Nature Camp occasionally makes its facilities available for rental by individuals and groups for weddings and other events. Rental periods may range from one to several days. This document provides information about fees, availability, and facilities; answers frequently asked questions; and includes a checklist of requirements and time-sensitive dates for rental agreements. Although it is intended primarily for those considering holding a wedding at Nature Camp, it also pertains to other events for which the facilities may be rented. In addition to this document, prospective lessees should also read Nature Camp’s standard Facilities Use Agreement and review the Checklist of Requirements and Dates.
Single day use of facilities for wedding only * $1700
Provides access to Reeves Memorial Chapel, men’s and women’s bathhouses, and changing area for wedding party ONLY
Single day use of facilities for wedding and reception $2000
In addition to facilities under category (A), above, provides access to dining hall and kitchen in Lillian Schilling Building, but no overnight accommodations or access for any additional days, pre- or post-event
Full weekend use of facilities (72 hours, Friday – Sunday **) $2500
In addition to facilities under categories (A) and (B), above, provides access to bunkhouses for overnight accommodations during rental period
* The Lillian Schilling Building may be made available for an indoor ceremony in the event of inclement weather.
** Standard full weekend rental period is 12:00 PM on Friday to 12:00 PM on Monday, although beginning and end of 72-hour window are flexible. An additional daily fee of $500 applies to each additional day (or portion of a 24-hour period) required by lessee for access to the facilities (for decorating, cleaning, etc.)
Individuals or parties with a Nature Camp affiliation receive a 25% discount on the total rental fee.
Other facilities, including the Office Building (Staff House), Educational Building, Caretaker’s House, Infirmary (Graves-Burgess-Loyd Building), Garage, and swimming pool, are not available for rental groups except under special arrangement.
Nature Camp is principally a residential summer camp which operates continuously from the second week of June through the third week of August. Because none of the facilities is winterized or insulated, water must be turned off from late October to late April each year. Hence there are two windows of potential availability for rentals:
- Last week of April through last week of May EXCEPT the third weekend in May (defined as that weekend containing the third Saturday of the month)
- Last week of August through the last week of October EXCEPT the third weekend in September (defined as that weekend containing the third Saturday of the month)
The first weekend in June and the penultimate weekend in August may be available in some years. Prospective lessees should inquire about the availability of any particular date(s).
Facilities and Parking
Please note: None of the buildings at Nature Camp is wheelchair-accessible. Prospective lessees should refer to the Nature Camp map.
Reeves Memorial Chapel: The Reeves Memorial Chapel is an open-air, uncovered structure consisting of six rows of benches made from rough-hewn logs, a central archway, an altar, and a bell tower. The benches have a seating capacity of approximately 110. Space behind the rows of benches allows for additional seating. Covers (burlap sacks) are available to keep benches dry in the event of inclement weather.
Electrical service in the chapel is limited. Two electrical outlets are located on each of two sets of posts along the two paths ingress and egress. Lessees must supply their own extension cords as needed. Chapel electricity is controlled by a switch located near the proximal end of the porch of the Lillian Schilling Building.
Lillian Schilling Building: The Lillian Schilling Building, named for the founder of Nature Camp, consists of a one-room dining hall and adjacent commercial kitchen. The dining hall measures approximately 21 x 70 feet and contains 29 screened windows. The room opens via two sets of double doors onto a 34-foot long, unscreened porch. The dining hall is equipped with eight 8-foot picnic tables and four folding 8-foot tables and 65 metal folding chairs; maximum occupancy of the room is 120 persons. (Note: Lessees may move or remove tables in the dining hall, but they must be returned to their original locations at the end of the rental period.)
A large fireplace with mantle is centrally located along one wall of the dining hall. Fires are permissible, but lessees must supply their own firewood, ensure that the flue is fully open before igniting a fire, and fully extinguish any fire before vacating the room.
Three doors open from the dining hall into the adjacent kitchen, which measures approximately 27 x 32 feet. The kitchen contains a gas oven/range, gas oven/griddle, warewashing (dishwashing) machine, ice maker, microwave oven, three-compartment sink, walk-in refrigerator, and freezer. A large percolator and Bunn coffee maker may be used with supervision by an on-site Nature Camp staff member; other appliances, including but not limited to floor stand mixer and food processor, are not available for use by lessees. Lessees may use Nature Camp’s stainless steel flatware (approximately 150 spoons, 180 knives, and 200 forks), plastic plates (175), plastic and ceramic bowls (150 total), plastic cups (180), and coffee mugs (75), as well as pots, pans, and other utensils. All items must be fully washed and dried before storing in proper locations at the end of a rental period.
For more information about and guidelines on the use of the walk-in refrigerator, gas ovens, and warewashing machine, please see Guidelines and Restrictions for the Use of Kitchen Facilities.
Bunkhouses: Separate men’s and women’s bunkhouses each contain 22 metal bunk beds with high-density, vinyl-clad, polyurethane foam mattresses measuring 30 x 74 x 6 inches. Ladders allow access to upper bunks which are equipped with side rails. Each bunkhouse is divided into two wings with a central hallway; each wing measures approximately 21 x 23 feet. Each bunkhouse has a capacity of 44 persons.
Mattresses may not be removed from the bunkhouses.
The separate room in the center rear of each bunkhouse is off-limits to lessees.
Electrical outlets are limited in the bunkhouses.
(“T-houses”): Separate bathhouses (or “T-houses”) for men and women are furnished with four sinks, four toilet stalls, and four shower stalls. Each T-house is located a short walk from each respective bunkhouse.
