Mahackeno — the Westport Weston Family YMCA camp just south of the Bedford Center — has a long, storied history.
It’s as old as the Merritt Parkway. And as new as the work currently be done there, not far from the Saugatuck River site.
The Y opened its camp in 1938. Six years later they were offered 30 acres of land — including the site of the present camp.
F.T. Bedford — son of the Y’s founder, Edward T. Bedford — said his family’s trust would pay half the price, provided the town ponied up the other half.
Within a few weeks, Westporters pledged their portion: $10,000.
In March of 1945, the Y took possession of the property. That summer, 72 boys attended “Camp Bedford.” One of the highlights: a rope swing, dangling from the nearby Merritt Parkway.
A year later — at F.T. Bedford’s request — the name was changed to “Mahackeno.” That honored “Mahackemo” (with an “m”), a sachem (chief) of the Norwalke Indian tribe who in 1639 met Roger Ludlowe and traded land between the Saugatuck and Norwalk Rivers — including that very spot — for wampum and other goods.
Over the years, Camp Mahackeno grew. It added girls, a pool and other amenities. It (reluctantly) packed away the rope swing (and an enormous military-style float that it’s a miracle no one ever drowned underneath.
This year, Mahackeno opened its new, now 34-acre facility. After a year of construction there’s a new amphitheater, archery range, climbing walls, 2 slides and 5 rainy-day pavilions.
The basketball court, Beck Lodge and swimming pool have been renovated (with a new splash pad too). Playing fields were leveled.
Every tree of 8 calipers or more has been replaced by 2 new trees. Oh, yeah: the port-a-potties are shielded too.
250 or so boys and girls attend one or more of 9 week-long sessions. This being a pandemic, they remain in strict groups of 10, with the same (masked) counselor all week.
Scroll down for some photos of Camp Mahackeno, 2020. It’s not 1938 — but then again, what is?