FRANKLIN, Mass.—Since last spring, Camp Haiastan has been working on designing an expanded Under the Trees. Anyone who has attended Camp Haiastan knows this area as the place where the entire Camp gathers for daily announcements and the Lord’s Prayer before meals. This area is also the Camp’s primary vantage point of Uncas Pond, Hye Hope Pavilion, the basketball courts and the lower Camp entrance. Anyone sitting Under the Trees can see nearly everything that is happening at Camp Haiastan. It is also a place many campers use to just relax, gather in small groups, play board games, read or observe their natural surroundings. “The Camp has grown significantly since the original Under the Trees area was constructed, and the area needs expansion and renovation,” notes executive director Kenar Charchaflian.
With the help of Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture (KZLA) of Boston, a series of designs was developed and reviewed by the Camp’s Infrastructure Committee led by Board member Michael Bahtiarian. The Committee chose a design that fits the needs and character of Camp Haiastan and presented the selection at the 70th anniversary gala in July.
The new design will double the size of the Under the Trees area. In addition, it will not only save and secure the existing trees, but also plan for the future by planting new ones. Much like the current Under the Trees, the stone patio will include a new Armenian eternity symbol. The area closer to the Summer Office will have rounded benches, while the section closer to the Rec Hall will be square and have two new platforms and multiple benches. KZLA has designed the new Under the Trees to seat as many as 150 campers and counselors. The area will be surrounded by new plants and vegetation as well as walking paths. Lighting will be added below benches to allow the space to be used at night. Other infrastructure improvements will be made as this project necessitates them, including rainwater drainage, irrigation and burying utilities.
Since its inception, the Camp Board of Directors earmarked this project to be in memory of one of its most long-serving members, Mark Alashaian of New Jersey. Alashaian was the epitome of a “Camp Haiastan lifer.” He died on July 1, 2017 at the age of 52. Whether spending his summers as a camper or during his 12-year involvement as the Camp’s chairman of the Board of Directors, the love of our beloved 100 acres was always close to Alashaian’s heart. If you were at Camp on visiting Sundays and Alashaian was around, you would see him sitting quietly Under the Trees just taking in the fruits of his work at Camp. Alashaian was equally involved in the New Jersey Armenian community and followed in the footsteps of his parents, Avedis and Rosemary Alashaian of NY and NJ. He gave his time and leadership to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and Homenetmen in every capacity. “I cannot think of a more involved member of our community, so it is very fitting to do this project in Mark’s memory,” noted Hratch Najarian, the current chair of the Camp Board.
The existing Under the Trees was built and dedicated in 1982 in memory of another New Jersey Armenian community member. Vaghinag Koroghlian passed away in 1981 at the age of 41. He was one of the first campers back in 1951. Like Alashaian, Koroghlian was also a respected leader of the NJ/NY Armenian community and was involved in the same organizations. “This is an appropriate time to remember both of these leaders of our community, who we lost far too early in life,” says Najarian.
Donations in support of the Under the Trees project can be mailed to Camp Haiastan (P.O. Box C, Franklin, MA 02038, Attn: Under the Trees) or online.
This article was original published on The Armenian Weekly.