The camp was founded in 1951 when the New York State Convention of Universalists purchased 9 acres (36,000 m2) of a "forever wild" peninsula on Beaver Lake (a part of the Beaver River flow) near the border of the Adirondack Park. Unirondack is a member of the Council of Unitarian Universalist Camps & Conferences and serves the Saint Lawrence Unitarian Universalist District and the Metro New York City Unitarian Universalist District, as well as bordering regions, including Quebec, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Each UU church in the region has a liaison to the Camp Unirondack Board.
Life at Unirondack
Unirondack provides an experience different from most traditional camps due to
- Flexible scheduling: Campers and staff meet once a day in Camp Council, at which point campers can suggest program changes, and if the majority of campers support the change and it doesn't cause too many problems, the staff will usually implement it.
- Campers' freedom in choosing activities: Campers get a lot of choice when it comes to choosing their preferred activities. Campers choose a week-long activity, choose a one-time-only activity each day,and have a daily period of Free Time in which they are free use their time as they will. However, in order to maintain a sense of community, there are also activities that are campwide. This includes morning and evening program, meals, and campfire.
- Sense of community: Unirondack creates community through sharing music and poetry at campfire, being together at meals, through games and activities. Unirondack staff aim to encourage respect for each individual; this goal is influenced by the camp's Unitarian Universalist background.
Unirondack’s mission is to provide an environment that inspires people to explore responsible roles in the web of life through physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. The camp today is Unitarian Universalist (UU) in terms of programming and principles, but campers are not required to be UU, although many are.
To quote the website: "Our programs are designed with the belief that camp experiences are a powerful force or promoting growth in the lives of children and adults. We interact, discuss, create, and play together, making friendships that last a lifetime."
The camp has a sand beach on Beaver Lake, athletic fields, many row boats and canoes, and a combination boathouse/arts and crafts studio. Outdoor recreation, exploration, social events, educational activities, and arts and crafts are a regular part of camp programming.
In the 1950s through the 1970s, summer sessions for different age groups were often organized around liberal educational themes. For example, World Citizenship Camp for middle-schoolers explored cultural programming and relations between many different countries, often employing foreign exchange college students as counselors. Liberal American kids often made their first acquaintances with people from Asia, Africa and Europe during these sessions. Another session was set aside for Liberal Religious Youth of high-school age in the Iroquois Federation, and later also the Mohawk Federation of upstate New York, who organized their own programs each year. One of the founders of Unirondack, Rev. Howard Gilman, was particularly well known for his efforts to bring inner-city youth outdoors to the Adirondacks during this period, where they met multi-ethnic age-group counterparts from less urban environments, and formed lifelong friendships. Many learned to swim, canoe and fish in Beaver Lake, and enjoyed the fellowship of singing around campfires each night, all non-urban experiences.
Although Unirondack today hosts spring and fall sessions as well as work weekends throughout the year, the focus of the camp is the summer sessions. The summer sessions are named after famous Unitarians or Universalists. Each is a week long and is for a specific age range of campers:
Barton, for ages 9-12
Channing I & II, for ages 12-14
Parker I & II, for ages 14-16
Ballou I & II, for older 15-18 yr olds
Trip Camp, for ages 15-18
Family Camp for all ages
The camp also organizes week-long backpacking and canoeing trips throughout the summer. UU Congregations in the region may lease the camp for weekend retreats or meetings. or may visit the camp for “work/play weekends,” a low-key way to enjoy the woods and contribute to upkeep of the camp. Attendees spend Saturday morning cleaning and repairing facilities, and the rest of the weekend hiking, canoeing, or otherwise relaxing in the great outdoors.
- Unirondack: Camp & Conference Center in the Adirondacks. "About Unirondack."  Accessed 2-14-09.
- Unitarian Universalist Association. "Unirondack—Unitarian Universalist Camp in the Adirondacks."  Accessed 2-14-09.
- The First Universalist Church of Central Square. Circle of Fellowship.  Accessed 2-14-09.
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Canandaigua. "Unirondack." UUCC Chalice, Vol. 2, No. 2. February 2009.
- ”i can’t blog...i’m too busy making bracelets.” Unirondack Art. August 2, 2007.  Accessed 2-14-09.
- Unirondack Shoe Golf!  Accessed 2-14-09.
- Unirondack: Camp & Conference Center in the Adirondacks  Accessed 2-14-09.
- Unirondack: Camp & Conference Center in the Adirondacks. "Unirondack Spring & Fall Programs." Accessed 2-14-09.
- Unirondack: Camp & Conference Center in the Adirondacks. "Unirondack Summer Programs." Accessed 2-14-09.
- "Unirondack Weekend, 2008-2009." May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society, Syracuse, NY (photos).  Accessed 2-14-09.
- First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY. District & National News.  Accessed 2-14-09.
Unirondack: Camp & Conference Center in the Adirondacks