We were happier than a bumble bee guzzling nectar from a native wildflower in the summer sunshine when we were able to facilitate two more Conservancy Camps during Summer 2018. What adventures were had!
Set in a truly enchanting location, camps were four days/three nights long for youth between the ages of 6 to 12. Without hesitation, Nature lent us her magic as we carried out our mission of reconnecting our campers to it.
For anyone who has experienced tent camping in a wooded area near a body of water, with good company and good food cooked over a campfire, there’s nothing quite like it. Somehow, this specific type of experience seems to always stick out among people’s collection of fond memories as they look back on their lives.
Fishing, kayaking, biking, hiking, watching wildlife or the stars or thunderheads in the distance, visiting a sustainable farm where dinner is coming from, and searching for monarch caterpillars and other mysterious insects to inspect: these types of experiences with a group of friends are things our campers will look back on for the rest of their lives.
At Conservancy Camp, we create these kinds of experiences on and near Big Green Lake so that our campers leave with loads of memories and a happy connection to the lake and the area around it. Why? Because without these kinds of opportunities to become connected to Green Lake in meaningful ways, how will they become inspired to act on behalf it and not carelessly against it? If we want to enjoy it later, don’t we need to take care of it now? Thus, Aldo Leopold’s idea of land ethic comes to the surface- our moral responsibility as humans to the natural world. At the heart of Leopold’s writings of land ethic, “the core is simply caring; about people, about land, and about strengthening the relationships between them,” and that’s exactly what we do at camp.
Summer 2018 also brought us a new gem to behold in protected perpetuity, known previously as the home of Camp Grow. While we never like to see a youth camp go away, we are moved that this rare piece of land between lakes, now referred to as Tichora, is protected and will stay safe and secure forevermore.
We visited Tichora by land and by water during our summer youth camps and were in awe of its serenity. We’ll certainly be back to visit during future camps and are forever grateful to visit and learn from these special places, born of stewardship, while passing along the notion to the next generation.
Infinite praises are in order to the Green Lake Conservancy board members for their dedication to their community and protecting its special places, to our partners in conservation at the Green Lake Sanitary District and all who came together and donated to help preserve Tichora.
Lastly, a special shout out to our Camp Counselors. Their leadership-in-action as role models for our campers is invaluable and inspiring! We are SO proud of both our camp counselors AND our campers!! YOU GUYS ARE MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!
Cheers and camp/hike/paddle on!
Written by our Camp Director Lindsie Wallenfang. As appeared on the "Green Lake Wisconsin - the good life" on 01/2019
On July 10th, just as Conservancy Camp brought on its second annual cohort of campers, board members of the Green Lake Conservancy were signing the final paperwork for their acquisition of Camp Grow.
This is tale of two camps. Both in evolution. For twenty two years the Green Lake Conservancy has been preserving the land that protects the lake.
Originally Ho-Chunk sacred land, the acquired property became a Boy Scout camp in the early 1900s. It then transitioned again into a Christian youth camp named Camp Grow. Touching both Green Lake and Spring Lake, the property has several hundred feet of untouched shoreline.
In July when the area’s youngest land stewards, participants of Conservancy Camp, visited the property, Lindsie Wallenfang, Executive Director of Green Lake Conservancy, felt the question on everyone’s mind: “Where are we?”, “Lake Superior?”. The quiet calm that comes from each young person as they see the crystal clear waters and rocks at Camp Grow for the first time. “It is absolutely breathtaking.”
As one camp is restored to its natural state the other works to make sure land and water will continue to be protected by future generations.
The work of the Conservancy, especially the development of these camps, poses the question of the community’s responsibility in taking care of Wisconsin land. “What are the affects that our actions have on our world?” asked Wallenfang. “The Earth is our life force. Protecting the land and water is vital".
The Conservancy is working to make those connections possible through dedicated stewardship. After receiving the generous support of over 600 donors and a $1.7 million dollar WDNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant, the 44 acre land of Camp Grow will return to its native state of Oak savanna and prairie. Following restoration, the property will be open to public for enjoyment and exploration.
“Camp Grow has touched a lot of people. When people go to camp there is just something about it…you have plenty of memories that give you those warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia and that connect you to lake. People will still be able to visit and remember those connections,” said Wallenfang.
This property would not be possible without the collaboration of many. “The Conservancy board members and the Green Lake Sanitary District led by Jerry Specht and Charlie Marks were in it to win it. Everyone came together and there was strength in numbers.”
Although the partnership between the Conservancy and the sanitary district may seem unusual, their collaborative efforts are becoming increasingly common.
“Since it is small community everyone knows each other and they just have a connection to the lake and each other.”
The newly acquired land a testament to people’s love of the lake. “It is saved. Our great great grandchildren can go there and hang out. Camp Grow was such a special place for so many people and that magic will still be facilitated in our own way.”
