West Texas: New growth and restoration at Camp Capers

By Laura Shaver
Posted Aug 20, 2013
An eight-room, two-story lodging facility stands next to the new Steves Hall and overlooks the Guadalupe River.

An eight-room, two-story lodging facility stands next to the new Steves Hall and overlooks the Guadalupe River.

[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas] The camping program at Camp Capers in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas continues to grow, with rising participation numbers in summer camp, retreats throughout the year, and a three-phase facility improvement project that is well underway.

Camp Capers, located in Waring, Texas, is in its 66th year of summer camps for young people in school grades three through 12. This year, as summer sessions began, construction efforts of a $3 million-dollar capital campaign came to completion. This first phase of renovation of the camp property yielded a new state-of-the-art meeting hall, welcome center, health care center, amphitheater, and lodging facilities.

The 78-acre property of Camp Capers was acquired in 1944, purchased for the diocese by Albert Steves, Jr. In deep appreciation, Steves Hall, the main meeting hall at Camp Capers, was named for Steves and his family. The original facility included a gathering area, rooms with a total of 12 beds, and a small infirmary.

“There is so much history here, and we’ve had two Steves Halls in the first 65 years of Camp Capers,” said Rob Watson, director of Camps and Conferences. “It was time to build a beautiful, larger, and multi-functional hall to honor the Steves family and their legacy and to serve the needs of our diocesan family.”

The new Steves Hall is a one-story building constructed of Douglas fir. Exposed beams and recessed lighting cross the ceiling. Large glass doors line three sides of the meeting area, and a wrap around porch overlooks the Guadalupe River with views of surrounding oak trees.

Steves Hall also includes a full kitchen, laundry facilities, a smaller conference room, and a room filled with electrical outlet cubby holes for camp staff and visitors to charge all portable devices. The facility is fully air-conditioned.

Separate from the main Steves Hall, two brand-new, two-story lodging facilities provide more places for camp staff and retreat groups to stay overnight. Each facility is two stories, one with eight rooms, the other with 12. Bedrooms in both lodges have two full-size beds and a private bath. A deck and porch wraps around all four sides of each lodge.

The new Welcome Center at Camp Capers houses a registration and staff offices, an alumni room, and summer camp store.

The new Welcome Center at Camp Capers houses a registration and staff offices, an alumni room, and summer camp store.

An older cabin on the camp property, which served as living quarters for the on-site cook during the summer, received an incredible face-lift during construction. The refurbished building serves as the new Welcome Center and features the registration office, camp store, and an alumni room complete with a coffee bar and tables. “The alumni room will remain open. We want those who cherish this place to be able to come in when they can, have a cup of coffee, and relax,” said Watson.

An expansive front porch welcomes visitors at the front of the center. Rockers and benches offer resting spots with views of the ropes course and the surrounding Texas Hill Country.

The previous camp registration office was transformed into the new Health Care Center. The center, with more space to utilize than the most recent infirmary, houses the summer nurse’s living quarters, two isolation rooms with two beds each, and a first aid and reception area where campers can come for their medications and/or urgent needs.

In addition to the new facilities, other projects were included in Phase I of the Camp Capers’ development plan. The 250-seat Will Stocker Amphitheater was built entirely of limestone and overlooks the Guadalupe River. This summer, closing services of camp sessions are being held in the amphitheater, where parents and friends have space to watch and participate. The amphitheater was proposed by the Stocker family in thanksgiving for Will, who was a Camp Capers’ camper and music director and was involved in the life of the diocese. Will died in December of 2010.

A few shade structures have been built near the ropes course and riverbank, with benches and tables underneath to escape the warm Central Texas sun. Fifty oak trees will be planted this fall as part of the ongoing tree planting ministry at Camp Capers, which has resulted in 300 new trees since 2008.

A dedication service of the new buildings is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 20, at 3:30 p.m. at Camp Capers. Camp alumni and friends, as well as clergy from around the diocese, are invited to attend.

Learn more about Camp Capers in the Diocese of West Texas here. The diocese also has a retreat and conference center on Mustang Island near Corpus Christi, Texas, and a summer adventure program in James Park, Colorado.

— Laura Shaver is the communications officer for the Diocese of West Texas.

Comments (2)

  1. John M. Hays says:

    Dear Laura- I’ve just shut down a weekly newspaper, Morning Paper, that I started back 1976 here in Ruston, LA. But in a prior life, I was raised in San Antonio and after being a professional college student for several years had a small municipal construction business.
    Among the jobs I had…probably about 1965 or 1966 was to improve the water supply system at Camp Capers. We had to lay new asbestos-cement water mains from the water well and elevated tank down through the building(s) complex and putting in some fire hose connections to give at least minimal fire protection.
    The ground in the area was some real nice red loam soil, but every 100-150 feet we’d hit what turned out to be a large limestone boulder, sometimes 10′ to12′ in diameter. Because we were in between the buildings, we couldn’t drill and blast through the rock and you can’t imagine how much time it took to jack-hammer a ditch. But on that first one, I discovered we were dealing with boulders.
    So rather than cutting though the boulders, I’d take my Case 530 backhoe and dig a bit hole next to the boulder. Then I’d dig around the boulder to free it up and then roll it off in the hole clear of the water main’s path. If we happened to hit one in the afternoon, I’d just send my crew home for the day, and I’d work a few hours to move boulders and open ditch.
    I’d been noticing an old lady always dressed in an ankle length dress and bonnet who drove probably a 1940 Chevrolet one ton pick-up coming in morning and evening to milk about three cows and half a dozen goats that grazed in the Capers’ pasture. She moved at full speed all the time. And quite often she would be in the pasture cutting grass with a big scythe and then bundling up the grass she had cut the day or two before and loading the bundles in her truck for winter feed.
    But one late afternoon, I happened to notice she had come over the fence and was watching me get my last boulder of the day out of the way. When I got it clear and shut down the backhoe, I spoke to the lady, who turned out to be well over 6′ tall and appeared to be older than my grandmother.
    Her response was in a thick German accent,”You know, I wish I was as strong as that machine. If I was I could reallyi get some work done in a day.”
    Having watched her in action for then a week or two, from sometimes Sun up to always Sun set, I could think of how she could possibly do any more work with or without a backhoe, but I volunteered the backhoe if she needed it. A few days later, she asked me if I’d have tme to load some flat sided rocks about 3′ x 3′ and 18″ thick into her truck. She had picked out eight down near the river. It was all that old truck could do to carry the load.
    When I got them loaded, she told me,”It’s been a good year for hay and I’m building a shed so winter rain doesn’t ruin what I already have shocked.
    I told my hands the next day, if they could do as much work as that old German lady, I’d give them all 50% raise. However, I never saw any signs if them coming close.

    1. Rob Watson says:

      Excellent story John – please let me know if you have any others about Camp Capers.


      Rob Watson
      Director Camps and Conferences
      Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

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