SOLOMONS, Md. – The staff at Navy Recreation Center (NRC) Solomons took the lemons served up by COVID-19 in 2020 and turned them into lemonade for the summer of 2021.

One of the two newly renovated yurts at NRC Solomons, now called the Deluxe Family Tent Sites. Each site can accommodate up to five camping tents on the grounds next to it. (Courtesy photo)

“We took advantage of the lack of regular traffic,” said NRC Solomons Director Carrie Jay. “It gave us the opportunity to get a lot of work and various projects done in the field.”

One of those projects was the complete interior and exterior renovation of Comfort Station G. Completed just before Memorial Day weekend, the work included new siding, metal roofing, inside tiling, beautiful partitions, and soft LED lighting. Now ADA-compliant, this largest bath house features new showers, toilets and a laundry facility.

“Everything done was environmentally-conscious,” Jay noted. “Currently underway now is the comfort station in A area , and we’ve gone to Phase 3, which will include the comfort station in B area. They won’t be ADA-compliant, but they’re going to be fully renovated to match the G area comfort station.”

Another big project was the refurbishing of two former yurts into what are now being called Deluxe Family Tent Sites to serve that special niche of family or friends who prefer to be together in a more intimate camping group, as opposed to staying in a larger camp site with numerous tents.

“We captured the existing [yurt] structures and took off the sides, framed them out, and screened them in to create a large dining tent, or gazebo, for lack of a better word,” Jay explained. “It’s still primitive camping; people still bring tents to sleep in outside, but now there’s also a shelter with picnic tables inside for people to gather. We saw it as an opportunity to capture those guests who enjoy tent camping, but want a more upgraded experience.”

Prefering to utilize existing resources rather than create expenditures, Jay used leftover vinyl siding from another reno project to side the structures and improve their facade.

“I’m all about repurposing, recycling and reusing what we can,” Jay added. “We also had riprap left over from another project so we built beautiful fire rings for them and added recycled Adirondack chairs. We have two yurts and each one accommodates up to five camping tents on the grounds next to it. It’s a unique space, it looks gorgeous, and we’re excited for folks coming in to enjoy the space and share their experience with us.”

The Snack Shack interior was gutted and rebuilt with custom cabinetry, shelving and counters, making it easier for staff to serve guests at the pool or those walking by who just want to grab a drink or quick snack. Shade structures damaged during a storm last August were replaced, a dramatic cleanup took place along the shoreline, repairs were made to the marina docks, and even the sand on the beach was aerated.

“It has been sad not having all of our guests here, but it’s been an amazing opportunity to have the time to drill down and see the minutia, get it worked out, and get it done,” Jay said. “Every chance we could, we capitalized on assets we already had so we didn’t spend a lot of [non-appropriated fund] dollars, because we’d rather put that back into programs that benefit our customers.”

On July 1, the facility resumes recreational lodging, but at reduced capacity and not everything onboard has yet reopened.

“At this time, we’re already booked; which is awesome,” Jay said. “It has been a long time since we’ve had folks here and we’re looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. As we know things are safe, we’ll increase occupancy.”

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