A New Generation of Outdoor Enthusiasts

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY OUTDOORS

By: Norah Machia

A sponsorship program that gives youth throughout New York state an opportunity to experience and appreciate the outdoors has expanded in recent years, in part with support from a fund established in memory of a well-known Cape Vincent guide.

     The New York State Outdoor Guides Association started its “Kids to Camp” program in 2000 to provide financial support for youth attending summer camps operated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The camps are located in several places, including the Adirondacks and the Catskills, and are open to any youth ages 11 to 17 residing within the state.

      Some of those youth have been supported through a fund established in memory of the late Captain Walter Bruce Boname, who had worked for more than 25 years as a New York State-licensed outdoor hunting and fishing guide. As a youth, Mr. Boname spent his summers on the St. Lawrence River, exploring the many islands and natural environments with his father and grandfather.

     In 2013, Mr. Boname passed away unexpectedly at the age of 56 while visiting the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas, where he was respected as a fisherman and free diver. Mr. Boname had earned a reputation as an environmental conservationist in both the United States and the Bahamas.

    Upon his death, the fund was established with the New York State Outdoor Guides Association, an organization which represents professional guides throughout the state. The fund helps to support the association’s “Kids to Camp” program, giving youth an opportunity to explore the wilderness and learn about environmental conservation.

     NYSOGA “feels it is extremely important to promote and preserve the many great outdoor recreational opportunities that we all share in New York state,” said Craig Tryon, a New York state outdoor guide and chairman of the “Kids to Camp” committee.

     “The next generation of outdoors men and women, and professional guides, needs to begin gaining the knowledge and appreciation for the wilderness at an early age,” he said.

   The “Kids to Camp” program sponsors youth to attend one of four DEC summer environmental education camps: Camp Colby, Franklin County; Camp DeBruce, southern Catskills; Camp Rushford in Allegany County; and Camp Pack Forest in the southern Adirondacks.    

     The sponsorships provided through NYSOGA have already been awarded for this summer, but applications for summer 2018 are being accepted and will be reviewed in December, Mr. Tryon said. 

     Since the guide’s association started its “Kids to Camp” program, it has provided financial support for 29 youth to attend DEC summer camps, he said. The guide’s association sponsors a maximum of three youth each year.

     NYSOGA had initially funded two campers per summer, and had DEC select the campers from a list of those applying for financial support.  Several years later, the association began recruiting youth themselves, Mr. Tryon said.

    The potential campers are identified and assisted through the application process by NYSOGA regional directors, he said. Those interested in applying can contact a committee member residing in the closest proximity to their home.

    Other sources of sponsorships for those interested in attending DEC Environmental Education Summer Camps include sporting clubs, environmental groups, and civic organizations.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY HOLLY C. BONAME Oil portrait of the late outdoor guide Walter B. Boname titled ‘Captain,’ painted by Sina March of Colorado.

     The “Kids to Camp” Program has been funded annually by donations to the NYSOGA Quilt Project, along with memorial donations. In addition to the fund set up in memory of Mr. Boname, a second fund was also established in memory of Captain Tim Hallock, another past NYSOGA member.

     “Both of these men eagerly shared their knowledge of the outdoors with adults and especially kids anytime they could,” Mr. Tryon said.

     In his obituary, the late Mr. Boname was recalled as being “happiest out in the woods, out on the boat, or with his family.”

     Mr. Boname had resided on the St. Lawrence River, and was “the definition of a true river rat. One of his greatest joys was the hours spent gardening at home; with a garden of the highest caliber, his green thumb will never be forgotten,” his obituary stated.

    Mr. Boname had been an active member of the NYS Guides Association for many years prior to his death. His family decided that establishing a fund to support youth who wanted to learn more about the outdoors would be an ideal way to honor his memory, said his wife, Audrey Boname, Cape Vincent.      

      “This was the perfect tribute to Walter,” said Mrs. Boname. “He loved the outdoors, and loved teaching people about nature and hunting.”

      The summer camp program “provides a great opportunity to show kids the outdoors,” she said.

     Mr. Boname had worked on the St. Lawrence River, throughout Northern New York and the Thousand Islands Region, and also in the Adirondacks, she said. In some cases, Mr. Boname took groups on hunting and fishing trips to isolated areas that could only be reached by plane.

    “Being outside in the woods and on the river, it was like his church,” Mrs. Boname said. “He could talk to anyone, and befriend anyone. He could adapt the trips depending on the parties.”

     Mr. Boname had established LindaVue Adventures, through which he operated guided hunting and fishing trips. His business expanded as he attended many sporting shows with NYSOGA.

     A Liverpool-based organization, Tulip Travel, had worked with Mr. Boname for several years to organize guided outdoor trips for developmentally disabled and special-needs clients. The agency provided experienced teachers, residential counselors and recreation specialists as escorts to a group of clients who would spend a day fishing on the St. Lawrence River.

   “Walter had a great profession, and he loved every minute of it,” Mrs. Boname said.

    He was able to share a wealth of knowledge with others, including identifying different edible plants in the wild, such as mushrooms, she added. 

     “Our kids were raised on venison and rabbit,” Mrs. Boname said, referring to the couple’s two daughters, Julia and Holly. “Walter could make a meal out of anything.”

   He also devoted much of his time and energy to teaching people of all ages about the importance of natural resource conservation, she said. 

   For more information on the NYSOGA “Kids to Camp” program, visit www.nysoga.org and click on “programs.” To find out more about the DEC Summer Camps, check out www.dec.ny.gov/education.

~The late Captain Walter Bruce Boname is the father of Holly Boname, associate magazine editor of NNY Outdoors.