GL Conservancy acquires Camp Grow property

MEMBERS OF THE Green Lake Conservancy Board are, from left, Barry Rogers, Tom Schultz, Randy Roeper, Jane Pearsall, Peter Vandervelde, Bur Zeratsky, Dave Norton, Melissa Curran, Tom Eddy, Lynn Grout, Debbie Zeratsky, Jenna Walker and Bob Burke. Not pictured are Lindsie Wallenfang and Dave Goodspeed. submitted photo

by Ariana Hones

Just as Conservancy Camp brought on its second-annual cohort of campers Tuesday, July 10, board members of the Green Lake Conservancy were signing the paperwork for its acquisition of Camp Grow.

This is a tale of two camps.

Both in evolution.

For 22 years, the Green Lake Conservancy has been preserving the land that protects the lake.

Originally Ho-Chunk-sacred land, the acquired property became a Boy Scout camp in the early 1900s. It then transitioned into a Christian youth camp named “Camp Grow.”

Touching both Green Lake and Spring Lake, it has several hundred feet of untouched shoreline.

In July, when the area’s youngest land stewards, participants of Conservancy Camp, visited the property, executive camp director and board member for the conservancy Lindsie Wallenfang felt the question on everyone’s mind

“Where are we?”

“Lake Superior?”

A quiet calm comes to each young person as they see the crystal clear waters and rocks at Camp Grow for the first time.

“It is absolutely breathtaking.”

As one camp is restored to its natural state, the other works to make sure land and water will continue to be protected by future generations.

The work of the conservancy, especially the development of these camps, poses the question of the community’s responsibility in taking care of Wisconsin land.

“What are the affects that our actions have on our world?” Wallenfang said. “The Earth is our life force.”

Protecting the land and water is vital.

The conservancy is working to make those connections possible through dedicated stewardship.

After receiving the generous support of more than 600 donors and a $1.7 million dollar Wisconsin DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant, the 44 acre land of Camp Grow will return to its native state of Oak savanna and prairie.

Following restoration, the property will be open to the public for enjoyment and exploration.

“Camp Grow has touched a lot of people,” Wallenfang said. “When people go to camp, there is just something about it … You have plenty of memories that give you those warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia and that connect you to [the] lake. People still will be able to visit and remember those connections.”

This property would not be possible without the collaboration of many.

“The conservancy board members and the Green Lake Sanitary District led by Jerry Specht and Charlie Marks were in it to win it,” Wallenfang said. “Everyone came together and there was strength in numbers.”

Although the partnership between the conservancy and the sanitary district may seem unusual, their collaborative efforts are becoming increasingly common.

“Since it is a small community everyone knows each other and they just have a connection to the lake and each other,” Wallenfang said.

The newly acquired land is a testament to people’s love of the lake.

“It is saved,” Wallenfang said. “Our great-great grandchildren can go there and hang out. Camp Grow was such a special place for so many people and that magic will still be facilitated in our own way.”

The Green Lake Conservancy will conduct an official ribbon cutting ceremony on the property Saturday, Aug. 25.

Although it will take awhile to the get the property restored to its native state, Wallenfang is enthusiastic about its future.

“This is community collaboration at its best,” she said. “The more we uplift others, the more we uplift ourselves. Who doesn’t want to live in a world like that?”