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Hiawatha Day Camp douses fires for good

A local institution synonymous with summer fun is closing.

Instead of taking reservations, the answering machine for Hiawatha Day Camp is thanking people for all the good times.

"This is Becka," the voice of camp owner Rebecca Woodward Gilkes says. "Hiawatha Day Camp will not reopen this summer. I would like to say thank you to all the parents and children and staff for all the wonderful memories we will cherish forever."

Gilkes declined to discuss why the camp is shutting down, saying the reasons were private.

The Carrollwood Day School on Michigan Avenue has a long-term lease on the property and vacates the premises while the camp is in session, said lawyer and former school board member Tom Morrison. The school owns 17 acres to the south and has considered expanding. But school officials did not acknowledge any immediate plans to buy the camp.

Henry Binder, treasurer of the Keystone-Odessa-Citrus Park Historical Society, described Hiawatha Day Camp as "sort of a landmark in the community."

The late Victoria Woodward, Gilkes' mother, founded Hiawatha after selling the nearby Camp Keystone, Binder said.

"They hired a great many people out here for many, many years," Binder said. "You really hate to see a place like that shut down."