Underwriting provided by:
We have the best student writers in the state; we have the best writing teachers in the country;
we have the best setting. All this comes together for a week, and it's perfect.
The seed for Writers@Harriman was planted when Laura Clark Scovel and Victor Scovel decided to beqeath their estate to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation in the late 1990s.
Over a period of years, Yvonne Ferrell, the former director of the department, worked with the Scovels to determine the best use of the gift, which amounted to around $1 million.
Since Laura Clark Scovel and many of her relatives had been teachers, it seemed like a natural to use the money to establish an education center at Harriman State Park, the first Idaho state park, and the crown jewel of the system. Harriman is also adjacent to Clark County, which was named after Laura's family.
Ferrell and Sheilah Prevost, a fundraiser for the department, also felt the area needed a place where young writers could hone their craft, and that Harriman would be perfect.
"Our youth today are probably not understanding the basic science of where we live," says Ferrell. "We thought that in this beautiful setting that it might inspire their writings in the future, and that they would somehow sense a deeper understanding of the outdoors."
Using state funds along with the bequest, the agency spent about $3 million to turn several old barns on the Harriman site into the Laura Clark Scovel Education Center, using as many of the old logs as possible. In addition to a classroom, there is a dining room, bedroom units and a dormitory. The center is also used for other camps and conferences, and has been a successful asset for the park.
The first Writers@Harriman camp took place in August, 2009. Each year for six days, around 40 teens from all over state (and a few from out of state) attend. Every effort is made to offer scholarships to ensure a diverse population.
The backdrop for the camp couldn't be more stunning: with the iconic Henry's Fork of the Snake River winding through it, the 11,000 acres of Harriman are home to bald eagles, moose, pelicans and bears. Anglers come from all over the world to fish for prized rainbow trout.
Each day, the students take seminars with a main instructor, and then electives such as poetry and character development. The culmination of the camp is a performance, and a book of their writing.
The students not only enjoy the setting for their writing exercises, but also go swimming in the Henry's Fork and take a horseback ride into the hills. They also assist the park with a service project.
Students are surrounded by history. Harriman State Park was originally called the Railroad Ranch, and not only was it a working ranch, but it was also a retreat for wealthy investors in the Union Pacific Railroad, including the Harriman and Guggenheim families.
In 1977, the Harrimans, who by then owned the property, deeded it to the state of Idaho, with the proviso that it become the genesis of a professional parks system in the state. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation now manages 30 parks.