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Florida 4-H to begin renovating historic 4-H Camp Cherry Lake

Posted at 4:24 PM, Jun 20, 2024
  • A Big Bend landmark is getting renovation help thanks to money approved in the Florida Legistlature.
  • Camp Cherry Lake has stood on the shore of Cherry Lake for decades, and new ADA-compliant cabins are planned for the site.
  • Read the news release below to see how the project will move forward.
4H youth participating in a painting class at 4H Camp Cherry Lake. Photo taken 06-08-19.


Florida 4-H will begin renovating its historic 4-H Camp Cherry Lake after it received $900,000 from the state legislature.

The state funding brings the camp, located in Madison County, to more than $1.1 million raised in public and private funds toward the construction of five new, ADA-compliant cabins after the former cabins were removed in 2023. The state funding was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 12 as part of the state’s annual budget.

"This investment underscores our commitment to enhancing educational and recreational opportunities for our youth through the Florida 4-H program,” said state Sen. Keith Perry. “These new cabins will provide a modern, safe, and enriching environment for campers, fostering growth, learning, and lasting memories. I look forward to witnessing the positive impact this development will have on our community and the future leaders it will help to shape.”

For decades, the camp has been a haven for children across the state looking for a fun, safe and engaging environment for summer camp and mid-year camping trips.

“This support signals how important 4-H is to generations of Floridians, and that our legislative leaders of today understand how important it is to invest in our leaders of tomorrow,” said Rob Gilbert, UF’s interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of UF/IFAS. “An upgraded 4-H Camp Cherry Lake will provide the setting for decades of learning, leadership and workforce development, and just plain childhood summer joy.”

From archery to canoeing, youth test their limits and build their independence at this historic camp. Capacity at the camp for overnight stays has been severely limited after the primitive cabins were removed. New cabins will help host overnight campers with accessible and secure accommodations and expand the camp’s capacity for year-round educational programs and certification courses.

“Having grown up as a camper at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake, I have experienced firsthand the life-changing impact of the positive community fostered at summer camp,” said Stacey Ellison, state program leader for Florida 4-H. “I am thrilled that our state recognizes the value of these efforts and is supporting us in building new lodging facilities that can be utilized year-round, extending the benefits of camp beyond the summer months.”

The total cabin campaign is $3.5 million. This is in addition to just over $1 million in federal funds in process for the construction of a new multi-purpose education building.

Betsy Barfield, former Jefferson County commissioner and Florida 4-H Hall of Fame inductee said the camp, one of three Florida 4-H residential camps, has been an essential lifeline to youth in her county.

“I need everybody in the region that has ever been impacted by 4-H to come forward. It is just so important for these kids,” Barfield said. “We can’t have Camp Cherry Lake out of reach to our youth for any longer. The children of this region are being underserved by not having this accessible to them.”