Changing Area: As needed and desired, one or more changing areas may be made available to wedding parties. Guest quarters behind the Museum (in the Educational Building) consist of two small bedrooms on either side of a lavatory with shower. The Office Building (Staff House) contains a private bedroom with detached lavatory with shower.
Parking Areas: A grass field (recreation field or playfield) is located between the chapel and swimming pool. This field receives heavy foot traffic during the summer camp season and is reseeded every autumn. To allow sufficient time with disturbance for sod to become reestablished during each off-season, vehicular traffic is restricted from the recreation field before June and after August.
Parking is available along the road into and through Nature Camp, behind the kitchen, near the Canteen (camp store), beside the Office Building (Staff House) and in front of the Infirmary (Graves-Burgess-Lody Building) and above the Garage. Vehicles should be parked along one side of the road only, to allow access by emergency vehicles in the event of fire, and should face down the road to permit more expeditious evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Lighting: The chapel may be illuminated at night using two sets of floodlights and a light mounted under the center archway. Dusk-to-dawn floodlights equipped with motion sensors are mounted to the sides of buildings and provide illumination to paths and porches. Lights on two lampposts along the road and on the side of the recreation field near the swimming pool are controlled by switches located in the Office Building (Staff House); access may be provided by special arrangement. Three dusk-to-dawn security lights are located behind the Infirmary (Graves-Burgess-Loyd Building), near the Educational Building, and adjacent to the Caretaker’s House; these lights may not be controlled. Additional, temporary lighting may be installed under special arrangement, but it must be rated for outdoor use.
Frequently Asked Facility Rental Questions
May I set up a tent? Lessees may set up a tent, but only on the volleyball court (located adjacent to the swimming pool). Pedestrian traffic is permitted on the recreation field, but not a tent, in order to protect the delicate sod during the camp off-season. The volleyball court may accommodate a 30 x 60-foot tent with only slight overlap onto the grass of the recreation field.
May I have a campfire? Campfires are permitted only in a designated area adjacent to the volleyball court; fires in other locations, including wooded areas, are not permitted. Fires must be contained with a ring of stones, which must be dismantled at the end of the rental period. Lessees must supply their own firewood. Open-air fires may be disallowed during extremely dry or windy weather.
May I decorate the dining hall? Temporary decorations may be hung on the walls or from the rafters of the Lillian Schilling Building, but all such decorations must be removed at the end of the rental period. Acceptable hangers include tacks and painters tape; neither nails nor screws are permitted. Strings of low-wattage lights are permitted, but bare light bulbs greater than 25 W (or equivalent) are not allowed. Lessees may temporarily remove Nature Camp items hanging from the walls only under the supervision of an on-site staff member; all such items must be returned to their proper locations at the end of the rental period.
Are the facilities wheelchair-accessible? The chapel is on relatively level terrain, with a gravel surface. All of the buildings are fronted by porches with external stairs; none has an access ramp.
Are there any caterers in the vicinity? Nature Camp recommends Full Circle Catering of Lexington (540-463-1634) has provided catering services for several weddings at Nature Camp and is thoroughly familiar with the kitchen facilities. Lessees are free, however, to make arrangements with a caterer of their own choosing.
What other lodging accommodations are available in the area? Several lodging options are located within 10 miles of Nature Camp.
- Comfort Inn & Suites, 584 Oakland Circle, Raphine, VA 24472 (540-377-2604)—(Exit 205, Interstate 81/64 near Raphine)—6.5 miles from Nature Camp
- Osceola Mill Bed & Breakfast, 352 Tye River Turnpike, Steeles Tavern, VA 24476 (540-377-6455)—along Tye River Turnpike (Route 56) in Vesuvius—3.7 miles from Nature Camp
- Sugar Tree Inn, 145 Lodge Trail, Vesuvius, VA 24483 (540-377-2197)—along Tye River Turnpike (Route 56) up the mountain from Vesuvius—6.6 miles from Nature Camp
- Steeles Tavern Manor, 8400 N Lee Highway, Steeles Tavern, VA 24476 (540-377-9494, 800-743-8666, 800-895-6121)—Lee Highway (US 11) near intersection with Tye River Turnpike (Route 56)—4.7 miles from Nature Camp
Several other motels and other accommodations are located near Lexington and Staunton.
Are composting facilities available? A compost bin is located behind the kitchen. Nature Camp encourages lessees to compost food scraps not containing meat or dairy products, as well as unbleached paper.
A HISTORY OF THE NATURE CAMP CHAPEL
Tradition tells that shortly after the construction of the bunkhouses and the cooking and dining areas, Lillian Schilling, the founder and first director of Nature Camp, told Ollie Groah, the Nature Camp builder, that she wanted an outdoor chapel. He agreed that he would like to help her, but since he had never seen an outdoor chapel, he did not know how to build one. Mrs. Schilling solved this problem by driving him to Shrine Mont, the Cathedral Shrine of the Diocese of Virginia, at Orkney Springs. He spent several minutes walking around and examining the structure and then told her that he was ready to go. She asked if he didn’t want to take measurements, make drawings, or take photographs; he said that he now knew how to build a chapel.
Returning to Nature Camp, he sought his special rocks from the beds of St. Mary’s River and Big and Little Mary’s Creeks. Most of the stones he chose required little additional sizing or shaping, for he selected each one to fill a particular place. Mr. Groah completed the altar first, which became known as the “Altar Under the Stars.” The organ room was completed next, and finally the massive stone bell tower rose into the mountain sky. The completed chapel was dedicated on the afternoon of 24 July 1960. On 21 June 1997 the chapel was rededicated the Reeves Memorial Chapel in honor and memory of Col. John H. Reeves Jr. and Gertrude B. Reeves. Col. Reeves served as director of Nature Camp from 1972 through 1996.