Extensive Plumbing Repairs Help Longtime Summer Camp Return to Life

Washington state’s Camp Gallagher reopened this past year after a six-year hiatus.
Extensive Plumbing Repairs Help Longtime Summer Camp Return to Life
Camp Gallagher hosted campers beginning in July after being shut down for six years.

On the shores of Washington’s Case Inlet in the south Puget Sound, sits Camp Gallagher. Known for its spectacular natural surroundings and overnight canoe-camping excursions, the classic summer camp holds a special place in the hearts of many in the inlet community because of a history going back four decades.

After the original owner ceased operations in 2010, the camp facilities sat vacant for years and became dilapidated, a combination of looters and Mother Nature doing her best to reclaim the grounds.

But thanks to an extensive volunteer-led renovation effort, particularly in the plumbing arena, the camp reopened this past year and is once again providing a place for a new generation of campers to make memories.

Restoring the Camp
In 2015, a group of Lakebay, Washington, neighbors calling themselves Friends of Camp Gallagher worked together to lease the property from its new owner. Beginning in January 2016, hundreds of volunteer workers united periodically at the site to clear brush, sort through and replace spoiled equipment, and begin repairs on the camp’s 15 open-air cabins, dining hall, shower house and kitchen — all with the goal of being ready for campers by July.

According to volunteer Megan Miller, formerly a counselor at the camp and now a project manager for Seattle, Washington-based commercial plumbing contractor SJS Mechanical, the shower house and kitchen cabin were two areas in particular that needed upgrades. They would need to be equipped to serve daily meals and hot showers to as many as 65 campers and counselors.

Working with Hollabaugh Brothers & Associates, a Kent, Washington-based agency that represents manufacturers in the plumbing and HVAC industry, the SJS Mechanical team identified replacement options. Jeff Woodard, vice president of operations for Hollabaugh Brothers, says he presented the Camp Gallagher project to the team at A. O. Smith, who decided to donate the needed hot-water products.

Shower House Upgrades
The shower house, a simple structure with concrete floors, contains eight shower stalls and eight sinks. In the past, a firebox and storage tank delivered hot water, but after years of neglect, SJS Mechanical recommended a new system from top to bottom. Miller says the old system would regularly run out of hot water as dozens of campers cycled through following a long day of activities on Puget Sound.

For hot water in the shower house, the team decided on an A. O. Smith ATI-540H-P, a high-efficiency, condensing tankless water heater producing ultra-low NOx gas and a 10 gpm flow rate. The indoor model scores an environmentally friendly 0.95 Energy Factor, which lowers operating costs and includes a built-in freeze protection system (helpful for the lightly insulated shower house). To ensure an ample supply of hot water, A. O. Smith paired the tankless model with a 119-gallon TJV-120A commercial storage tank — a glass-lined model with high-density foam insulation for energy savings and reduced standby heat loss.

With the equipment in hand, SJS Mechanical mapped out a plan to extend propane gas to the shower house and replace pipes in the structure.

“All of the copper piping had been cut out of the shower house, and the previous storage tank had rotted out,” Miller says. “The entire system needed to be replaced from re-piping the showers to installing new shower heads and valves.”

Kitchen Upgrades
In the small, commercial kitchen, which routinely prepares more than 150 meals a day, a propane water heater had supported a three-compartment sink, a hand-washing sink and a bathroom. To better accommodate the cooks, SJS Mechanical recommended the addition of an icemaker, two food-prep sinks and a mop sink.

To meet the less rigorous hot water demands of the upgraded kitchen, SJS Mechanical installed an A. O. Smith residential gas tankless ATI-310-P. This Energy Star-qualified propane model provides a maximum flow rate of 8 gpm— easily providing enough hot water for food preparation and cleaning. It also includes several safety features such as temperature monitoring and an automatic overheat cutoff.

“The kitchen is really important to the camp for meals, but it’s also a hang-out spot,” Miller says. “There are windows on all sides, and the building is almost on the water so when you’re standing on the big front porch, you can feel the air coming off the Sound.”

Grand Reopening
After six months of brush removal, plumbing and electrical improvements, camp prep and recruiting, Megan McArthur Wellings, the camp’s new executive director, says the community was nearly beyond belief that children would soon be venturing back to the camp that was nearly lost. In July, the camp hosted its first weeklong session of campers in six years.

“With more than 700 campers, the inaugural summer went better than anyone would have ever expected, and none of it would have been possible without the generous donation of equipment, energy and funding from the community,” Wellings says. “And every single camper told us they want to come back.”

In its first summer, the new Camp Gallagher earned an accreditation from the American Camp Association and local awards for “best overnight camp” and “best family camp.”

“In 2016, many camps are closing, and we actually opened a camp,” Wellings says. “And that makes our responsibility to these families so much more important, that these kids have a safe, fun and rewarding experience at camp.”


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