By BILL AND BETTY BURTON
(reprinted from The Long Trail Press February 1950 Green Mountain Club)
Camp Thendara,considered by many the chief attraction of the New York Section, was not part of the original plans of the group that was organized in 1916. But by about 1920, the need for overnight accommodations where members could feel at home began to be felt. This demand was sharply criticized by about half the group, including Professor Monroe, who felt that the small shelter that had been built in the Wyanokie area was adequate, ‘and that the organization was a hiking and not a country club. It is interesting to note, however, that Professor Monroe was later won over, and spent many happy weekends entertaining at Thendara in his cordial and generous way.
Through the friendship of Raymond Torrey, then active in making the first trails in Bear Mountain Park, with Major Welsh, Manager of the Park, the club got in on the ground floor in the matter of accommodations. Major Welsh decided to abandon what was then the Staff Cabin and move to a more convenient location. The deal to take over “Thendara,” as the lodge had been named, was closed in the fall of 1922, and camp opened with Bill and Beth Barclay as chairmen of the committee.
The first problem was how to support the camp, as house fees alone could not meet the cost of the lease and upkeep. To provide for this, club dues were raised one dollar a year; with the understanding that the money would be returned to the treasury when it was no longer needed. This was done in 1928, when for a time the camp was self-supporting; but a few years later, when capital improvements were needed, one dollar was again allocated to Camp Thendara, and is still used there.
Located in the center of the Park trail system, in an isolated position above Lake Tiorati, and 1100 feet above sea level, Thendara proved an ideal recreation spot. In the early days, life was rougher than at present. Everybody walked the five miles in from Arden, packing their own supplies. An easier winter route led at water level over Echo and Cohasset Lakes, then over Fingerboard Mountain. Each small party, even if three or four groups were present, cooked separately over a coal range, until community cooking was instituted in 1927. In winter, water had to be carried by pail from the pump house, a test of manhood being to carry two pailfulls the 700 feet uphill without stopping or sliding backward in the snow. One old-timer reports that in near-zero weather seven army blankets kept one cold all night, and were too heavy’ to permit sleep. One hostess, missing the early after noon train, left Arden at 5 P.M. with a big pack, in a heavy fall of snow, and stumbled into camp more dead than alive at 9:30, having lost her way and broken a snowshoe to boot. Nevertheless in those days the winter’s attendance equaled the summers.
Developments in the 28 years of camp life include: enlargement of the main cabin, installation of a motorized pump and electric lights, canned gas with a modern stove, and the building of an incinerator by club members.
The two original canoes have been increased to six (including two aluminum and two sailing) and an aluminum rowboat. Bathing facilities have been installed. Unofficial trails have been constructed by members to nearby paints of interest, such as the old Hogencamp Mine and other attractive spots.
Today Thendara is a part of the club life of every active member, whether he chooses to skate or ski in winter, or to swim, canoe, sail, attend the Bird Census week-end, or just loaf, in spring and summer. The old iron mines in ·the Park may have fallen into disuse, but this gold mine of relaxation remains always with us.
(reprinted from The Long Trail Press February 1950 Green Mountain Club)
Historical Update, 1991-2016, on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Green Mountain Club New York Section
Green Mountain Club New York Section, 1991-1999
Thendara Mountain Club, 2000-
Val Cutajar 1989-1992 Jay Gordon 2000-2004
Manny Sanudo 1992-1995 Roz Reiss2004-2008
Gina O’Keeffe 1995-1997 Kevin Broderick 2008-2012
Pete Reilly 1997-2000 Kathy Haake 2012-2016
Sharon Bonk 2000 George Hewitt 2016-
As I read the annual reports, executive board minutes and other club documents from this period and the histories written for the 50th and 75 anniversaries of the New York Section, I was struck with the consistency of the themes and concerns of club members and board considerations: building and maintaining membership; camp improvements and safety; issues relating to the Palisades Park Commission and later the New York State Department of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation; and service in the context of conservation, trail maintenance, and cooperation with other organizations with similar goals and purpose.
The distinctive issue of this period was the disaffiliation from the Green Mountain Club and the creation of the Thendara Mountain Club. This was the most significant event during this period because it changed how the club recruited members and its fundamental financial structure. Briefly, the issues of open membership through a change in bylaws to conform with the GMC and increased portion of dues to be contributed to the GMC and their potential negative effects on the Section and its ability to maintain Camp Thendara were first discussed by the board in 1997-98. Forums for member discussion and input, the appointment of an advisory committee and retention of an attorney along with discussions with the President and Executive Director of the GMC continued in 1998-99, with a member vote late in 1999 to disaffiliate with the Green Mountain Club. Because the discussions, actions, and implementation (e.g. bylaw changes, filings of incorporation) occurred over the period 1997-2001, the documentation is found serially but buried in the minutes and other board documents over the five year period. I have created a detailed timeline of all the events and a file of duplicated documents of this process for the club archives should anyone in the future be interested in the process and rationale of this important change of club status.
The year 1991 ended with a 75th Anniversary Celebration, attended by 11 past presidents and 22 people who had been members for 50 years. Membership had reached 403, including 125 Life Members. Membership growth had been a focus of president Val Cutajar and with all successive Presidents. Membership grew to 455 in 1995 and remained above 400 to the end of the decade. However, there was a steep decline between 2000-2002 with only 293 members reported for 2002, perhaps because of so much time and focus was given to the disaffiliation from the Green Mountain Club in between late 1997 and 2000 and the resignation of some members who had not supported disaffiliation. The membership numbers continued to remain in the 280 range for the rest of the decade. Recruitment measures were intertwined with improvements to member services, e. g. creating a web presence, increasing the interactivity of the website for the members, more email communication with members about club activities and related interests, club logos for use on brochures T-shirts etc. By 2012, a membership of 348 was reported. The club has sustained this level membership to the present by personal outreach among club members for recruitment of new members, a program of welcoming and enhanced mentoring of new members, more family memberships. Also, major camp improvements, more hosted weekends with large numbers of attendees, and continual boating and swim dock improvements have contributed to the quality of the activities at the amp.
