Friends give plan, labor to save YMCA camp
For the Friends of the YMCA Camp, actions speak louder than words. The group presented a management plan that tracks a course for the camp through 2016 to the Superior Douglas County YMCA board of directors Wednesday. Saturday, they turned out in...
For the Friends of the YMCA Camp, actions speak louder than words.
The group presented a management plan that tracks a course for the camp through 2016 to the Superior Douglas County YMCA board of directors Wednesday.
Saturday, they turned out in force to work on the camp on the shore of Lake Nebagamon. Nearly 50 volunteers brandished mops, brooms, rags, paintbrushes, saws, wrenches and more to demolish old buildings, build a new dock and clean the camp up for summer.
"We couldn't survive without volunteers," said Mike Kraft, executive director of the Superior/Douglas County YMCA. "That's the whole crux of what we do."
YMCA activities such as Day Camp, which gave more than 200 youth an outdoor experience last year, will take place this summer at the site. And new events have been added with a helpful nudge from the Friends. They include a free community fishing day June 2 and special three-day camps on canoeing, kayaking and orienteering designed for middle school students.
"I think we're working even harder on partnerships," said Jackie Minor, YMCA program operations director. "I'm looking forward to a good summer."
Concerned about a possible sale of the camp, the Friends group approached the YMCA board in September. They were given until May to present a comprehensive plan to better utilize the camp.
Their 47-page master plan explores options such as winterizing buildings to offer year-round activities, partnering with other groups to provide programs and reaching out for alumni support.
"We're just trying to prove that this can be a very viable camp," said Friends spokesman Jim James.
The group concluded the YMCA was in the best position to retain and operate the camp.
Board members acknowledged the group's hard work, but had different reactions to the proposal.
"I am enthusiastic that this group has come forward with their vision of the future for the Y-camp property," said Brad Theien, board member. "I believe they have rekindled a renewed and much needed interest in continuing and enhancing the Y-camp operation ..."
He said he felt the proposal presented a plan that could be accomplished.
"Anything is possible if you have commitment to get it done," Theien said.
The strategies suggested aren't original, said Mark Sitek, incoming board president.
"I don't think there's a lot of new ideas in it," he said of the plan. "I think a lot of these things they sound good, but it's going to take a lot of money to do them." The camp has fallen into disrepair, he said, and it could take up to a million dollars to bring it up to date.
"It's a beautiful asset, but maintaining it is becoming more and more difficult every year," Sitek said. "And it's highly under-utilized." He said the board has to look at all options, including the master plan and sale of the property.
"No matter what way we go it will be in the best interest of the YMCA," Sitek said, "because the people on the board care about the YMCA."
The most intriguing option in front of the board is to sell the land to a conservation buyer who may allow the YMCA to continue youth programs at the site. But board members feel they haven't gotten enough information about that option, and no buyers have stepped forward.
"There's more questions than answers right now," said Steve Koszarek, outgoing YMCA Board president.
Time is not an enemy, however.
"We're not really in a fire sale here," Koszarek said. "I don't get the sense we're in a hurry to do this."
Instead, Sitek said, the camp presents an opportunity.
The worst case scenario is the Friends group continues its work as the land appreciates in value, Koszarek said.
The board set another meeting for June 20 to discuss the master plan more fully with the Friends.
An agreement is not eminent.
"I don't think it's going to be an easy decision," Koszarek said. "I don't think it's going to come quickly."
For more information on the Friends of the YMCA Camp, go to www.friendsoftheycamp.com on the Web. For more information on YMCA programs, call (715) 392-5611.
Maria Lockwood covers public safety. E-mail mlockwood
@superiortelegram.com or call (715) 395-5025.