September 13, 2012 at 8:13 a.m.

In life and death - Camp Ojiketa had a sacred role to play

In life and death - Camp Ojiketa had a sacred role to play
In life and death - Camp Ojiketa had a sacred role to play

Ojiketa Regional Park, on Big Green Lake, with its cabins, miles of wooded hiking trails and protected shoreline is something the public can enjoy for all time. It’s very possible that without the leadership and energies of the members of the Camp Ojiketa Preservation Society, this 75-80 acre gem would have been sold and subdivided. Ex-campers who were active in the society’s monumental efforts to buy the land from Camp Fire of MN, found a reason to return to the shores of Big Green Lake last weekend. A founder of the Preservation Society, Judy Montgomery, recently died and friends gathered to sing, share stories and be a group once again in the woods on Green Lake. Their wo-he-lo memorial was September 7. Montgomery first attended camp at Ojiketa when she was in the second grade and came back every year. Even after graduating from St. Paul Washington High School in 1964, she returned to serve as a counselor. Friends say she was known at camp for her horsemanship. No surprise then, that she studied veterinary medicine while working as a phy ed instructor at a middle school in Duluth. She eventually was accepted into veterinary school at the U of M. In 1977 Montgomery opened a clinic in Two Harbors (where patients included Duluth Zoo animals) and she continued in this field until 2002. She also worked 17 years at a clinic in Palm Springs, California. Montgomery moved to Ashland, Wisconsin near Lake Superior, and learned in 2006 that Camp Fire MN had Ojiketa on the real estate market. Camp Fire officials said the organization needed revenue to support other programming. Montgomery and fellow ex-campers rallied and initiated an admirable fundraising and public education effort. The women never wavered from the goal of preserving the camp as open space. A Twin Cities man was pitching a massive “high end” resort and villas for the site and caused some panic and anxiety for the preservationists, but his vision never got off the paper it was printed on. In 2008 the Trust for Public Land, the state of Minnesota, Chisago county and Chisago City saw their combined monies and administrative talents come together to successfully buy Ojiketa for about $3.7 million. Ojiketa is now operated a regional park. Montgomery’s family and others gathered near the fireplace in the lodge at Ojiketa last weekend where they sang, shared stories and then they folded the camp flag one last time.


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