Politics

Is Camp David's future as presidential retreat in jeopardy?

Is Camp David's future as...

THURMONT, Md. - President Donald Trump made his first visit to Camp David last week. For decades, the rustic retreat in northern Maryland has served as an outpost for sitting presidents, but with President Trump using his own properties as a getaway, is the retreat's future in doubt?

Camp David is nestled in the Catocin Mountain Park, .about 60 miles north of Washington, D.C.

"The whole set up was basically that of park cabins. [President Franklin] Roosevelt went there to play poker and frankly get away from Washington," said Tim Blessing, a history and political science professor at Alvernia University in Reading.

Initially called Shangri-la by Roosevelt, the Navy-run facility has been an outpost now for 14 presidents.

"A way to break down barriers between leaders is to get the ties off, put on regular shirts, go to Camp David," Blessing said. "You can sit there, barbecue, cook hamburgers on the grill."

President Dwight Eisenhower dubbed it Camp David, naming it after his grandson, David. He hosted Soviet leader Nikita Khurschev there in 1959.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed a trade treaty.

President George W. Bush met with Vladimir Putin at Camp David in September 2003.

It's also where President Jimmy Carter struck a peace deal between Egypt and Israel in 1978.

"So Carter, who is a very charming guy, wanted Menachem Begin and Anwar el-Sadat to a place where he could work his charm, and it worked," Blessing explained.

Whether it be Ronald Regan riding horseback, John F. Kennedy skeet shooting, or Barack Obama playing hoops, the camp has been a place to escape the press and stress of Washington.

"The camp doesn't have CNN. You don't have all these people looking at you. You can get away from it all," added Blessing.

Through the years, however, that's happening less and less. President Obama visited fewer than 40 times, compared to 150 for his predecessor, George W. Bush.

With President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and his golf club in New Jersey, visits to Camp David aren't expected to increase during his administration.

Camp David sits above the small town of Thurmont, however, a highway enables presidents to bypass the center of town.

Current Mayor John Kinnard told 69 News that he remembers a time when the presidential motorcade would cruise down Main Street.

He described a personal, if not now improbable, interaction with President Lyndon Johnson outside church as a kid.

"It was wintertime and we were across the street, threw snowballs at him and his Secret Service," Kinnard recalled. "They just chuckled, and we didn't get into any trouble," Kinnard added.

Despite recent history, Blessing said the camp's presidential place is on solid ground.

At Fratelli's New York Pizza in Thurmont, owner Craig Dewees, who once ran into Jimmy Carter while hiking, is still holding out hope that the past becomes the future.

"Yeah. I'd like to see Trump come in here and eat a pizza. If nothing else, to check it out, make me feel important. It doesn't happen every day," he said.


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