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What Is a Summer Camp, and Who Permits Them?

Liberty, NY – With the summer season nigh, Sullivan County has been receiving numerous inquiries about whether summer camps and seasonal residences will be able or allowed to open for the next few months.

“We’ve heard from people on both sides of the debate over opening such facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” acknowledged Public Health Director Nancy McGraw. “In addition to the basic questions of ‘if’ and ‘when,’ we’ve been giving answers about what constitutes a summer camp and how it’s regulated differently from other seasonal occupancy units.”

The New York State Department of Health State exercises much of the authority over seasonal operations, but the County would like to provide the following list in order to explain and clarify the issues (the actual language of the laws can be found at

  • A State-recognized campground, whether publicly or privately owned, consists of five or more campsites
    • A campsite within a campground is considered seasonal if the same people occupy it for 30 or more days
    • Permits from the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) are required if the campground operates for more than 60 hours a year, and permits are valid for up to three years
  • Children’s camps are defined not by the number of campsites but by who they serve and how they’re operated
    • Summer day camps serve those 16 years of age or younger
      • They operate sometime between June 1 and September 15 (travelling summer day camps operate sometime between May 15 and September 15)
      • They involve two or more activities (at least one of which is an active recreational activity that includes a significant risk of injury)
    • Children’s overnight camps serve those 18 years of age or younger
      • They offer overnight accommodations and indoor/outdoor organized activities
      • They must have a permit from NYSDOH if occupied by children for at least 73 consecutive hours at any given time
      • A written camp safety plan is required for permitting
      • Application for a permit must be submitted at least 60 days before the first day of camp
      • Permits are good for one year
  • Temporary residences include hotels, motels and cabin colonies that 11 or more people are occupying for no more than 180 consecutive days
    • A permit from NYSDOH is required and is valid for up to three years one year
  • Seasonal temporary residences are those that are not habitable year-round, often due to lack of insulation and underground piping; and they are issued permits under NYSDOH
    • Most bungalow colonies and some weekend homes fall under this category
    • Local code enforcement offices have authority to enforce local building codes
  • No NYSDOH permit is required
  • Second homes and most weekend residences are allowed to be occupied year-round, so long as they are properly winterized
    • Local code enforcement offices have authority
    • No NYSDOH permit is required

“As this list demonstrates, the County has limited jurisdiction over children’s campgrounds, camps and temporary residences, both seasonal and year-round,” explained McGraw. “While my team continues to closely monitor all public health concerns in the County during this COVID-19 pandemic, , we rely on the State for guidance and authority to take action when neededregarding camps and temporary residences that are issued permits in Sullivan County.”