02/21/17 10:33am
Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Let me introduce you to the 5th Brooklyn Scouts, where their motto is “traditional scouting for everyone.”

Don’t be fooled by the word “traditional.” Part of the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA), an all-inclusive scouting organization that has been in existence worldwide since 1907, the 5th Brooklyn Scouts is not the gender-segregated experience that you remember from being a Cub Scout or a Brownie, and does not have the same history of discrimination against gay and transgender children and leaders. (Last month, The Boy Scouts of America finally announced that they would allow transgender boys to join.)

Just as importantly, Brooklyn Scouts seamlessly blends the joys of forest school, the community service of a social justice club, and outdoors-focused field trips, all for $180 for the entire year. Children spend a lot of time outside, and learn real skills.

The Brooklyn chapter speaks openly about their challenge to diversify in their Park Slope enclave, which is a focus for their organization this year, as well as a historical value of the organization. “Scouting has even transcended and risen above racial divisions and prejudices in the movement’s past,” says scoutmaster Jillian Tate. “Our founder, Lord Robert Baden Powell, refused to allow racial segregation in scouting until his death in 1941–even in countries like South Africa and India where the ruling colonists attempted to create all-white organizations.” (more…)

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02/06/15 9:13am
Camp on an island in the middle of Lake George this summer. Photo:

Can’t afford a private island? Go camping on Lake George this summer instead, but book your site now. Photo: Sandy Makatura via Lake George.com

The recent “blizzard” and all-out freeze has done a number on the city, our now-treacherous sidewalks and our collective spirits. There aren’t enough double Bailey’s hot chocolates or steaming hot toddies out there to warm what’s left of my frigid core. This week, I’ve learned that walking across the Williamsburg Bridge because the subway tracks are frozen is a great way to see the cityscape, if you can manage to open your eyes in the piercing wind. Luckily, I think I’ve found a way to beat the winter blues. My solution? Planning the most epic spring and summer getaways I can imagine.

I’m talking about island getaways, battleground barracks, motorcycle rallies and one of the most spectacular firework displays in the country. Yes, you can go the AirBnB route for soaking up the sun and relaxing somewhere away from the city, but New York State Parks maintains a pretty amazing array of campsites, cabins, yurts, even lighthouses that you can reserve and stay in quite cheaply. Reservations open up nine months in advance of the booking, and some of the most coveted spots (like a cottage on a the water in the Finger Lakes for $125 a night) get snapped up almost immediately. (There are lots of campsites you can get last minute, too, so don’t despair, light travelers.) You can book through the New York State Camping website, though I’d recommend calling if you have specific questions or needs, as the site and online booking process can be a bit confusing–they’re very helpful,  1-800-456-CAMP.

Here are some outstanding spots to commune with nature this summer, though New York State has a pretty amazing array of parks, lakes and historic sites, so explore what’s on offer around the state–don’t just stick to my recommendations.

Lake George
There are a number of campgrounds near Lake George, or The Queen of American Lakes as it’s known. It sits at the base of the Adirondacks with a shoreline of more than 100 miles. So, there’s plenty of room, but the best sites get snatched quickly. (more…)