme, campers are introduced to the fundamentals of flight as well as careers in the air and on the ground in aviation.  

Wilderness activities abound, including overnight outdoor camping, campfire cooking, hiking and canoeing at Echo Lake in Aroostook State Park.  There was one week of overnight wildness camping for adolescents ages 13-18 along with a second week for middle school youth which stressed more personal independence and team development with other campers.

Baptist Park’s 90th Year of operation closed on June 28th with end of the Mountain Climbers Day Camp Session. Here the campers and the staff celebrate the end of another fun and successful educational and camping season.
(Courtesy of Terry Sandusky)

There were day camp sessions for Puddle Jumpers (children ages 4-6) and Young Mountain Climbers (ages 7-10).  Children enjoyed arts and crafts, swimming, catching frogs, playing games and listening to stories.  Next year staff hope to add a three-day overnight camping experience for Mountain Climber Youth.

New plans are already being made for 2023.  It’s been 90 years since the start, but as the staff and board of directors say, “We have only just begun.”

Lions at the fair

The Mapleton Lions Club will be at the Northern Maine Fair with cheeseburgers, hot dogs and fresh hand-cut french fries.  They look forward to serving everyone their terrific food.  One significant change is the addition of a doughboy line, where hungry fairgoers can easily order and purchase their doughboys without waiting in the regular food line.  

The Lions will be there from opening to closing each day.  Stop in and help the Lions fundraise for their many charities including the purchase of eyeglasses, upgrading of the Mapleton Recreation facilities, college scholarships, the Mapleton Recreation program and the Mapleton Little League and others.

Terry Sandusky is the Star-Herald correspondent for Mapleton, Chapman and Castle Hill and can be reached at 764-4916 or at starherald.Tsandusky@gmail.com.

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