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Director Leads Campers in Mahackeno 'Wilderness'

It's hard to imagine wilderness in Westport. But the 32-acre Mahackeno Outdoor Center, where the Westport Weston Family Y holds its summer day camp, is perhaps the closest thing in this densely developed area.

Situated along the Saugatuck River at Lees Pond, this bucolic “out in the country” property will become the site of the new Family Y facility in a few years. For now, it’s the domain of Jennifer Perrault, who has been at Camp Mahackeno for 10 years, the last two as its director.

"Every spring we have to get the place ready for the season," she said before the annual camp cleanup last month. "This winter was obviously extra tough, so there's a bit more work to do."

Besides cleaning up the branches brought down by the winter's snow, the staff is busy repainting buildings and sprucing up the property. "Animals love to break in and make their home inside during the winter," Perrault says.

In addition to the physical preparation of the camp's grounds and buildings, there are clerical tasks to do, including ordering supplies and interviewing new staff for the camp's weekly sessions, which run from June 20 through Aug. 26.

Perrault, who started as a counselor a decade ago, is excited about some of the new things at camp this year, especially a climbing wall that was installed last year and is now certified and operational. Prospective campers and their parents will have a chance to see it all at an open house from noon to 2 p.m. May 21.

"It's a great place out here," says Perrault. "It can seem a little isolated when we first come out here, but once camp starts, it's really a busy place." Even if it is in the "Westport Wilderness."

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