Published on 01/25/18

Camp Fulton/Truitt 4-H Center seeking new life as educational garden site

By Merritt Melancon

Nestled just south of the world’s busiest airport, there’s a 38-acre camp where generations of young Fulton County, Georgia, residents can connect with nature.

For the last 10 years, Camp Fulton/Truitt 4-H Center hasn’t received much attention, but now a team of volunteers from south Fulton County and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents are working to make it an oasis once again.

Their goal is to return the camp to its glory as an active, natural outdoor educational center, something that’s missing from south Fulton County today, said Nykita Howell, who works through Fulton County Extension’s office in East Point, Georgia, to coordinate the youth development program Project G.R.O.W.L. (Growing Real Opportunities in Work and Life in Agriculture).

On Jan. 13, Howell and her team launched their effort to rejuvenate the old camp with their first workday. Despite a high temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit in Atlanta that day, about 40 community stakeholders, UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers and UGA Extension personnel met up at the camp to share their plans and start clearing brush and trash from the site of a new educational garden, which will be the first phase of the camp’s facelift.

“We had people stop by to see what we were doing, and they were excited,” Howell said. “The crazy thing is that if you talk to members of the community who grew up in the College Park area, East Point, southwest Atlanta area, a lot of them remember camping at Camp Truitt. People remember, it’s just been a while since it’s been active.”

The camp, which is owned by Fulton County, once housed more than a dozen cabins, a gym, a large teaching garden and a swimming pool. It hosted 4-H’ers from all over Georgia who were visiting the state’s capital and 4-H’ers from metro Atlanta who wanted to experience a night in the woods.

While the cabins and pool are still there today, only Camp Fulton/Truitt 4-H Center dining hall and educational center are still open and available as rentals. They’re nice, Howell said, but they don’t see much traffic.

“Hidden Gem”

Howell, who grew up in the Midwest, had never heard of the camp until a colleague suggested it as a programming location for the 40 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders in Project G.R.O.W.L. after they outgrew their current location.

“Once I discovered it, I said, ‘Yes, this was hidden, but it’s a hidden gem,’” Howell said. “So I’m hoping this garden will be one way to start revitalizing it. We may not be able to camp there, but a least we can have some great programming there.”

Howell and the rest of the Camp Fulton/Truitt 4-H Center Educational Garden Committee are looking to find ways for the community surrounding the camp to use the property in the coming years.

They want it to be as vibrant as the community’s elders remember it and to give this generation of south Fulton County children the same kind of memories their grandparents have.

For right now, all of the committee’s attention is focused on clearing and installing the new teaching garden.

Fulton County Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Robert Chappelle designed the new plot to use raised beds and to take advantage of the site’s topography. Howell hopes to have it up and running by summer.

With enough help, they can definitely meet that deadline, she said.

For more information about the work happening at Camp Fulton/Truitt 4-H Center or how to help, please call the Fulton County Extension’s East Point office at (404) 762-4077.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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