In 1999, George Yonge donated 100 undeveloped acres along Onion Creek to the YMCA, with the vision of preserving the land to make nature and camp experiences accessible to all youth. Thanks to his generosity, the YMCA of Austin currently is developing YMCA Camp Moody as a multi-use facility for Day Camp, Overnight Camp, Parent/Child Camping, Outdoor Education and Retreat Center on an 85-acre nature preserve along Onion Creek in Buda in Hays County, Texas. Their goal is to create a space that is both functional and environmentally sensitive, while re-connecting children with nature on a natural oasis in close proximity to urban youth and families in Texas. Camp Moody will promote outdoor participation among underserved populations, including low-income youth and families through education, outdoor activities, and nature tourism/retreats. The YMCA’s goals for Camp Moody are to break barriers (geographic, financial, and physical) to nature and outdoor education for all youth, and to encourage the next generation of environmental stewards to preserve the natural heritage of Texas.
The vision for Camp Moody also includes committing to a long-term Conservation and Management plan for preserving the diverse plant and wildlife communities of the Edwards Plateau and Texas Blackland Prairie; the camp is situated on the borders of these two important ecozones. In partnership with National Parks Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, YMCA of Austin developed the Plan in an effort to identify and prioritize sustainable environmental stewardship practices for Camp Moody. By preserving these green acres for children to explore the outdoors, YMCA Camp Moody will act as an 85-acre, hands-on field laboratory, the potential birthplace of many future conservationists and scientists. Through collaborations with organizations like local school districts and the National Wildlife Federation, YMCA Camp Moody will be act as an outdoor classroom equipped to engage and inspire all children to honor, respect, conserve and reclaim our environment and its resources.
Project Description & History
The YMCA is currently in the permitting phase of construction and plans to break ground in January 2019. The rest of Phase 1 construction will begin shortly thereafter, and YMCA Camp Moody will open in 2020. The Phase 1 construction will include: 18,000 sf. Natatorium, Dining Hall, Cabins, Airnasium, Climbing Tower, Zip Line, Archery Range, Open-air Pavilion, Fire Ring, Children’s Growing Garden, miles of hiking trails, etc.
Restoration: The comprehensive YMCA Camp Moody Conservation and Management Plan identifies dozens of recommended practices for preserving the ecological integrity of the property while encouraging community engagement with conservation. Developed by scientists and property assessors, the plan includes recommendations for improving infrastructure, wildlife habitat, fire prevention, riparian corridor preservation and water health, and ecosystem services such as erosion control and pollination. Second only to total habitat loss, the spread of invasive species is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and native habitat composition. Plant and wildlife diversity assessments by citizen scientists and community naturalist groups identified 13 invasive plant species on the property, in addition to fast-growing native Ashe Juniper, which requires consistent management to control. To mitigate the effects of habitat and biodiversity loss, YMCA Camp Moody already has infrastructure in place to remove and control invasives, seed native grasses and pollinator plants, promote diverse communities of woody cover while protecting against wildfire, protect riparian and watershed health, and much more. The full plan can be accessed here.
Camp Moody will cost families less than half the average cost of other Texas summer camps, in addition to offering financial assistance for low-income youth to participate in all outdoor and enrichment activities. Additionally, the Camp will incorporate universal design as much as possible to make it not only accessible to individuals of all physical abilities, but welcoming and inclusive. The designs include 3.5 mile of ADA-accessible hiking trails, ramp or zero-grade entry on all buildings, and ADA components for all activity areas.
In partnership with Austin ISD, Manor ISD, Round Rock ISD, Hays CISD, and charter schools, Camp Moody will become an expanded outdoor classroom for students to learn STEM curricula using Onion Creek’s aquatic habitat and the diverse wildlife, flora and fauna found on site. The unique setting of YMCA Camp Moody makes it a natural outdoor classroom for many types of science-based learning such as fossil hunting and collecting, water conservation studies using the Onion Creek aquatic habitat as a classroom, orienteering courses that focus on map and compass skills, and survival skills including shelter building, fire starting and the identification of edible plants.