Camp RIO at Historic Lula Sams sits on approximately 85 acres of predominantly untouched wildlife preserve. The land was initially developed as a girl scout camp and was gifted to the community by the Earl C. Sams Foundation in 1953. It served many girl scouts until the 1990s. Various native plants and animals fill the property that, in most places in the Valley, has long been eradicated by urbanization. IDEA Public Schools, in coordination with the Valley Land Fund, is working to preserve this unique piece of land so that generations to come may enjoy it in its natural form.
Our outdoor educational oasis was initially gifted to the Girl Scouts in 1953 by The Earl C. Sams Foundation. It operated as such until the 1990s. A group of environmentally-minded people then bought the property and conserved the land while managing a variety of programs for the next 20 years as Camp Lula Sams.
Wanting to ensure the property remained protected long after they were gone, one of the couples, Dr. Pat Burchfield and Carol DeMoss, set out to raise funds for a conservation easement and find a buyer for the property. This moment was when IDEA Public Schools crossed paths with the good people at Camp Lula Sams. IDEA Public Schools entered into a contract via the Valley Land Fund to buy Camp Lula Sams in June 2015. The Valley Land Fund agreed to take on the easement that preserves the conservation values of the old Camp Lula Sams. IDEA vowed to bring stewardship and vitality to the plants and animals that thrive among the old Sabal Palms, and the treasured ecology of our campsite enriches our bright, curious scholars. This partnership was unprecedented. The Valley Land Fund has organized dozens of easements, acting as conservator for a hundred-thousand acre of protected land, but never on school land. The Valley Land Fund and IDEA Public Schools, are both dedicated to developing a new generation of children who will learn about their environment, appreciate their surroundings, and understand the importance conservation through their experiences at Camp RIO.
IDEA is committed to refurbishing and renovating the site to ensure it can provide state-of-the-art facilities, activities, and environmental and science learning curricula for students.
Over the next few years, IDEA will work to earn the support of the community, individuals, businesses, and organizations to fund several renovations to the site, including refurbishing the pool and building a fishing pond that will afford students hands-on knowledge and experience in conservation and fishing.
Thanks to the previous landowners, Dr. Pat Burchfield and Carol DeMoss, the local wildlife has flourished under their stewardship of the native plants and animals. IDEA Public Schools has hired a biologist on staff to cultivate the land with more native plants, actively reintroduce and manage the native animals and plants, and document the project every step of the way.
The ultimate goal of IDEA Camp RIO is to teach students how people interact, co-exist, and thrive alongside native plants and wildlife. Fishing, canoeing, building campfires, hiking, archery, photography, and more will help connect students and the community to the wonders of nature in the Valley.