From youth groups, 4-H and FFA outings and outdoor education to family reunions, corporate retreats, workshops and weddings, the Lake Creek Youth Camp has seen it all. The rural camp facility offers ice and showers for hunters and will take walk-ins if there’s room.
The Forest Service has held rappeller training at the camp, and National Guard troops stayed there during the 2015 Canyon Creek Complex fire. It’s been a while since the camp was a wintertime destination for cross-country skiers and snowmobile races, sled dog races and a Girl Scout Snow Playday, but the hope is to keep it staffed in winter in the future, board president Aimee Rude said.
But as a board-run camp that formed as a nonprofit 50 years ago, the Lake Creek Youth Camp must rely on the community to keep running.
Located in Logan Valley about 2 miles from the southern trailheads for the Strawberry Mountains Wilderness, the site began as a fire guard camp built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Some of the buildings are designated historical structures, and two of the original cabins are used by staff.
Burns resident Marge Riley McRae is credited as the driving force that turned the 27-acre site into a family camp. A nonprofit organization was formed in the 1960s, which leased the site from the Forest Service. Then, using a $25,000 Federal Housing Administration loan and a match of donated materials and labor, the organization built a main lodge and five A-frame bunkhouses.
The camp saw continuous use after it opened in 1968 but fell into disrepair by 2000. Requests for bids were made in 2005 for new doors and windows, new propane heaters, concrete walks and ADA-accessible upgrades.
The organization received $460,000 in federal Title III funding through Grant County in 2007 to re-roof the lodge, upgrade the septic system, remodel the restrooms and build five new bunkhouses that opened in 2008.
A $25,000 grant from the Shelk Foundation and Swindells Family Fund in 2014 was used to replace one of the 50-year-old A-frames with an energy-efficient ADA-accessible cabin. The $42,500 total cost was met with camp funds and in-kind labor and materials.
Today the camp has a main lodge with a full-service kitchen, fireplace, piano, ping-pong table and central gathering room; 10 bunkhouses each with 10 beds; recently renovated bath houses; a baseball field, volleyball court, horseshoe pit and basketball half court; and tent and RV spaces.
Lake Creek Youth Camp is open from June 1 through September. Rude said they would like to extend the season and take in more hunters. Interested parties should make reservations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or booking online at lakecreekcamp.org.
The Lake Creek Youth Camp has experienced staff turnover in recent years. In 2017, the board announced the facility might not reopen the next year and might even be liquidated if people in the community didn’t step up.
“The current board have been devoting every summer for years to ensure the smooth running of Lake Creek,” board member Vicki Heckman said at the time. “Most of us are beyond retirement age by any measure and cannot continue.”
Two board members retired after the 2017 season. Then Heckman, the camp cook, and husband, Carl, the groundskeeper and maintenance worker, retired in September 2018, and the board put out the word that it was looking for people to refill those positions.
“If we can hire some experienced people, we’ll be able to continue our reputable service,” Rude said at the time.
Rude, who attended the camp as a Girl Scout while growing up in Burns, said the camp now has a solid board with nine members. The nonprofit is seeking grants to replace and rebuild the fireplace in the lodge, replace 50 bed frames and 100 mattresses and replace the netting on the baseball backstop. They are also seeking a $200,000 grant to replace four of the A-frame cabins.
Grant County Economic Coordinator Allison Field will provide contracted administrative services to Lake Creek Youth Camp to help with the grant writing. The county will be compensated with 10 percent of successful grants up to $30,000 for two years.
A gala banquet fundraiser for the Lake Creek Youth Camp will take place April 6 at the Grant County Fairgrounds pavilion, with doors opening at 4 p.m., a tri-tip dinner at 5 p.m. and a live auction at 6:30 p.m. There will be live music and a drawing for “his and hers” Ruger handguns.