KeepHealthCare.ORG – Complaint about Roxbury summer camp draws scrutiny from state | Local News
ROXBURY — Prompted by a complaint from a parent, the N.H. Department of Environmental Services recently inspected a local summer camp, finding, among other issues, that the camp lacked a certified lifeguard, according to a preliminary report.
Granite Gorge Summer Adventure Camp is in its second year of operation. It serves children ages 5 and up, its website states. This year’s camp started June 18 and runs to Aug. 10. The camp, which is held at Granite Gorge Ski Area off Route 9 in Roxbury, has 20 children registered, according to Fred Baybutt, who is listed in N.H. Secretary of State records as a member of Granite Gorge LLC. Last year, he wrote in an email Tuesday, the camp served roughly 100 children throughout the summer.
The inspection report from the Department of Environmental Services lists Baybutt as the owner of the Granite Gorge summer camp.
Sarah Pillsbury, administrator at the department’s Drinking Water and Ground Water Bureau, said the office received a complaint, by phone, about the camp on June 25 that prompted the department to conduct an inspection on July 3. Staff at the department asked the parent to submit a written complaint, which the department received July 6, she said.
The Department of Environmental Services regulates and licenses the state’s roughly 160 summer camps, according to Pillsbury.
The complaint, which was given to The Sentinel by the parent, Nicole Hutchins of Nelson, alleges children weren’t properly supervised at the camp. Hutchins’ children, she wrote in the complaint, attended the camp this year for a week before she pulled them out because of her concerns.
She attached to the complaint a July 5 email exchange between her and Granite Gorge, in which she said she came to pick up her children from the camp one day and noticed that kids were swimming in Otter Brook without a staff member by the water. Hutchins also wrote that counselors did not remind children to apply sunscreen, resulting in kids suffering serious burns. When she picked up her children on July 2, during the heatwave, her two girls “almost passed out from heat exhaustion,” she wrote in the email. Her son, she alleged, was nauseated because of the heat.
The Department of Environmental Services found several deficiencies at the camp during the July 3 inspection.
The volume of deficiencies discovered, Pillsbury said, was out of the ordinary for inspections of this kind, especially since the camp had passed its inspection the previous year.
“Many times, we find one or two deficiencies,” she said. “A lot of them together is unusual.”
The department’s preliminary inspection report, obtained by The Sentinel Tuesday, found several safety issues, including the lack of a certified lifeguard on staff and the absence of an established plan for dealing with a lost swimmer.
Both of these are required by the department’s rules.
The report by inspector Jackie Howarth states that one of the staff members present couldn’t say whether her CPR and first-aid certification were current.
According to the department’s rules, day camps require a staff member who is certified in first aid and CPR to be on the premises whenever campers are. In an email today, Howarth said staff indicated that the staff member who said she couldn’t remember if her certifications were current was the only one certified in first aid and CPR at the camp.
Howarth also noted that the camp’s co-directors were 17 and 21, despite the fact that the department’s rules state camp directors must be at least 21.
Camp staff also lacked medication administration training, Howarth wrote, although she noted that there were no campers with prescription medication needs at the time of the inspection.
Baybutt declined to comment by phone Tuesday on the inspection.
Following the July 3 inspection, the state prohibited camp staff from taking children swimming at Otter Brook until a certified lifeguard is present, according to Pillsbury.
The camp complied with this requirement, Pillsbury said, and she asked Baybutt to respond to the inspection’s findings and the complaint and provide relevant documents by midday Tuesday. Baybutt responded to the complaint on Tuesday, she said.
Pillsbury described Baybutt as “very responsive” and said a camp staff member renewed her first aid and CPR certification this week.
Baybutt also agreed to write an internal policy for keeping children inside when it’s too hot, according to Pillsbury.
She said the state will write a final letter of deficiencies with a timeline for corrective actions the camp must take and that the state will continue to monitor the camp closely.
In her July 5 email to Baybutt, which Hutchins provided to The Sentinel, she outlined her concerns and requested a refund for the money she paid for her children to attend Granite Gorge Adventure Camp.
She received a response, signed “GG,” from Baybutt’s email address: “The solution is to have the children re join (sic) and enjoy camp as hundreds of other children have.”
In a phone conversation with The Sentinel Tuesday morning, Baybutt dismissed Hutchins’ complaints. He said campers are fully supervised, and parents are required to put sunscreen on them before they come to camp. Staff then remind campers to reapply sunscreen at regular intervals because state regulations do not allow them to touch children, he said.
Pillsbury said the department does not have sunscreen rules or policies against touching children for this purpose, and that the department expects such procedures to be covered by internal camp policies. Ultimately, she said, the camp and its staff are responsible for children’s health and safety, whether specific procedures are outlined in department rules or not.
“As a camp owner, you are responsible for the kids’ health and safety, so we took her complaint very seriously,” Pillsbury said.
The department has the power to revoke a camp’s license to operate if safety and health concerns are grave enough, according to Pillsbury. However, she said Tuesday that it was too early to know the type of actions the department might take, as the inspection report is preliminary.
“Typically, what we allow a camp to do is come up with a corrective action plan that they will do on short order to address our concerns,” she explained.
Hutchins’ complaint isn’t the only time a parent has expressed concerns about the camp.
Staff at the Department of Environmental Services received a second complaint Tuesday night from another person alleging a child suffered sunburn and heat exhaustion at the camp, Pillsbury said Wednesday. Staff spoke to the complainant Wednesday morning, Pillsbury said, but a written complaint had not yet been filed.
The year before, other parents also expressed concerns. In August 2017, Joseph and Shayna Pelkey of Troy brought a small claims lawsuit against Granite Gorge LLC, seeking a refund for the attendance of their children, who they pulled out of the camp after about a week.
“The most concerning issues were our children being unsupervised, lack of activities that were advertised and the safety of our children at the camp,” they wrote in the claim.
The claim didn’t elaborate on the nature of these concerns. The Pelkeys declined to discuss the case Wednesday.
Judge Edward J. Burke ruled in their favor that December, after representatives from Granite Gorge LLC did not show up to a court hearing.
Court records show Granite Gorge LLC counter sued the Pelkeys in small claims court in January, saying that by removing the children from the camp, the Pelkeys cost the camp money in “expenses already spent to provide services.”
The Pelkeys withdrew their complaint in March.
Baybutt did not respond to requests for comment on the case Wednesday.
Liora Engel-Smith can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LEngelSmithKS.