While one maintenance crew is working away at refurbishing the basketball and tennis courts and another is revamping the 110,000 gallon swimming pool, newly appointed Cuscowilla Manager Lexi Green is planning an upcoming summer day camp program.
Sticky notes and whiteboards, Green says, are the key to organizing it all.
Those organizing skills and more than eight years of experience working at and directing camps in Florida and South Carolina is what brought the UF grad back to Alachua County when she landed the position of managing Cuscowilla. The role includes overseeing more than 200 acres of land, including a main lodge and kitchen, overnight cabins, a concessions area, a disc golf course, rock climbing wall, archery stations, stables, a waterfront for access to fishing, kayaking and more.
Green, 27, won the position out of an applicant pool that numbered more than 50. On-the-job-training is what she says she brings to Cuscowilla.
"There are not a ton of camp specific college programs out there," Green said about her path to becoming a program director for Bethelwoods Camp and Conference Center in York, South Carolina. Green has a bachelor's degree in religion from UF and an associate's degree in psychology from Santa Fe College.
After graduation, Green became a program director for the Montgomery Presbyterian Center in Starke and designed a summer camp program and other events throughout the year, while also also maintained the center's website and social media accounts. She then moved into the director position, where she created a business plan, managed fundraising efforts, and developed relationships with corporate sponsors and guest groups.
"This is how you become a camp director of programs," she said.
Green uses her normal voice during conversation but jokes about her "camp counselor voice" she uses when she is taking charge.
After landing at Cuscowilla a few weeks ago, she has a long to-do list that includes stocking the camp with equipment and filling the upcoming summer day camp with not only campers, but yet-to-be hired staff as well.
Alachua County purchased the Cuscowilla property, formerly Camp McConnell, at public auction in 2017 for $1,027,000 using funds from the Wild Spaces Public Places surtax.
The Alachua Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) chose the name Cuscowilla because it was the name of the dwelling of Chief Micanopy and the remnant of the Seminole tribe before it was captured.
Green said there will be 16 jobs at Cuscowilla with her and a maintenance supervisor living year round onsite.
Other positions include seasonal recreational aides and managers, plus lifeguard positions. Summer camp applications will be available online soon, Green said.
The June day camp will be for students just ending their 2nd through 8th grade, and there will be up to 50 campers weekly for six weeks as a kickoff program.
After the summer program, Green says her priorities will shift to long-term planning. Her goal: "To become financially stable and sustainable and to be good stewards of the property."
In 2020, the 501(c)3 Friends of Cuscowilla formed with a mission of assisting with, "improvements, programming, special events, tours, and fundraising for Cuscowilla."
Green hopes to have enough funding to cover all camper spots between partnerships in the community and the work of the Friends of Cuscowilla. The registration process will include a section to apply for a scholarship.
"The goal five years down the road is that everything done during the year pays for the camp during the summers," Green said.
The cost per day camper is $100 a week, which translates to $20 a day per camper, Green notes.
She says "the potential is endless" for the type of events and camp programs that can be offered at Cuscowilla and her goal is to hear from surrounding communities about what programs they want to see happen at Cuscowilla.
"I plan to get out to the community to have town hall meetings in person or on Zoom to get feedback," Green said. "With that input I can create a plan knowing what the expectations are from the community."
Other upcoming events include a NAMI Gainesville Walk and Mental Health Awareness Festival on May 22. It will include live music and entertainment events for youth and adults, plus food trucks and mental health service exhibits.
A grant-funded fish camp will follow from July 5-9 for 20 campers. More information on upcoming events and programs is available on the Friends of Cuscowilla Facebook page and on the Alachua County Parks and Open Space website.
To apply for a job at Cuscowilla visit the Alachua County Human Resources job postings.
"We are going to be different than the other parks in the system," Green said. "And opening now after the pandemic—it's perfect timing for a place like this."