A new camp in Polk County aims to give Florida’s disabled veterans a private space to enjoy the outdoors and the company of their fellow veterans.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced the opening of Camp Prairie Wednesday as a part of his department’s “Operation Outdoor Freedom” campaign, which Putnam launched after taking office in 2011.
“Our veterans have risked their own safety for our liberty, and Operation Outdoor Freedom is one way we can demonstrate our gratitude to the brave men and women who were injured while serving our country,” Putnam said.
The program provides free outdoor experiences, such as hunting and fishing trips, for disabled veterans. To date, more than 1,400 veterans have participated in the Operation Outdoor Freedom events.
Camp Prairie, which touches the southern banks of Lake Kissimmee, has hosted some of those events in the past, but with the help of private donations the site will now exclusively serve disabled veterans. The camp also added a kitchen, bunks and restrooms as part of the transition, so visitors will only have to rough it as much as they want.
The Florida Forest Service will maintain the site, which is open to veterans who have a service-connected disability of 30 percent or higher as well as all veterans who have been awarded a Purple Heart.