Second and third grade campers pose for a group picture in front of the former Boy Scout Cabin on Mavis Island. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

The Mavis Island Project just completed their second season of offering outdoor fun for kids at the former Boy Scout cabin site on Mavis Island from May 29 to June 9.

Mavis Island is a small piece of land that juts out into Lake Eyak and is connected by a thin land bridge to the Copper River Highway.

 Mavis Island is owned by the Alaska State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and was formerly leased by the Boy Scouts of America who built a cabin and tent platforms on the site. After the Cordova chapter of the Scouts disbanded several years ago, the cabin site fell out of any official use. The structure began to fall into disrepair.

Gabrielle Brown, Camp Director at The Mavis Island Project, originally got the idea for starting a summer camp on the island with the hopes of repairing and maintaining the structure for continued use by Cordova’s youth.

“I always wanted to be a camp counselor and during brainstorming I realized Mavis Island was just sitting there… I wanted to focus on the care of the property and doing kid’s programming there,” said Brown, who worked with The Great Alaska Council, Alaska’s Anchorage-based Boy Scout charter, to transfer the lease to Brown’s newly formed nonprofit, Alaska Adventure Camp.

After the lease transfer, Brown organized a volunteer clean-up of the cabin site, fixed several broken windows, and cleared brush on overgrown trails. Alaska Adventure Camp offered its first camp season in 2022, staffed by volunteers. This past year, Brown renamed the nonprofit The Mavis Island Project to reflect the overall goal of the organization to steward the island for various uses.

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The camp focuses on mindfulness and self exploration through activities such as nature journaling, yoga, paddling, and free play.

“We have planned activities, but we also give plenty of time where they are able to play undistributed and just be kids,” Brown said of the programming. Days at the camp always begin with a guided meditation or yoga session at the cabin, which Brown says helps set the tone for a day full of intentional adventuring.

Brown feels the island is well situated for a children’s nature day camp due to its accessibility and unique location.

“It’s close to town but also has a sense of remoteness to it that feels special,” she said.

 Sam Stripes is a returning counselor at the summer camp who agrees that Mavis Island in particular offers a unique space for Cordova’s kids to run free.

“There is so much diversity in a small area. It’s just like a playground,” he said of the rolling meadows, shady muskeg and hidden gravel beaches.

Stripes was excited to return again to help out this year and feels it’s important for kids to be outside.

“Being out in the woods when I was a kid really gave me a lot of confidence and skills I needed to succeed later in life…so I wanted to pass that along,” Stripes said. 

Funds for the camp are raised each year through various means, most notably the admission and silent auction at Dressed to Kill, an annual women-only event each spring. Various other donors including Cordova Electric Cooperative, Cordova Community Foundation and the Prince William Sound Economic Development District have been instrumental in supporting the camp financially and beyond.

“We couldn’t do it without that support and really appreciate the community involvement in that way,” said Brown. She stressed that everything from large donations to small individual actions and volunteers made the camp possible in its first year. Funds raised by the nonprofit go toward upkeep of the cabin building, supplies and outdoor gear, staffing, and scholarships to keep registration accessible.

Currently, the camp runs Monday through Friday over the course of two weeks for second to third graders, and third to fourth graders. In the near future, Brown hopes to expand the program offerings to include more ages and additional weeks.

In order to expand, the camp hopes to raise additional funds to support more staff members. In the long term, the nonprofit hopes to set up the cabin as a space available for the community for rent, so that the space might be enjoyed by anyone in Cordova looking for a little nature escape.

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