Lebanon County Commissioners unanimously approved Thursday a proposal to purchase Cornwall-based Camp Shand at a cost of $725,000 from the Lancaster YMCA.
The vote for the acquisition of the camp and the other land transaction was one of two major expenditures, which together total over $2 million. You can read about the other purchase, the largest ever in the county’s history at a total of $1.3 million, here.
Jamie A. Wolgemuth, Chief Clerk/County Administrator, said the camp, which is located in Cornwall Borough between Route 322 and the county line at 20 Penryn Lane, was previously known as Camp Kiwanis until it was purchased by the Lancaster YMCA during the 1980s.
“They’ve operated it as a youth camp for all of these years,” Wolgemuth said. Earlier this year, the Lancaster YMCA decided they needed to divest itself from Camp Shand and reshuffle their portfolio of properties.”
Chairman Bob Phillips noted the camp has a rich history in Lebanon County dating back to the 1940s when it was founded by Bethlehem Steel and the Kiwanians.
“It’s been back and forth with ownership and this was our opportunity to solidify that and preserve that as a healthy outlet for our citizens,” Phillips said. “I think this marriage is a good one and while we have to work out the details, we do want the ownership here instead of an entity outside of Lebanon County.”
Wolgemuth noted the decision to sell the camp led to “concerns that it may not be maintained and continued in its current form like it has for a very long time.”
The Lebanon YMCA approached county officials about purchasing the camp so that it would remain a county asset, with camp operations being administered by the Lebanon YMCA.
“This would be a similar arrangement to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail,” Wolgemuth said. “You have owned the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, you own every foot of it. However, the management of it is done by the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail group by agreement. The same would be the case with the Lebanon YMCA.”
Wolgemuth noted local YMCA officials seek a long-term agreement for the camp with the county.
“The Y wants a long-term agreement with the county for the purpose to continue to offer the camping experience and outdoor programming for the youth and families of Lebanon County,” Wolgemuth said. “As part of the long-term agreement, they’d use a portion of their endowment fund and seek additional contributions to that endowment fund to help support the ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the property.”
Wolgemuth said both parties hope to go to settlement before the end of November. The county would utilize available capital funds to purchase the asset, and the asset would remain under the administration of the Lebanon YMCA.
Commissioner Bill Ames asked if this property is being considered for preservation efforts. It was noted that nearly 67 acres are already under federal preservation protection and that the other 53 acres would also be considered for preservation once the sale is completed.
“As Commissioner Ames has already stated, we have talked about adding it to perpetuity for protection with the conservancy or some form of preservation,” Wolgemuth said. “Commissioner, that is still the plan and once we control the property, we’ll be able to pursue that with another entity.”
Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz said the acreage could be considered for either the conservancy or farmland preservation, adding that she would like to see the county “get over the 20,000 (acre milestone) for farmland preservation.”
Chairman Phillips noted that the purchase, if approved, would be in line with the goals of the county commissioner’s quality of life initiative.
“It’s a perfect fit for tying in with rail trail, as Jaime mentioned, and Governor Dick and some other municipal parks and other related amenities,” Phillips said. “It’s a great fit and has a good partnership opportunity as well with the YMCA and as we continue to be a Class (Chapter) 5 (entity) in terms of land preservation in the state.”
Commissioner Litz added that some people had been upset with county officials in the past when it looked to sell about 15 acres at the east end of the county.
“This one is much larger and we are making strides to preserve a much larger parcel than what we sold, A, and B, as you said, commissioner, this is a seven-generation project that I really believe in,” Litz said. “So this is going to be there for children, grandchildren and unborn generations, and I think it is really a fantastic opportunity.”
Following the vote, a question was asked if county residents must have YMCA memberships to either use the facilities at Camp Shand or if county residents wanted to send their children to that camp.
Wolgemuth read from a summary provided by the YMCA of their planned goals with the camp.
The summary says the Y “plans to work with school districts and provide outdoor educational opportunities as well as businesses and churches to provide team-building activities. The opportunity of serving more families and impacting a greater number of youth in Lebanon County, our mission will be to raise annual support through the work we do at the Y camp.”
The summary further noted that the YMCA does not turn anyone away, regardless of their ability to pay, and that the organization relies on the generosity of the business community and other organizations that financially support its mission in the community.
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Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames, Bob Phillips, and Jo Ellen Litz were advertisers on LebTown during previous election cycles. Ames Home Services is a current advertiser on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.