In November of 1959, at a meeting of the Western Maryland District of The American Legion, it was agreed upon to hold a summer camp for boys (ages 9 thru 12 years old) on a trial basis. It was further established that the boys would be from financially depressed families, broken families, or be juvenile delinquents. They would need to be recommended by either their school principal, minister, or a social agency. Boys would be selected from Carroll, Frederick, and Washington Counties.
The first encampment was held in the summer of 1960 with forty boys in attendance. The all-volunteer staff held the camp for one week at Camp Summit near Emmitsburg, MD. That first encampment was deemed a success and the Western Maryland District decided to continue with future encampments.
From 1960 through 1971, various sites were used for encampment; i.e., Camp Echo Lake, Camp Airy, and Camp Summit. In 1972, camp was held for two weeks at the current site on Brown Road in the Catoctin Mountains. The American Legion's Western Maryland District purchased this land and went on to construct the camp, known today as YMCA Camp West-Mar.
While under the American Legion's management, Camp West Mar was the only all volunteer American Legion camp in the country. At their 50 year anniversary, over 3,500 boys had attended the encampment, utilizing up to 12,000 hours of volunteer time each year. Many volunteers stayed 24 hours a day for the duration of the encampment. Activities scheduled each year for the boys included: softball, basketball, swimming, fishing, archery, and riflery. The Western Maryland District of The American Legion is very proud to have operated an all volunteer encampment for over 50 years.
The YMCA of Frederick County began it's partnership with the Western Maryland District of The American Legion in the mid 2000's when they began utilizing field space at camp for West Mar Adventure Day Camp. This Y ran day camp brought a bus full of campers to Camp West Mar every day (Mon-Fri). The campers were able to explore the property and spend time in nature.
During this time, attendance to the American Legion's Boys Camp began to decline. The number of volunteers was dwindling, as well as their ability to provide as much time and funding they had in the past. They would eventually not hold a summer encampment at all.
In 2015, discussion began about the Y leasing the camp and taking over management of the property year-round. This would include group rental responsibilities, maintenance and upkeep of the property, and the ability to operate a sleep-away camp.
On January 1, 2016, the Y assumed management of the camp in preparation for a 22 year lease of the property that would eventually be signed in June of that year. The Y immediately began upgrading amenities at camp and bringing life back to the aging property. During the summer of 2016, the Y continued to send a day camp to Camp West Mar every week of the summer; as well as offering 4 one week sessions of sleep-away camp for the community over the summer.
The Y plans to continue growing the programming and offerings that are available, both during the summer and the off-season. YMCA Camp West Mar's safe and fun reputation will become well known in and around Frederick County. Camp will become a positive part of the culture of our community.