Hands In 4 Youth Begins Construction Of New Dam At Camp Vacamas


Hands In 4 Youth (HI4Y) is pleased to announce that on September 10th, 2018, HI4Y broke ground on a new dam for Lake Larriwein (identified on official property documentation as Henion Pond), the 65-acre body of water at Camp Vacamas, the 230-acre site in the Ramapo mountains where HI4Y provides camp programs for deserving youth. The most significant infrastructure project in the organization’s history, the new dam will ensure the continuation of the camp’s water-based activities, and reaffirms HI4Y’s commitment to the site, its presence in the local communities, and its mission.

This project is being led by the engineering firm Civil Dynamics, a Division of GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. The contractor firm completing the dam construction is Ferraro Construction; they were selected for the project through a competitive bidding process.

In 2016, the property where Camp Vacamas has been located since 1954 was put up for sale following the urgent need to repair the existing 100-year-old dam. At the time, replacement of the dam was considered financially prohibitive by the organization’s leadership. However, in March 2018 after several years of targeted fundraising and thoughtful planning, the Board of Directors of HI4Y voted unanimously to begin the reconstruction of the dam.


Work is ongoing, and last week over 2,000 fish were safely removed from the lake and relocated to further drain Lake Larriwien ahead of the dam rebuild. Hands in 4 Youth Executive Director Lee Bell stated, “The repair of the dam at Camp Vacamas is a hugely significant moment for our agency and I believe our continued presence will bring positives for the surrounding areas of West Milford, Bloomingdale and beyond but most importantly, for the children we serve.”

He continued, “In 2018, our agency has served over 600 children with a significant number of the kids coming from local towns. Our post-summer survey results have been extremely positive with 100% of the kids who attended making gains in at least one an area of social or emotional development with 79% making gains in at least 3 areas. Our day camp numbers increased by over 50% in 2018 and we plan for further growth in 2019. The dam repair is crucial in allowing us to make this progress.”

The dam at Camp Vacamas is due for completion in spring 2019 with Hands in 4 Youth opening applications for both day camp and sleepaway camp sometime in November 2018.