FORT WORTH — More than a dozen children scavenged through pebbles along the lazy Clear Fork of the Trinity River on Tuesday: day campers searching for tiny shells left behind by the river’s inhabitants.“In 10,000 years, that would be a fossil,” said camp director Diane Phillips as she turned over the iridescent treasures in her hand, explaining that they were really bivalve mollusks. One, a more homely specimen, even had a nickname, she said: “Devil’s Toenail.”The shells weren’t difficult to find for the young campers, who were among 45 children spending spring break in the outdoors this week at Camptivity.The popular Camp Fire-operated program has been held for more than 15 years at the Lockheed Martin Recreation Area off Bryant Irvin Road, but this week was its last, at least for a while.The camp, on a “prime piece of nature in the middle of the city” as one staff member put it, is going on an indefinite hiatus because of the recent sale of 63 acres of the land to a commercial and retail developer. The remaining 16 acres of the newly renamed Bryant Irvin Recreation Complex won’t include the present campground.It is an adjustment, but not an ending, Camp Fire officials say.“Essentially what we’re doing is taking this summer off from this particular day camp program and continuing to try and find a quality sustainable location in southwest Fort Worth,” said Lisa Cook, vice president of outdoor programs for First Texas Council of Camp Fire USA. “We’re also looking at a larger scale of how to expand and grow our day camp program across North Texas.”Camptivity’s popularity is its flexibility for children and their working parents. Kids could come to camp for a day, two days or a full week.Camptivity serves children entering kindergarten through eighth grade. On Tuesday, nine children were first-time attendees; others have been attending Camptivity for as many as seven years.Griffin Kopp, 11, is one of those long-timers. His older brothers also attended Camptivity.“We can choose our own activities. They give you three choices every time,” Griffin said, adding that his favorites are soccer, kickball and the playground.Twin sisters Cheyenne and Ciera Elverd are about to turn 12 and will enter seventh grade in the fall. They’ve attended Camptivity for two years and they’re fans of it.“We’re from Saginaw, but we get up really, really early — while it’s still dark — and our mom drives us over here because it’s the only camp we really like,” said Ciera.“Sometimes they do dance, and yesterday we made a puppet theater,” added Cheyenne. “In the summer we made rocket ships.”Camptivity’s next home must have certain attributes, Cook said. First, it must be an easily accessible and sustainable location. It must have a building big enough to shelter children from the elements, provide for indoor craft activities, and have restrooms and changing rooms.Enough outdoor space for activities like archery is also imperative, Cook said, as is a swimming pool.No suitable properties have been located to date in southwest Fort Worth, Cook said, but a new site may be coming online in Northeast Tarrant County. Camp Fire First Texas owns the 18-acre undeveloped McClure campsite in North Richland Hills, and by 2015 programs may be coming online there.Richard Hart, a Mansfield math teacher and assistant director of Camptivity, was upbeat about the change. He said the Lockheed Martin recreation site’s planned development into upscale residential and commercial uses with public spaces along the river sounds like a positive for the community.While Camptivity at that site is no longer available after this week, Camp Fire does host day camps in Parker County and north Fort Worth and is partnering with TCU to provide specialty programming this summer. For more information about Camp Fire programs, visit www.CampFireFW.org.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657 Twitter: @shirljinkins