Who We Are, News

Announcing Our Nature Place Leadership Transition

February 25, 2022

Dear Nature Place Community,

I’ve learned innumerable invaluable things from my father, Ed; absorbed his reverence for nature and grew my own; and like him, I often find myself charting the ways the natural world parallels our lives. These recent warm February days seem to hint of spring already (yikes global warming), and of change and freshness on the horizon, perfectly aligning with this news I want to share with you today:

After much thought, searching, and deliberation, we are excited to announcethat we will be welcoming a new member to our Leadership Team at The Nature Place: a new Camp Director.

I will be stepping back from my role as Director, a duty that I’ve treasured for so many years, and welcoming in Jason Samuel to helm the ship.

How we’ve arrived here is a tale of devotion, dreams, and stewardship. When Ed turned the operation of camp over to me 12 years ago, my objective was clear: continue to carry on the incredible legacy he had established, and ensure our mission continued to deeply affect each and every child (and adult!) that came to camp. With an unbelievably dedicated crew by my side, we have done just that.

As the years have passed and my own family has grown, I’ve been balancing my ongoing devotion to this objective, with the joyful demands of parenthood and my full-time teaching career. This bounty of soul-nourishing roles has been an abundant blessing. Yet, Ayla and I have been realizing the strong and growing feeling that we are missing out on the fleeting years of Odelia and Freya’s childhood, and have been yearning for more space in our lives. We’ve made the difficult, but very right-feeling decision to step back from camp.

And so, our team set out to find a new captain. One who could fully hold, live, and breathe camp. Someone to whom we could entrust this precious entity and community, who could make sure it would continue to inspire and impact children for years to come. As it turned out, Jason was on a journey to find a camp he was fully aligned with, that he could call his own. When we met, it was clear that we could be that camp for him, and Jason could steer us into the future. The decision was made that we would embark on a transfer of ownership.

(And no, all of these nautical references are not just poetic metaphors–Jason is an avid sailor!)

We chose Jason because of his deep love for nature and strong belief in our mission. His vast camp leadership experience, and his sincerity, professionalism, and enthusiastic personality make him the perfect match.

Without further ado, meet Jason:

Jason Samuel is a seasoned camp professional with close to 20 years of experience working in youth development, and has been in the camp world his whole life. He has a deep passion for the outdoors and grew up backpacking, biking, sailing on both coasts, climbing, and camping.

Jason got his start working at camps as a CIT in his native Connecticut, and hasn’t looked back since. He immersed himself in the world of outdoor education, working as an instructor and guide for various programs. He then went on to direct some of the most well-respected day and resident camps in the country.

Jason is a former board member of the American Camping Association (ACA) New Jersey Section, ACA Standards Lead Visitor, and currently serves as one of the chairs of the Tri-State CAMP Conference, the largest conference for camp professional development in the world.

When not at camp, Jason is exploring the trails around his home in Nyack, NY with his young son and wife, out on the Hudson River sailing, or enjoying his ongoing search to find the best chocolate chip cookie ever.

Jason is so excited to join the team and the long legacy that is The Nature Place. He is looking forward to returning to his roots in experiential education and sharing his love for the outdoors. He can’t wait to practice his “J” stroke at Cedar Pond, learn what lives in the Fairy Stream, and share moments of wonder with campers this summer.

We’ll soon be sharing opportunities for our camp community to get to know Jason. He’s eager to connect with the people that really make camp so special: you–our beloved Nature Place family, and all who have been touched by camp, past and present.

Jason is committed to learning and embracing the many large and small, wonderful and wild aspects of NPDC! He has been absorbing our camp culture like a sponge, understanding why we do what we do, and he is committed to carrying the torch of camp. My father-in-law, Scott Dunn, will be by Jason’s side, continuing in his role as Director of Programming, and anchoring the legacy and spirit of camp.

As for me, the objective bestowed upon me by my father remains the same, but I am looking forward to transforming how I facilitate that objective, serving as a resource for Jason this summer and beyond.

We’re so excited for all that is to come in this next chapter of The Nature Place.

Thank you for being on this journey with us.

Your friends at The Nature Place,

Daniel and Ayla, Scott, Emily, Mia, Ed, and Jason!