By: Christa Meland
The Minnesota Conference’s Board of Trustees will spend the next year exploring options for the sale of Star Lake Wilderness Camp in Pequot Lakes—and the group intends to seek approval from members of the 2016 annual conference session to sell the property.
The conference’s Camp and Retreats Board recommended this plan, and the Board of Trustees recently affirmed it. The groups shared it on Jan. 15 with members of the Common Table, comprising leaders of all conference ministry teams.
For the past several years, the conference has not conducted programming at Star Lake and has instead leased it to an independent nonprofit organization. The decision to sell it is based on a 2012 recommendation from nationally recognized camp consultant Kaleidoscope, Inc. The recommendation was part of a long-range Camp Minnesota strategic plan suggested by Kaleidoscope and adopted by the Minnesota Conference; the other elements of that plan have already been put into motion. (Last year, the Camp and Retreats Board hired Kaleidoscope for an additional study of camp properties and to suggest key moves to position Camp Minnesota for growth and financial stability.)
Star Lake is an asset that doesn’t align with Camp Minnesota’s strategic plan and that’s not a viable part of its future, Steve Knight, chair of the Camp and Retreats Board, told the Common Table. At the same time, “we recognize that it is a unique piece of property. As such, we want to approach that sale in a way that allows us the best opportunity to protect some of the unique features.”
The Camp and Retreats Board and the Board of Trustees are committed to upholding their fiduciary responsibility by strategically reinvesting proceeds from Star Lake into Camp Minnesota, Knight said. But the groups will seek to balance the need to realize financial return from the property with the desire to allow it to be preserved and enjoyed into the future.
One of the things the Board of Trustees will look into is a conservation easement—a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of a piece of land for conservation purposes.
However, while the sole objective isn’t to sell the property for top dollar (a scenario that would likely involve a developer), there is a need to secure a fair price so that the proceeds can be used to further the mission of Camp Minnesota.
Knight noted that the dollar value of the land won’t be known until it’s put up for sale. Barb Carroll, the conference’s director of finance and administration, agreed, adding, “The information that we are able to get without actually listing it for sale is limited. We can do a market analysis or appraisal. But we don’t know what we can sell it for until we have an interested buyer.”
Additional information about Star Lake will be provided at the 2015 annual conference session.
Camp Minnesota owns and operates Northern Pines in Park Rapids, Koronis Ministries in Paynesville, and Kowakan Adventures near Ely. It also owns Decision Hills Camp in Spicer, but programming there has been suspended for several years, and the property is for sale. Kaleidoscope recommended selling Decision Hills, and members of the 2012 annual conference session approved doing so.
Camp Minnesota’s mission is to provide quality camp and retreat experiences in which Christ is offered to everyone in order to raise up faithful disciples so that the world is transformed.
“The main focus [in terms of Camp Minnesota property] is being the right size for the number of campers we can reasonably expect so we can operate in an efficient manner and be self-sustaining,” Knight said.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church