On August 25th, the Green Lake Conservancy will conduct an official ribbon cutting ceremony on the property. Although it will take awhile to the get the property restored to its native state, Wallenfang is enthusiastic about its future. “This is community collaboration at its best. The more we uplift others, the more we uplift ourselves. Who doesn’t want to live in a world like that?”
Written by Ariana Hones. As appeared on the "Green Laker" on 08/21/2018
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 greenlakeconservancycamp.org for more information about volunteering, sponsoring camperships, and donating now.
Written by our Camp Director Lindsie Wallenfang. As appeared on the "Green Lake Magazine" on 01/2018
The future of Green Lake’s pristine natural beauty belongs to the next generation. With that in mind, a Green Lake Conservancy youth camp is doing its part to nurture the seeds of stewardship in young people.
The Green Lake Conservancy Camp recently wrapped up its first 2017 Summer Youth Camp. A total of three sessions were held at different times in June and July.
Camp Director Lindsie Wallenfang, who is also a Green Lake Conservancy Board member, said the camp had its pilot year in 2016, but this is the first official year for the camp. The camp adheres to the Leave No Trace ethic, but Wallenfang pointed out that they also teach a Live No Trace ethic - leaving as little of a detrimental impact not only on the environment, but with other people, too.
It’s an overnight experience where campers head to the Green Lake Conference Center for three days and two nights, sleeping in tents and cooking over an open fire. The experience focuses on stewardship, nature excursions, farm to fork food, primitive skills, ecological restoration, and native history. Camp activities included bike riding, swimming, hiking, wildlife and bird watching.
While counselors have phones, youth campers are advised to leave their electronic devices at home. “It’s a little detox for our young folks,” Wallenfang remarked.
The Conservancy utilized the Caestecker Library’s binocular and fishing pole rental program, and thanks to the Green Lake Sailing School, took campers out on a kayaking excursion. Geology, plant and fish ecology, and native history were among the subjects studied, Wallenfang stated. The day’s activities were structured, but Wallenfang pointed out that there was plenty of wiggle room to go with the flow, and savor the teachable moments that camp up along the way.
Wallenfang spoke of the importance of getting youth outdoors to jump-start their imaginations, feel a sense of wonder, and develop critical thinking skills. “We want to get them thinking about where their food comes from,” she commented. “We want them to feel connected to this land and this lake, and have that seed of stewardship grow over time.”
Each session was limited to 16 campers, with the smaller size allowing kids to easily bond with each other and form new friendships. There was an approximate 75% return rate from last year, Wallenfang said. Many of the campers are from the Green Lake area, though several from Chicago and Minneapolis attended.
Written by Kristin Radtke. As appeared on the "Green Lake Reporter" on 08/03/2017
Over the past 20 years, the Green Lake Conservancy has been building a legacy of stewardship by working to “preserve the lands that protect the lake” and promote public conscientiousness when it comes to our beloved body of water. While many picturesque trails and native prairies have been established and restored by the Conservancy, the members also recognize the tremendous need to actively encourage a sense of stewardship amongst our youth. And what better way to get kids to fall in love with nature than by getting them out there and allowing Mother Nature to work her magic.
In July 2016, the Conservancy piloted our first-ever youth camps for children ages 7 through 11. Two three-day/two-night camps were held at the Green Lake Conference Center campground, where we were surrounded by several of the Conservancy’s trails. In this beautiful setting, our youth campers were presented with a simple, yet powerful, opportunity to connect with nature and learn by doing.
While numerous nature-based activities were scheduled for our campers, we made sure to allow the magic of summer to seep into every possible moment. We couldn’t have possibly planned for thousands of fireflies to light up the night or to spot a doe and her fawn foraging in a glowing field. We couldn’t have coordinated with the birds to sing to us on cue or for a fish to jump the moment we looked across Norwegian Bay. And while we did plan a camp session during the Full Beaver Moon, we couldn’t have planned a cloudless night so that our awestruck campers felt compelled to howl at it. By allowing the time and space for our campers to just be in nature, nature came through and allowed us to experience all of her magic. And that magic is the seed that fosters the love and respect for lands and waters.
It’s probably safe to say that people only truly care about what they feel connected to. And in a world of technology, the masses are slipping further and further away from the notion that our very lives depend on the health of our planet, much less that it is our inherent responsibility to care for it. So, by creating this opportunity to connect kids with nature, we are able to inspire environmental conscientiousness and empower the next generation as guardians of the lake, the land, and all Earth’s creatures.
We are looking forward to making camp an annual tradition and welcoming an ever-growing number of youngsters to come and enjoy the wonders of nature we have right here in Green Lake. We welcome you to help us celebrate this joyous occasion for our community as we brighten our future by encouraging our youth as leaders of stewardship and sustainability.
Written by our Camp Director Lindsie Wallenfang. As appeared on the "Green Lake Magazine" on 01/2017