Below is a guest post from George and Sandy Uhl. The Uhl’s have been involved in camping for decades, working on site staff at camp, counseling and serving on countless boards, work groups and task forces. Most recently they were asked to serve on the Operations Task Force that was convened to get Templed Hills up and running again. After many meetings, newly discovered information and lots of conversations, they are convinced that the Ohio Conference Board of Directors made the wrong decision in choosing which campsite to keep and which one to sell.
NEWS FROM THE HILLS – OUR OHIO CONFERENCE CAMPS
Over the years, hundreds of children and adults from our congregation have enjoyed the natural and spiritual resources of our Ohio Conference Camps: Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills. Recently, the Board of Directors of the Ohio Conference has determined that it is no longer feasible to maintain two camps and voted to sell one of the camps: Pilgrim Hills. The Ohio Conference Board of Directors will be meeting on August 25 to take a second look at the decision to sell Pilgrim Hills. George & I are members of the Operations Task Force that has met a number of times to look at plans for renovating the remaining camp, Templed Hills (TH). The closer we looked at TH, the more disturbed we were to see the deterioration of the closed buildings (Templed Hills has been on “sabbatical” – closed for 4 years). We couldn’t help but wonder if the decision to keep TH and sell Pilgrim Hills (PH) was made without full information. After doing a little research and uncovering facts that prove the reasons for selling PH are not valid, several of the Operations Task Force members (including George & I) have vigorously advocated for a change of plans. The contrast between the two camps in terms of accessible buildings, athletic fields, kitchen facilities, and natural resources is extreme. I have attached a report that I hope you will read carefully. I encourage you to ask questions, share your concerns and let your association minister, association representatives, conference minister (John Gant, firstname.lastname@example.org), and conference moderator (Mindy Quellhorst, email@example.com), know your views. At the bottom of this post you will find an email list for all of the Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors is meeting NEXT FRIDAY, August 25th at Dublin U.C.C. beginning at 10AM. We encourage you to email or call your representatives and encourage them to consider reversing their decision.
My motivation to speak out on this issue is based solely on the desire to have a strong Outdoor Ministries program for our youth and adults. The unwise use of limited resources is a moral issue. I fear that there will not be enough money to renovate TH to the standard that will attract campers and outside groups and that in a few short years we will be closing TH as well. Keeping the most viable camp (PH) is what makes sense to me. I hope you agree and I would appreciate your support. Thank you!
In February 2017 the Ohio Conference Board of Directors voted to sell Pilgrim Hills and keep Templed Hills. The reasons for selling Pilgrim Hills were stated as follows:
-The need for an adult retreat center with the aging of our congregations.
-Two major maintenance issues at Pilgrim – the sewage system and the pool, which would need to be addressed immediately and could have price tags upwards of $700,000.
-Templed Hills is easier to access from a major highway and makes it more marketable for new groups.
-The sale of Pilgrim Hills would generate significantly more money.
In April 2017, several of us were asked to become members of the Operations Work Task Force. This group was to determine priorities for renovations and upgrades at Templed Hills (TH). After working onsite at TH and seeing first hand the sad deterioration that has occurred over the last 4 years that this camp has been “on sabbatical”, a significant portion of members of the Operations Work Task Force have had second thoughts about the advisability of spending enormous amounts of money and volunteer energy to bring TH up to a reasonable healthy standard that already exists at Pilgrim Hills (PH). Through research, we have provided some new information that was not available in February, listed the assets of PH compared to TH and asked the Board of Directors to reconsider their decision based on the facts as they now exist. The following is a summary of what we now know. I ask for your support in encouraging a change of plan for the sale of PH. I encourage you to share this information with your congregations and to generate a groundswell of support that will assure the Board of Directors that changing a decision when faced with irrefutable evidence is a prudent action.
To begin with, some serious mold issues have been identified at TH. Buildings that are unheated with water seepage are prime candidates for mold. One of the mold inspectors that visited TH commented that the only buildings not contaminated with mold are the summer Quonset hut-type cabins that have great ventilation since they only have screens (no windows). Although there are currently volunteer groups trying to affect mold abatement, these volunteers have not been trained in dealing with mold and they run the risk of spreading the mold spores instead of containing and eliminating them. If the damp conditions are not eliminated and the buildings are not waterproofed, mold will continue to be a problem. Some people are not aware of the severity of illnesses that can be traced to exposure to mold. It is a fact that our Conference Leadership was aware of mold problems at TH before they voted to sell PH in February.
None of the buildings at TH are handicap accessible. There are steep hills, stairs and narrow doorways that impede persons with mobility issues from fully using the camp. Adding bathrooms and changing doorways is not a cheap fix. PH already has accessible restrooms in the lodge and in several cabins. At PH there is a lighted boardwalk to more than half of the camp and drivable roads to buildings that are not serviced by the boardwalk.
