DICK & JEAN WILSON
Dick and Jean Wilson were Flagstaff residents, environmentalists, and philanthropists. Along with their children, they built Camp Colton in 1970 and operated it as a summer camp for Tucson inner-city boys until 1975. The Wilsons donated Camp Colton’s 38 acre property and buildings to the Flagstaff Unified School District in 1976.
Camp Colton’s off-grid campus is located 30 minutes from downtown Flagstaff within the Coconino National Forest. The Camp’s high-altitude wilderness setting is known for its rich ecological diversity, long-standing human history, and incredible beauty.
CAMP HISTORY & PROGRAMS
Camp Colton is a residential environmental education center that is owned by the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD). FUSD created the program (previously known as Project L.I.F.E.—Life In the Flagstaff Environment) in 1971 to introduce children to the local environment and increase their understanding of science and nature through outdoor experiences.
Between 1971 and 1975, FUSD’s Project LIFE took place at a rented facility at Mormon Lake. In 1976, Dick and Jean Wilson donated a 38-acre property on the western slope of the San Francisco Peaks to FUSD, which was called “Camp Colton” (after Mr. Wilson’s mother, Suzanne Colton Wilson, who was sister to Dr. Harold S. Colton, founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona) and was operated by the Wilson Family as a summer camp for Tucson children. Upon receiving the Camp property from the Wilson’s, FUSD renamed its environmental education program “Camp Colton.” Camp Colton has served over 40,000 children since it began in 1971 and was recognized (jointly, with the Friends of Camp Colton) in 2011 as Flagstaff’s Organization of the Year.
Camp Colton operates between August–October and May–June and serves approximately 800 sixth grade children each year. When not in session, Camp Colton is rented to groups (including schools) who use the facility to host educational retreats and other environmentally focused activities.
FUSD students attend Camp Colton at no cost as an integrated part of their science studies (expense offset by FUSD, Arizona tax credit donations, and funds raised by the Friends of Camp Colton) and students from charter, private and other school districts pay a tuition fee (scholarship support available through the Friends of Camp Colton). Accompanied by their classroom teachers and taught by the Camp’s staff of environmental educators, students spend four-days and three-nights at Camp Colton learning about the natural environment through experiential and inquiry-based classes (a standards-aligned and STEM-focused curriculum is offered), field expeditions (geological and historical destinations featured) and presentations provided by local science agencies and organizations.
Campers also enjoy recreational activities and outdoor experiences such as hiking, campfire songs, square dancing, games, arts and crafts, and the adventures associated with outdoor and off-grid living. Ultimately, Camp Colton helps children develop a curiosity and love for the natural world and encourages them to discover who they are and what they are capable of achieving.