Greetings to you and yours on behalf of the Green Lake Conservancy. We hope this letter finds you well and coming out of winter hibernation to a bright spring and summer. We have been abuzz for the last several months working on our biggest outreach and land acquisition project to date, and hope to keep everyone in the loop and engaged in the action.
To say summer 2017 was an exciting time would be an understatement. It started off with our second year of Conservancy Camp and, boy, did we have a grand old time! From biking, hiking, fishing, and paddling to some spectacular stargazing and mouthwatering farm-to-fork meals cooked over the fire, we made heaps of memories and watched strangers become pals essentially overnight. The only problem, according to our campers (by overwhelming consensus), was that three days and two nights is simply not long enough. So we took their feedback to heart and, for summer 2018, the Conservancy is now offering three camps, each lasting four days and three nights.
This means an extra day of quiet for parents and an extra 24 hours of fun in nature with new best friends for our campers. While camp is all about having fun, we have carefully and creatively woven a strong underlying theme of stewardship throughout each activity. This means that for our camp staff we have an extra 24 hours of mentoring our campers as they develop and refine their leadership and teamwork skills, boost their confidence, and experience campers on adventures that connect them with each other and nature on deeper levels. The very scenarios we create at camp are very much akin to those responsible for sowing the seeds of a land ethic and stewardship inside each of us who serve as board members, active volunteers, and supporters of the Conservancy.
For those familiar with Green Lake, you know that it’s blue-green waters and sandstone cliffs are a paradise all in themselves. An evening cruise around the lake in mid-July brings a joy and sense of wonder known only to those who have sat in a boat and watched a fiery orange sun be swallowed up into a glowing horizon. Houses dot the greater part of Green Lake’s shoreline; however, one particular chunk of shore still remains untouched. This piece of shoreline is protected by 29 acres of woodland and wetlands that served as a sacred place to the Ho-Chunk—there are verified burial mounds still present today. In the 1920s, the property became home to a Boy Scout camp, Tichora, and eventually became Camp Grow, which many know it as today.
It wasn’t long before word spread that the Camp Grow property was for sale, and our longtime partners in preservation at the Green Lake Sanitary District proposed we join together again for our biggest endeavor yet—acquiring the last large undeveloped chunk of Big Green shoreline, with its unique acreage and $3.75 million price tag. Though a hefty task for two small organizations to undertake, we had to go for it. After all, that’s what we’re here for, “To preserve the lands that protect the lake.”
As I write this now, it’s too early to tell which way the cards will fall and if we’ll acquire the property or not. Either way, something extraordinary has already happened. A small group of caring citizens got together to do something that caused a ripple effect of positive action for the betterment of the greater good. Over 550 people pledged over $2 million in just a few months all in support of preserving and restoring the Camp Grow property to its original vegetation cover, oak savanna.
I hope that by the time this article is published we will have received the good news that our preservation efforts were successful and we have included the Camp Grow shoreline and all it entails amongst the Conservancy’s special places. But, if it isn’t in the cards for us this round, you can bet we’ll be ready for the next opportunity to keep strengthening our legacy of land ethic as stewards for our descendants to be proud of and thankful for.
We hope you stay tuned over the coming months for further developments concerning the Camp Grow property and Conservancy Camps. In order to keep preserving these special places and continuing our youth camps, we will need the support of our friends, neighbors, and you! There is no amount that is not worthy of our sincerest gratitude, but your actions are invaluable. Join us as a steward in whatever ways you can and help us continue to leave a legacy of responsible land ethics. Visit greenlakeconservancy.org for more information about projects, volunteering, sponsoring camperships, and donating now.
Lindsie Wallenfang has been a Green Lake Conservancy board member since 2015 and is a Conservancy Camp Director.