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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, email@example.com), and conference moderator (Mindy Quellhorst, firstname.lastname@example.org), 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) email@example.com
Mr. Tom Brownfield (CSEOA) Tbrownfield1943@gmail.com
Rev. Sam Buehrer (Treasurer) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Daniel Busch (NWOA Association Minister) email@example.com
Rev. Michael Castle (SONKA) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Kenneth Daniel (NWOA) email@example.com
Rev. Becky Erb Strang (NWOA) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Kevan Franklin (EOA) dockSF@aol.com
Rev. John Gantt (Interim Conference Minister) email@example.com
Ms. Cathy Green (WRA) (Vice-Moderator) firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastor Colin Jones (WRA) Cojo68@gmail.com
Jay McMillen (SONKA) email@example.com
Mr. Jim Meyer (WRA) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Mindy Quellhorst (Moderator) RevMQL@gmail.com
Mr. Jeff Roeger (EOA) email@example.com
Rev. Rita Root (EOA/WRA Associations Minister) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Tim Smith (Past Moderator) TimLSmith@aol.com
Rev. Bob Tussing (Secretary) email@example.com
Dr. Cynthia Tyson (CSE) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Morgan Wickizer (DOC) email@example.com
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) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Kurt Wieser (EOA) (2019) email@example.com
That drive into camp as you come through the pines. The memories flood back, you roll down your windows, you smile, you exhale….you are here. For the past 60 years that turn onto to the paved road and the drive through those pines has served as a welcome to a modest 375 acres of ground at the corner of Coshocton and Holmes Counties. For so many this place has become sacred and holy ground. Pilgrim Hills will always hold a special place in the hearts of thousands.
I am writing to you, as individuals in the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ who have faithfully supported our summer camping ministry in the Ohio Conference.
Earlier this winter the Ohio Conference Board of Directors made the difficult decision to sell Pilgrim Hills and move all of our summer camping programs and retreats to Templed Hills beginning in 2018.
For over 60 years Pilgrim Hills has been sacred ground for thousands of people who have walked those trails, had an encounter with God, found their best friend in the entire galaxy, fell madly in love, discovered a calling into ministry, laughed until they cried, poured endless amounts of sweat equity into that place, survived thousands of mosquito bites and sang songs until they had no voice. Quite possibly the most important ministry Pilgrim Hills accomplished by simply being…camp.
This summer a team of filmmakers from Trinity U.C.C. in Canton are set to tell the story of our final summer at Pilgrim Hills, to capture the history of this place and embark on the daunting task of sharing just exactly what this place means to so many.
The Ohio Conference appreciates and joins with Affirm Camp in the preparation of a documentary video to celebrate the 60 years that Pilgrim Hills has played a major role in forming faithful relationships with God, creation and others. In order to make this project a reality we need to raise $12,000. We believe that this is an investment that all of us will be able to cherish for years to come.
Would you consider being a part of this project? Help us capture the essence of Pilgrim Hills through it's history, it's beauty, the laughter, the singing and the voices of so many who have shaped and been shaped by this place. You can make donation to this project in a number of ways.
BRANDON YOUNG, videographer and percussionist, is currently the Videographer and Editor at Trintiy United Church of Christ where he films, produces, edits, and directs videos at different lengths. Brandon also works for TeleProductions at Kent State University. Brandon is currently a student at Kent State University studying Digital Media Production with a concentration in Digital Film with a double minor in Music Performance with a concentration in Percussion and Writing with a concentration in Scriptwriting, Advertising Writing, and Playwriting. As a videographer, Brandon has won numerous awards for his work. He was an Official Selection for the All American High School Film Festival, White House Student Film Festival, Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, All-State OSBA Conference, and Canton Film Festival. Brandon has done many projects as well. Some of these included a music video for Nashville Recording Artist Ricky Lee, a fourteen episode Web-Series called Swamp Talk, a 40-minute documentary for the Kent State School of Music, a 30-minute documentary for Taggarts Ice Cream, and a 45-minute documentary for the Canton Palace Theatre. His films has been shown in New York City, Washington D.C., Columbus, Nashville, and Canton. He has done projects for the Canton Palace Theatre, Canton Civic Center, Kent State University, Plain Local Community Center for the Performing Arts, MAPS Air Museum, Trinity United Church of Christ, GlenOak High School, Ohio School Board Association, GASP, and Taggarts Ice Cream. He has studied video under the direction of Josh Branch, Scott Hallgren, and David Smeltzer.
