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Valley Youth House camp gets approval to build new recreation center

Carter Family Center plans
Valley Youth House
A rendering of the outside of the Carter Family Center.

NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — An Orefield-based camp is getting another major upgrade.

North Whitehall Township Board of Supervisors on Tuesday granted preliminary/final approval for a new recreation center at Camp Fowler, which is run by Bethlehem-based nonprofit Valley Youth House.

The recreation center will be called the Carter Family Center. It will be about 5,000 square feet and have two multipurpose rooms, an office and storage space.

The plan first came before the township in August.

Camp Fowler offers therapeutic summer programs that use outdoor behavioral healthcare to treat at-risk children and teenagers.

Valley Youth House Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrington said the organization also rents out the camp throughout the year to different organizations.

“Just last year alone, over 60 different organizations — school groups, church groups, scout groups — have used the facility," Harrington said. "So it's a resource for the community.”

Harrington said recent upgrades to the camp’s cabins make year-round programming possible, but other than the dining hall, there currently is not a place to gather indoors during inclement weather.

He said the new building will allow the camp to hold more educational programs regardless of the weather.

"If a young person spends a week at camp, they can often understand and overcome some issues at a much greater rate."
Valley Youth House’s CEO Tom Harrington

During Camp Fowler's summer programs, youth do outdoor activities such as climbing and zip-lining, then have sessions with masters-degree-level therapists.

Harrington said being outdoors helps youth connect with themselves and others.

“Often we find that, if a young person spends a week at camp, they can often understand and overcome some issues at a much greater rate in that one week than maybe a year's worth of weekly counseling sessions on a therapist's chair,” Harrington said.

The camp’s programs are free for youth who are from low-income families, are in foster care or are unhoused.

Township building renovations update

Municipal building draft rendering front
MKSD Architects
A draft rendering of the front of the renovated North Whitehall municipal building.

Supervisors also selected The Pelorus Group to be the construction manager for the township building renovations at a cost of $125,000.

Township Manager Randy Cope said the next-lowest bid was $293,000. He explained that the construction manager will help the township with the bid process for an architect, then oversee the project.

“They really act as an extension to our staff,” Copes said. “Obviously we all have full time jobs that we need to continue to do throughout this renovation project.

“So having some boots on the ground, somebody specifically engaged with the project, working with the contractors, making sure that they are doing a good job first and foremost.”

Cope said he thinks construction will begin this summer and last about a year.