None of the buildings at TH have been heated for at least 4 years. We expect to find many problems with the boilers and furnaces in the main buildings. TH is run on propane, fuel oil and electricity. PH uses electricity and natural gas, which is significantly cheaper. At PH, oil wells have been identified on the property. In the past, 2 oil wells were active and the natural gas was just vented off. Now that natural gas is more commonly used, those wells and the others that have been identified but not drilled could provide a source of revenue in addition to providing natural gas for camp use. Looking at an Ohio Department of Natural Resources map reveals that all of the properties surrounding PH also have oil wells, some producing oil and/or gas and some identified but not yet drilled. Speaking of natural resources, the PH camp manager has a proposal for a modest harvest of trees that would generate close to $100,000.
The two major maintenance issues that were identified at PH and used as a reason to sell this property are now in fact, really not problems at all. The pool has leaked for years. It was necessary to have a hose refilling the pool all summer, which meant that the water was always uncomfortably cold. It was thought to need to be replaced at a cost of $300,000! Last year, a leak specialist identified the location of the leak and it was fixed. The cost of chemicals was cut in half and the water temperature has been very nice. In contrast, the once beautiful pool at TH now leaks in unknown locations and the pump has broken down – another expensive fix. The other major maintenance issue at PH was thought to be the sewage treatment system. Under the impression that we could not add any additional beds due to the capacity of the sewage treatment system at PH, it was surmised that the system would need to be replaced or upgraded at a cost of potentially $400,000! Consulting with the Ohio EPA, it was discovered that PH is actually rated for 270 beds – 70 more than we have currently have. This means we could expand by adding another building with as many as 70 more beds. In addition the EPA was helpful in identifying potential sources for grant money that could help defray costs that we might incur making some relatively minor repairs to the system at PH.
The Operations Work Task Force has looked at architectural drawings for upgrades to Heritage Hall at TH. The drawings include adding accessible bathrooms on both floors, a deck overlooking the field below and interior modifications that would make the building more attractive and functional. The parking area would be modified after waterproofing and fixing leaks. All of these improvements will cost upwards of $200,000. At Skipper Lodge we will need to add first floor restrooms, major improvements to the kitchen, lower level bedrooms and bathrooms. The heating, electrical and lighting systems will need to be upgraded to meet current standards. It is easy to imagine that the cost of these actions will also exceed $200,000. Similar expenditures will be necessary at Memorial Lodge. In contrast, PH is already a fully functioning camp that does not need these huge expenditures. Selling PH because we might be able to do so for more money doesn’t make sense if we have to spend so much to bring TH up to an acceptable level.
The comparison between the camps continues:
PH has several flat maintained fields for soccer, baseball, band camp, etc., a basketball court and gaga ball pit. It also has a 3-acre lake for paddleboats, canoes and kayaks. These are the kind of amenities that every camp needs to have. Athletic facilities are very limited at TH. There is one flat maintained field. The pond is very small and doesn’t appear to hold water very efficiently anymore. It is not suitable for any kind of boating.
To address the expressed desire for a building designed for adult retreats and/or grandparent-grandchild camps, a number of buildings have been identified at PH that could be modified to accommodate these types of groups. There is also plenty of space to construct a new building that could be designed for adults. The adult retreat building at TH is in sad condition: mold, dampness, inaccessible bathrooms, and finishes that have been affected by mold including the carpeting, bathroom vanities and some of the walls.
In conclusion, we believe it is immoral to have volunteers not trained in mold abatement and perhaps not even properly protected themselves, cleaning buildings at TH. We believe that it is poor stewardship of our resources to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a camp (TH) that is so sorely lacking in all that is necessary when we already have a camp (PH) that has the amenities that are only pipe dreams at TH. We urge the Board of Directors of the Ohio Conference to meet ASAP and make the logical decision to rescind the former decision to sell PH and instead, sell TH.
Respectfully, George & Sandy Uhl
Ohio Conference Board of Directors Email Roster:
Rev. Carl Robinson (SONKA Designated Association Minister) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Tom Brownfield (CSEOA) Tbrownfield1943@gmail.com
Rev. Sam Buehrer (Treasurer) email@example.com
Rev. Daniel Busch (NWOA Association Minister) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Michael Castle (SONKA) email@example.com
Rev. Kenneth Daniel (NWOA) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Becky Erb Strang (NWOA) email@example.com
Rev. Kevan Franklin (EOA) dockSF@aol.com
Rev. John Gantt (Interim Conference Minister) firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Cathy Green (WRA) (Vice-Moderator) email@example.com
Pastor Colin Jones (WRA) Cojo68@gmail.com
Jay McMillen (SONKA) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Jim Meyer (WRA) email@example.com
Rev. Mindy Quellhorst (Moderator) RevMQL@gmail.com
Mr. Jeff Roeger (EOA) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Rita Root (EOA/WRA Associations Minister) email@example.com
Mr. Tim Smith (Past Moderator) TimLSmith@aol.com
Rev. Bob Tussing (Secretary) firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Cynthia Tyson (CSE) email@example.com
Rev. Morgan Wickizer (DOC) firstname.lastname@example.org
These two are new members of the Board whose terms start after the Annual Gathering. At least one of them will be at the meeting on August 25.
Ms. Pam Linderson (SONKA) (2019) email@example.com
Rev. Kurt Wieser (EOA) (2019) firstname.lastname@example.org