History of SCC

During the early to mid 80's the campgrounds in Suffolk County were filled with families enjoying camping almost every weekend, even though conditions in the parks were deteriorating. The fees were escalating every year and the Suffolk County Parks Department and the Suffolk Legislatures refused to listen to suggestions to improve the parks. The suggestions came from those most qualified to make these suggestions, the campers who use the parks.

In the spring of 1992 a dedicated camper by the name of George Broome started showing up at the Legislative meetings and expressing his concerns about the conditions of the campgrounds and the spiraling fee's. When it was evident that he would not get any recognition until he was able to prove that he had the support of the Camping Community, he decided to organize the campers.

George recruited some dedicated campers (Al Rabush, George Leonhardt and Skip Armstrong) to help him to convince the county to listen to the campers' concerns. George appointed them officers and the Suffolk Committee for Camping was formed in June of 1992. George also appointed several other campers and created the Board of Directors (Tim Marran, Marianne Sassone, Herb Peterson, Ted Urban, Stanley Rockefeller and Bob Poucel). The SCC, as it became known, was formed as a non-political watchdog for the campers of Suffolk County. Convinced that the time had come to make the voice of the campers heard George and his newly formed "Suffolk Committee for Camping" proceeded to bring about the changes that were so sorely needed in the Suffolk County Parks.

Around the same time that SCC was formed the then County Executive, Robert Gaffney, appointed Edward Wankel as Parks Commissioner. Ed came from the town of Islip where he was the Parks Commissioner for over 15 years. He was the first professional parks person the County ever had.

During the entire 1992 camping season George Broome along with some members of his board of directors would walk every campground on the weekends and talk to all campers. They would ask the campers suggestions on improving the campgrounds and he would also ask them for support in becoming members of the Suffolk Committee for Camping.

It was during the winter of 92-93 that George Leonhardt, Bob Poucel and Ted Urban told George Broome that they wanted to host a campout for all members of SCC in May 1993. George Broome said that it could not be pulled off in such a short period of time but he would back it because it was for family camping. Well, we pulled it off. We got over 240 rigs into Indian Island Campground for Kick Off '93, our first Kick Off.

During those early years, SCC had a number of disagreements with the Parks Department concerning the outer beach camping problems (Montauk and Shinicock Beach). The County wanted to restrict camping on the beach and SCC wanted to expand it. It was after SCC picketed the Parks Office in West Sayville that a meeting was held and a compromise was reached.

During the fall of 1993, George Broome and the NCHA invited Commissioner Wankel to a campout at Battle Row Campground in Nassau County. It was being held there because Suffolk County did not have any facilities to handle them. What Commissioner Wankel saw was a true exhibit of family camping. Commissioner Wankel went back to the Legislators and got a similar building approved for the campers of Suffolk County at Cathedral Pines.

In 1994, SCC hosted Kick Off '94, our second annual campout at Cathedral Pines Campground. At this rally we had over 350 rigs and over 1,200 people in attendance. It was at this rally that George Broome started to see his dream come true. Family camping was coming back to Suffolk County. During this campout we all observed the new camping building being constructed. The campers could not wait until the construction was completed. Neither could all the volunteers that helped us host this event. The jobs of cooking and serving all the food would be made so much easier.

In October of 1994, the camping community was shocked when the President and Founder of the Suffolk Committee for Camping passed away suddenly. Knowing George's vision we had to continue. Al Rabush was appointed President of SCC, George Leonhardt and Bob Poucel Vice-presidents, Gladys Broome Secretary and Skip Armstrong Treasurer.

In May of 1995 the SCC hosted Kickoff '95, our third annual rally at Cathedral Pines Campground. It was during this rally that Suffolk County dedicated the new camping building to the memory of George Broome " The George Broome Activity Building". A true honor to the man who brought back family camping to Suffolk County.

Over the years we have had many discussions with the Parks Department concerning problems with the reservation system, fee increases, conditions of the campgrounds and the outer beach. All of these discussions have had an impact on the improvements you now see in our parks. One of our biggest accomplishments has been convincing the county to install electric sites in the campgrounds. While this was first visioned under Commissioner Wankel, Commissioners Michael Frank, Peter Scully and Judy Gorden have carried on and now Commissioner Foley has stated that there are plans to further improve our campgrounds.

There is electric in the group areas at Indian Island, 10 individual sites in Cathedral Pines have electric and Smith Point campground has improved tremendously. In 2004 electric was placed at 45 individual sites in Indian Island and the group areas now have 10 to 15 individual electric hook ups with water to be installed in 2005.

We at the SCC will continue to work for the Campers of Suffolk County. We have become the voice of the campers. We have gained the respect of the Parks Commissioners and the Suffolk Legislatures and we have been consulted on several occasions regarding camping, your concerns and the future plans for our parks.

A list of the current Board of Directors can be found here.


Related New York Times article: Camping Close to Home, 7/11/2004

© Suffolk Committee for Camping 2017