OAKLAND — Fifty years ago, three local men waded in the woods and dirt roads on McGrath Pond, armed with machetes to clear a swath of land. Their mission was not to homestead or colonize, but rather to find a home for a summer camp.

Now, five decades later, the memories of those men will be honored at the Camp Tracy Anniversary on Thursday, a YMCA day camp that has grown considerably since those men — Lester Jolovitz, Richard Hawkes and George Keller — settled the camp after buying the land at a discount.

Ken Walsh, chief executive officer for the Alfond Youth Center, said the anniversary is meant to celebrate the camp’s past, present and growing future. It has grown to become a camp that hosts kids from 44 states and from around the world, with five residential cabins and all-season residential opportunities, that averages about 300 campers a day. He said family members of the founders will be on hand Thursday for the anniversary, including Barbara Jolovitz, Lester’s wife, who wrote a book on the history of the camp called “Behold the Turtle.”

Additionally, Walsh said stakeholders will be unveiling a new master plan for the camp, which will outline a new pocket field in a wooded area to increase capacity, adding a sixth residential cabin, adding shelters for the basketball courts and creating a full fledged dining facility that can be used during all types of weather.

Walsh also said they are looking to expand programing to be in all four seasons, including use of the high and low ropes courses for leadership programs, and winter activities like ice fishing.

“There’s a real big emphasis on how we will continue to evolve Camp Tracy,” Walsh said.

Richard Hawkes’s daughter Sue will also be present at the anniversary celebration, joining Jolovitz and other alumni, meeting at the deck at the Richard Hawkes Retreat Center to meet with newly appointed Alumni Club officers, President Will Barlock, Vice President Nick Rogers and Secretary Madison Bodine.

Walsh also said the camp has developed scholarships to ensure that all kids, regardless of socioeconomic status, can be able to attend Camp Tracy.

Today, the camp has climbing towers, ropes courses, a four season lodge with a conference room and kitchen, a turf field that’s a two-thirds sized replica of Fenway Park, a turfed multi-use field, basketball and tennis courts, an archery range, amphitheater and other amenities.

Though the camp was founded in the 1960s, Keller, one of the founders, was the executive director of the Waterville YMCA. In the late 1990s, the Waterville Boys and Girls Clubs merged with the Waterville YMCA to become the Alfond Youth Center.

According to a press release about the event, Operations Director Patrick Guerette said more than 450 campers attended at about an average of two weeks, and the camp provided more than $25,000 in assistance.

The 50th anniversary will also conclude with a camper production of a re-enactment of Lester Jolovitz, Richard Hawkes and George Keller founding the camp.

Barbara Jolovitz, who authored the book and whose late husband was one of the founders, said her husband and the other founders thought it was important for there to be a safe place for children to have a camp. She said, in her opinion, the original mission of the camp was accomplished, and now the focus has shifted to the camp’s future, including the Alumni Club.

“It’s quite a wonderful thing happening in this area for children,” she said. “The purpose is now make sure it is maintained.”

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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