Music from the 2010s plays on the radio while campers run around — some playing four square while others have a chin-up competition. Out on the Hopkinton Reservoir, five tiny, elementary-aged children are wearing helmets and learning how to sail. There is camp taking place, kids are smiling, and all this is taking place safely, in real life. Not over a Zoom call.
To many, this image is a reminder of the wonderful pre-pandemic world. To the veteran employees at Boating in Boston at Hopkinton State Park, this is not the pre-pandemic summer they remember. Typically there would be 800-1,000 people on site per day. Through the first half of the summer this year, there were approximately 600 people daily. On only two or three days this summer the usual number of visitors appeared.
Before the pandemic, there were around 100 customers at the facility at any given moment. Last summer, Boating in Boston had to cut capacity to 15 people. By the end of the season, the company increased the number to 50.
Jeffery Wright is the main instructor at Boating in Boston.
“I was at Boating in Boston before it was Boating in Boston,” he said, noting he was a camper for 11 years before becoming an employee.
“Last year, I had maybe 10-15 private lessons in total,” he said. “There were no group lessons.”
Before COVID, there were 2-3 lessons a week. This year, a lot of people are excited to get back out on the water and learn a new sport.
“Right now, I am teaching at least one lesson every day,” he said. “There are definitely a lot of people taking lessons.”
Even with all the restrictions last year, Boating in Boston still was able to host its in-person camps. Each camp was limited to 20 children at a time to maintain 6 feet of social distance, and masks were required.
“The heart of camp was still there, but it is great to welcome more campers back,” said site lead Isabelle Koerner.
This year, a group of campers can hang out around a picnic table. Last year, only two campers were allowed to share a table. Now there are about 40 kids at each weekly camp, which is the same number as before the pandemic.
Even though the experience is different than it was before COVID, it does not take away the joy the employees have working there. This is Nate DeGregorio’s first year working for Boating in Boston.
“I enjoy working outside, by the water,” he said. “It is a fun summer job!”