Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Camp Opequon to Move

A team works on new plantings near a waterfall in the Rolling Ridge Conservancy wilderness area in West Virginia. Photos courtesy of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

Camp Opequon of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) will move next year from its current 40-acre location in Clear Brook, Va., approximately 23 miles east to a 1,600-acre property outside of Harpers Ferry, W.V. The yearly meeting has entered a 40-year renewable lease as a partner with the Rolling Ridge Conservancy and Friends Wilderness Center. The decision was announced at BYM’s annual sessions, which took place from July 31 through August 6, and the lease was signed that week.

The property sits between the Shenandoah River and the Appalachian Trail. It is close to population centers such as Frederick, Md.; Washington, D.C.; and Baltimore, Md., according to Brian Massey, program manager of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Camps, the organization that runs four summer camp programs in the area. The land features rock scrambles and internal trails.

“It is a unicorn property in the mid-Atlantic,” Massey said.

Top: Lodge at Rolling Ridge Conservancy. Bottom: Stream with bluebells at Rolling Ridge Conservancy.

The Quaker arts camp’s previous location was on privately owned farmland. Black and brown staff members endured racist verbal attacks while walking along a road near the camp and while shopping in the local grocery store, according to Sarah Gillooly, general secretary of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. The new camp location is situated such that staff members do not have to walk along country roads.

Almost ten years ago staff of BYM realized they needed a new location for the camp due to flooding on the road that campers use to enter and exit the property, according to David Hunter, camp property manager for Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

In 2018, For the Love of Children (FLOC), the organization that previously used the Harper’s Ferry property for camp activities, put their wilderness programs on hiatus, according to Kimberly Benson, general manager of Friends Wilderness Center. In 2021, FLOC permanently stopped using the land in favor of concentrating more on their Washington, D.C.-based work.

“My immediate thought was, ‘That would be a great area for a BYM camp,’” Benson said.

The new camp facility offers a four-season lodge with six bedrooms and air conditioning which can be rented out during the non-camp season, adding financial stability to the program, according to Gillooly. In an effort to establish a more intergenerational community, BYM intends to recruit more elders to volunteer for year-round programming on the property.

Excited Camp Opequon campers at its current location in Clear Brook, Va.

The property was privately owned by a Quaker family, the Niles, who assembled 1,600 acres in the 1950s. In the 1990s, they put the land into a conservation easement into perpetuity, preserving the forest indefinitely, according to Christian Mollitor, chair of the board of trustees for the Rolling Ridge Conservancy. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy holds the easement. The Niles family demonstrated foresight, according to Mollitor, who noted that all the surrounding land has residential subdivisions.

Each of the lessees has its own area of the property. The lease fee is $1 per year. The partner organizations pay a “pretty minimal” stewardship fee to cover such things as insurance and accounting services, according to Mollitor. The 40-year lease includes an option to renew, which could lead to an indefinite lease, according to Mollitor.

Under the terms of the lease, none of the organizations owns the land; it is held in trust, according to Benson.

BYM is the steward of 270 acres but also has access to the entire 1,600 acres for its camp. On the 270 acres they can build structures such as cabins, a lodge, and a dining hall, according to Mollitor. BYM plans to rebuild the existing cabin and is also considering building a pond.

Sharlee DiMenichi

Sharlee DiMenichi is a staff writer for Friends Journal. Contact:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.