By: Victoria Rebeck
Three Rivers Park District, headquartered in Plymouth, Minn., voted on Dec. 20 to submit a purchase agreement for Minnesota Conference's Camp Kingswood property in Mound.
“We are pleased that the property will be owned by the park district,” said Karen Andrew, vice-president of the Minnesota United Methodist Board of Trustees. “We have sought to balance the financial needs of the entire camping ministry, the rich history and tradition of the Kingswood ministry, and concern for the future stewardship of the land.”
The park district is offering $2.250 million for the 127-acre property.
"This property is a rare and unique gem in suburban Hennepin County and I am delighted that Three Rivers Park District is able to acquire this land for public use,” said Larry Blackstad, chair of the Three Rivers Park District Board of Commissioners. "Natural resources of this quality are seldom still found in the metro area and I am excited that Three Rivers will be able to manage the natural features and provide public access to this treasure."
A park district spokesperson said the organization’s intended use of the property is consistent with their mission to promote environmental stewardship through recreation and education in a natural-resources-based park system. Possible future use may include the development of a paved regional trail that would link to a larger regional trail from Luce Line State Trail to Carver Park Reserve.
Natural features of the land include a tamarack bog, a 25-acre prairie, and Little Long Lake—“one of the cleanest lakes in the county,” according to Paul Harcey, who has been Camp Kingswood’s most recent director until it closed this month.
The property became available for sale after lay and clergy members of 2012 Minnesota Conference session voted to release the property. The conference camping and retreat ministry faced a decline in participants as it worked to maintain programming at five locations (Decision Hills, in Spicer; Kingswood, in Mound; Koronis, in Paynesville; Northern Pines, on Park Rapids; and Star Lake, in Pequot Lakes). Summer youth programming has been suspended at Decision Hills and Star Lake has been leased to an independent wilderness camping organization.
After the June 2012 decision, Minnesota Conference trustees began a process to find a buyer for the property. The process included a mutual confidentiality agreement.
"Throughout this process the prime objective of the Minnesota Conference Trustees was to ensure that the stewardship that created and nurtured Camp Kingswood continued by way of the entity which purchased the property and the uses that will be found for the sale proceeds,” said Murray Thurston, president of the Board of Trustees.
The Minnesota Conference Board of Trustees will meet on Jan. 15 to ratify the agreement. The conference and the park district will work to satisfy the conditions of the agreement.
Camp Kingswood was established in 1947 and built by many dedicated volunteers. In recent years one of its most popular programs was Servant Heart Ministries, which organized and/or facilitated hands-on mission projects, including room, board, and theological reflection. Servant Heart will continue as an expanded program of the Minnesota Conference Camping and Retreats ministry.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church