AYF Camp Haiastan unveils renovation plans

FRANKLIN, Mass. — At last month’s AYF Camp Haiastan Gala held at Gillette Stadium, the Camp’s Board of Directors unveiled its plans for several major upgrades to the facilities. “Although every year, the camp buildings are repaired and maintained to meet the needs of the campers and staff, throughout the years there has been a need for major improvements to maintain a safe, healthy and suitable place for the growing camp population, programs and activities,” stated Board chairperson Hratch Najarian.

These renovation projects will focus on three different essential and highly-used facilities. Board member and chair of the Infrastructure Committee Mike Bahtiarian explained that these upcoming improvements are a continuation of previous construction and renovation projects. “After the Camp was established in 1951, we had an upgrade in the early 1960s, then in 1982 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Camp, then for the 50th anniversary in 2022, and in 2012-2015 the ‘Expand and Renew’ campaign.”

Rendering of “Under the Trees” renovation at AYF Camp Haiastan

The first project is the enlargement and redesign of the area referred to as “Under the Trees.” The benches situated to the right of the camp entrance have been a gathering area for the campers since its construction in 1982. The project was dedicated in memory of Vaghinag Karnig Koroghlian, a 1951 charter camper who passed away in 1981 at the young age of 41.

The renovation will include upgrading the original sitting area and adding a new section to the gathering area. The new section will be dedicated to Mark Alashaian, New Jersey community leader, longtime Camp Haiastan Board member, past counselor and camper, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 51.

The new “Under the Trees” will include seating for 150 in arrangements of clusters or as one gathering. Additionally, the poor water drainage that causes large puddles when it rains will be replaced to prevent any of these problems.

The Armenian eternity symbol will be reconstructed and moved to the entrance of the sitting area. Trees will be planted around the area and lighting for nighttime use will be installed. A retaining wall and granite stairs will be added to the elevated portion of the structure.

The second area to be renovated is the Cabin Circle area. The walkways will be widened. Benches facing the cabins will be installed around the center circle. To improve safety and security, low voltage lights will be added under the benches, and spotlights will be installed on the cabins.

Rendering of Cabin Circle renovation

The most challenging aspect of maintaining the Cabin Circle is the usage of the grass area which receives significant wear and tear during the camping season. After consulting with landscape architects, it was decided that the best procedure will be to aerate, top dress and overseed the lawn every year both before and after camping season.

The cost of the renovation of the Cabin Circle will be undertaken by the family and friends of Regina Vartanian Najarian. The former camper, staff member and parent to current campers passed away this year at the age of 50.

“We are grateful for the hard work and commitment of our Infrastructure Committee, most of whom had participated in the ‘Expand and Renovation,’ for helping the Board, our facility manager John Miller, and in the planning of these projects,” said AYF Camp Haiastan executive director Kenar Charchaflian. “We are confident that we will be able to successfully execute these plans in the upcoming year to be ready for the 2023 camping season.”

The last project, the largest one of the three, is the renovation of the Kitchen and “Mess Hall.” The original kitchen and mess hall were constructed in the early 1950s. In 1993, a major renovation took place. It has been 30 years since that renovation.

Because of the cost and complexities associated with this project, it will be implemented in two different phases. Phase I, which began prior to Camp Season 2022, was replacing pots and cookware. The plans for this off-season include the repair/replacement of the following kitchen appliances: warming trays and proofer; ovens and griddle; frialator; chilled drink machines and chilled salad bar with sneeze guards. 

Phase II will consist of demolishing and replacing the interior, including the appliances and new floors, and moving the walk-in freezer to the outside of the kitchen. Additional architectural consulting will be sought by the Infrastructure Committee on the appropriate design changes that may be required.

“From the day the land was purchased in the 1940s to today, thousands of people have supported the Camp as volunteers, advocates, promoters and financial donors. Today AYF Camp Haiastan stands as a tribute to all these people. We are confident that this latest effort will receive the same type of support from our extensive AYF Camp Haiastan family,” stated Najarian.

The total amount donated to date is $450,000. The Camp Board of Directors and executive director extend their appreciation to all those who on the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of the Camp have donated to these renovation projects including these sponsors: 

Armenian Relief Society, Eastern Region — $100,000
Dan and Nicole Apelian — $100,000
Anonymous — $55,000
Alashaian Families —  $25,000
Guzelian Families — $15,000
John and June Mangassarian — $10,000
George and Joyce Aghjayan — $5,000
Hratch and Linda Najarian — $5,000
Anonymous — $5,000
Shant Saroukhanian and Erica L. Bokatzian — $5,000
Veh Bezdikian and Arpine Aroyan — $5,000
Lisa Ann Garabedian and Glenn Boyd — $5,000 

If you wish to learn more about these projects or make a donation, please contact the Camp at 508-520-1312, email info@camphaiastan.org or visit our website.

Camp Haiastan
Located in Franklin, Massachusetts, AYF Camp Haiastan, was founded in 1951 and is the oldest Armenian camp in the United States. The Camp prides itself on providing a healthy and safe experience to Armenian-American youth to help them foster their Armenian identity and establish lifelong friendships.
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