Following its $5 million campaign, Camp K on Kenai Lake renovated its almost 50-year-old grounds, which included building new infrastructure to replace its U.S. Forest Service donated cabins.
“They were very old,” said Rebecca Luczycki, marketing and communications manager of Camp Fire Alaska, the agency that owns the camp. “Essentially, the federal government decided they were no longer of use, and we decided to keep them going.”
On May 31, the camp held a dedication ceremony for its new facility in Cooper Landing, and more than 100 former campers, camp staff, board members, camp stewards and buisness owners who donated services for the camp’s renovations attended.
The camp serves 64 campers per week during camp season, said Barb Dubovich, Camp Fire Alaska CEO. Campers come from Matanuska Valley, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai and Homer, among other areas in the state. The camp also serves children from Operation Purple, who have parents deployed in the military.
The renovations increase the facility’s camper capacity and, with the addition of ramps to its buildings, it can serve the disabled. Because the camp leases the land through the Forest Service, the renovations were also necessary to minimize its impact on the land and the Kenai Lake it sits next to.
About $3.5 million of the camp’s campaign funded new infrastructure, said Dubovich.
“We brought on new cabins, sleeping facilities, a new dining hall, a nurse’s station, a play field … with a lot of volunteer help,” Dubovich said.
About $1 million of the camp’s total campaign came from local construction companies, engineers or roofers in in-kind donations. Almost 100 businesses donated services, and about 50 people donated gifts. The camp raised the remaining $4 million.
“For many people, it’s a whole new world stepping on camp here,” she said.
That was the case for 14-year-old Vazi Takacs.
“The old dining hall was super small, and you could hardly fit anyone in it,” Takacs said, gesturing with outstretched arms in the new dining hall.
The Anchorage resident said it is nice having flush toilets in the cabins now. He also said the old Forest Service cabins used to trickle water, “and it wouldn’t always be water.”
Rianne Campbell, 22, of Anchorage, said the flush toilets were a change for her, too. The long-time camper said it was “startling.”
The camp also expanded across the road, adding a play field and an archery, slingshot, blow dart and atlatl range, among other additions.
“In my day, we had this small lodge and a gravel (driveway), and that’s where we played — this gravel driveway,” Rianne Campbell said.
Some campers said they were taken aback at first by the new buildings. Campbell’s mother, Blythe Campbell, also the co-chair of the fundraising committee, said her daughter was horrified when she first saw the new buildings.
A former camper herself, she described it initially as “industrial.”
But she said it is necessary.
She said the old camp was closed in and dark. A lot of the trees that were removed to place the new buildings had blocked the mountains, too, she said.
“Parents’ expectations are different than they were before,” Blythe Campbell said.
They now want their children to have clean clothes and regular showers, she said.
And Rianne Campbell said that is alright; it doesn’t change her camp experience.
“It’s not about the buildings as much as its is about what you do,” she said.
“And you might be warmer and dryer,” Blythe Campbell said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.