Summary of Camp Improvements, 1991-2016.
The focus of camp improvements has always focused on safety of and convenience for members.
In 1991, the kitchen was remodeled with of ‘new’ stove. The kitchen remodeling cost $8627.33 of which $1250 was spent for purchase, moving, and installing the stove, stove pipe, insulation board, and gas company fees. In 1992, a ruptured well pipeline was repaired by park which put the club on warning that we would have to pay labor and parts in the future, sound a major theme in club/park relations from thereon. In 1993, a new well drilled was drilled adjacent to the lodge using $4000—from Endowment Funds which continue to be the main source of our camp improvements. With a new water supply it was decided to install indoor showers and a hose valve to supply the water for latrine cleanouts. In 1994, a member built the butcherblock table in the kitchen.
In 1995, the park replaced the roof, and the dugout (basement room) was made habitable by a work crew composed of club members. That same year a state trail maintenance crew with assistance of NYNJ Trail Conference crew leader began a major reconstruction of the trail down to the lake, including water bars, switchback, stairs. This was a two-year project. In 1997, the park repaved the access road and reconstructed our circle at end of drive. The park provided materials for club members to restore bunkhouse. Major repairs were made to the stove and furnace pipe. The park instituted fire safety inspections, and the club purchased of new fire extinguishers. The flagpole was purchased with the DeLude Endowment which had been established for that purchase.
During 2001 and 2002 one room was insulated and as a test, a window replacement plan was begun, and the first dishwasher was installed. The first two kayaks were purchased. In 2005 camp improvements included painting sleeping rooms and refurbishing with new curtains, lamps, pictures. Four overhead fans/lights were installed in the main room. A new electric start pellet furnace was installed to replace the coal furnace because it needed a custom, expensive repair and because of the increasingly tenuous nature of reliable coal supply. This project involved members disassembling and removing the coal furnace and the coal from the cellar then carting it to the park dumpster on a subsequent weekend. Jay Gordon, Kevin Broderick, and Steve Orlinick were the heavy lifters of this project and were assisted by others on the 2nd weekend.
Over the next ten years there were continued improvements including installation of the UV water filter, major upgrade in first aid supplies and cabinet, the rehabilitation of the women’s washroom, and repair of back hall and pantry walls. Additional kayaks were purchased and boat dock and boat storage continued to be upgraded including an area to launch kayaks more easily. It was in this period that the club became responsible for supplying its own firewood.
A major camp rehabilitation and upgrade program began and continues today. This has been possible due to the many skilled and enthusiastic club members lead by Camp Chairs George Hewitt and Paul Weisenbacher and enhanced funding due to increased club members, camp use by members, and the park’s incentive for club funded improvements.
As 2016 drew to a close, there were a number of plans in progress, the most important of which was the replacement of kitchen floor support. This was completed in early 2017 along with electrical upgrades. Future plans include: cleanout of basement dugout for improved storage; outhouse floor repair; bunk house mattress storage; major kitchen renovation; major repair of boathouse; improved storage for swim equipment and members belongings; nature room archives storage.
Camp Thendara was leased from the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in 1922 with the first weekend held in 1923. The lease to has been renewed annually for summer use, May-October. Through continued good stewardship, adherence to PIPC rules, and good relations between club officers and park personnel, the informal extension to the lease for winter occupancy has continued to today. In 2007, the administration of Harriman State Park New York State Department of Parks and Historic Preservation became responsible for administration of Harriman State Park. With this change came many other changes in park personnel, programs, maintenance, and funding for group camps. They instituted a 3-year permit to operate with a 25% reduction in cost for organizations that submit self-funded capital improvement plans and complete these projects during the covered time period. The club has taken advantage of this cost reduction to fund improvements using skilled members’ labor whenever possible. Other park policies on closing the park roads in severe weather, reduction snow plowing on weekends has created some reduction in access to the camp in winter months, but members continue to haul the weekend supplies up the hill and enjoy cozy winter weekends. The club also purchases firewood that is supplemented with wood its members gather on the grounds as the park no longer delivers wood for club use.
Conservation and Service
Thendara Club members as those GMC/NYS members before them maintain approximately 40 miles of trails within Harriman State Park. Since 1993, members have participated in the Queens College Big Buddies field excursion to Harriman Park, serving as hike leaders and companions to inner city school children.
Members have been active participants in the Native Sites Monitoring program sponsored by the Trailside Museum since its inception in 2001. During the period 1991and 2001, the club contributed $13,500 to the several campaigns to save Sterling Forest from development. Through individual members’ contributions for conservation, the Club contributes in its name to conservation organizations such as River Keeper, Scenic Hudson, among others. The club continues its long term organizational membership in the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.
The club celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a grand party at the camp on September 24, 2016. Approximately 135 members and guests attended the catered affair (food trucks) which included decorations and marquis tents, and music, slide show of club history. A photo scrapbook of the day was produced. With its growing membership, excellent leaders, a great cadre of hosts, many volunteers for camp upkeep duties, and a positive financial position, Thendara Mountain Club enthusiastically embarks on its next 100 years!
Sharon Bonk, Member 1994–, former Camp Chair, Vice President, Board Member
April 29, 2017