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January 27, 2023

11/18/2022 10:53:00 AM
Sunrise Lake youth camp eyes location in Marine

A youth camp development proposed in Chisago Lake Township —that ran into a wall of citizen lake-protectors — now has its sights set on using the  Wilder Nature Center, adjacent to Marine-on-St Croix in Washington County. Neighbors who have been waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop on this Sunrise Lake extreme church camp plan, can relax, as it has dropped already but it didn’t land locally.

Attendees at meetings held two years ago strenuously opposed the “extreme youth’ church camp and they rallied as the plan came to light.  A “Friends of Sunrise Lake” type group immediately organized to fend off intensive uses on relatively pristine Sunrise Lake.  

Sunrise is surrounded by a land use overlay that imposes conditions on development. This overlay aided in activating a dormant crew of activists.  The extreme church camp project disappeared from Chisago Lake Township’s zoning radar screen almost as suddenly as it entered.

The church camp program now interested in Washington County, recently announced an operation agreement for the old Wilder Nature Center.  

An organization named “Damascus,” based in Ohio, is continuing to work with Catholic church diocese coordinators who chaired a public meeting at St Bridget’s Church in Lindstrom, introducing the benefits of extreme youth camp to the locals.  

The September Catholic Spirit newsletter announced the Square Lake-Marine on St Croix location is eyed as an ideal location for the Damascus-provided camp programming. The MN Catholic Youth Partnership has negotiated a purchase agreement for the 600 acre site with the Wilder Foundation, the church added.

This location, however, also faces an uphill climb.

The charter school River Grove, has been using former Wilder Nature Center buildings and has a lease until June 2023.

In a press release, Wilder Foundation said, “...over the years the school has worked with Manitou Fund, a private foundation, to explore the potential of a purchase that would (allow) the school’ permanent location on site.”

But this never came about. The Wilder informed Manitou Fund in January 2022 the property was available for purchase.  The press release explained Wilder  received its only reasonable offer from the MN Catholic Youth Partnership.  

Talks got underway for facilitating the youth church camp.  Wilder states the sale proceeds would “fuel Wilder’s mission to support people across generations to be healthy, stable and prosperous.”

The letter states Wilder hopes to close on the property sale within this year.

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