ADAM TOLLEY is a locally known filmmaker who has 5 years of experience in the industry creating visually pleasing documentaries, commercials, Weddings, and testimonials. Some of his most inspiring work was done with the Gh4 camera, but he has experience on Canon DSLRs and Panasonic camcorders.
Adam started his career in film during his sophomore year of high school, where he worked under a widely known Videographer, Josh Branch, filming musicals, choir concerts, and a graduation ceremony. During high school, Adam created a video that took third place for a competition promoting public schooling. He also worked on a video that was widely used in the school promoting a S.T.E.M. program. Adam had his first on-set experience with a team from his high school at Mercy Medical where he was grip and teleprompter. Outside of the high school, Adam gained experience working with his long time friend creating videos for a church. Together, they created over fifteen testimonial videos that were seen by the hundreds of people attending the church. After graduating high school, Adam attended film school. He made a promotional video for North-Eastern Ohio Medical, which gained praise all throughout the school. Adam helped his long time friend create a documentary for a music building at his school that has been seen over a thousand times all throughout campus. Adam has worked with a Videographer at Cutler Real Estate covering events. Adam filmed a multitude of weddings in which he was cameraman, director, and editor for.
MICHAEL OYLER is a local videographer, editor, and gaffer who has been working on short films, corporate projects, and various other client work such as weddings and commercials for the past 4 years using a variety of gear such as the Canon C300, Panasonic GH4, Sony FS100, URSA Mini, and various other DSLR's and Camcorders.
Michael began his career as a junior at GlenOak High School in the video production career technical program. Michael continued his education in the film industry through Kent State University. Throughout his educational career, Michael has studied under Josh Branch, Scott Hallgren, and David Smeltzer. In Michael's field experience he has worked with and shadowed several well-known people in the industry such as Michael Cameneti, James Waters, Tyler Clark, Michael Tell, Jordan Pellegrini, Andrew Santin, and Luke Deju. Michael currently works for Cutler Real Estate as the first Corporate Videographer of the company who has created and is developing it's first video department. Michael is also on the board of the Canton Film Fest with James Waters and Luke Deju, and is a cameraman for TeleProductions at Kent State where he films all of the sporting events. Michael continues to work on freelance client work, weddings, and documentaries, and does so with a strong dependable, trustworthy, and focused work ethic that pleases all of his clients from Pre to Post-Production.
We believe firmly that the best day of outdoor ministries and summer camps are yet to come. We believe that as we find ourselves more and more inundated with screens, wifi and technology, that the need for a space and a place to unplug and unwind has never been more relevant than today. Celebrating Pilgrim Hills and the ministry it provided for the past 60 years through this film is an important part of preserving this legacy.
Our hope is that you will join us in supporting this project and make a contribution today to support this legacy of this beloved place.
We need everyone's help gathering the history of Pilgrim Hills. We are looking for contact information for old camp directors, site staff, parents and others who were involved in camp in it's early years. We are looking for stories from those who first dreamed up the idea of Pilgrim Hills and helped construct the building and plant the pine trees. We are looking for old photos, old videos and old camp memorabilia to help capture this history completely. If you have anything that you think would be relevant please contact Nate Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am writing to you with an update on the progress of the Affirm Camp consulting project with Kaleidoscope Inc. Earlier this year we approached the WRA/EOA Association Councils with a request to support our efforts to hire Kaleidoscope Inc. under the leadership of their Executive Director Jody Oates, to develop a business plan and feasibility study for continuing an outdoor ministries program at Pilgrim Hills. We were able to secure funding for this project from several of our local congregations and a number of private donors in less than a month. You graciously agreed to allow us to move forward with this project with an understanding that no matter the outcome, there was no commitment from the Associations to a path forward regarding our camps or the pursuit of obtaining the Pilgrim Hills property.
Over the course of the past several months a group of lay leaders and ministers met several times with Jody to discuss, dream and wrestle with the questions surrounding this type of project. In late September our team met with Jody to receive a draft of his final report. In his report, Jody has identified a plan forward for operating an outdoor ministries program at Pilgrim Hills and affirms that camp is still relevant and still sustainable in Ohio.
In the meantime, the Ohio Conference decided recently to maintain ownership of both Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills, instead of selling one of the sites. They are planning to sell off large parcels of both properties subsequently. This decision effectively ends the possibility of our Associations pursuing the possible acquisition of Pilgrim Hills.
After discussing these changes at our last Affirm Camp meeting, we decided that the best use of this report from Kaleidoscope would be to provide it to the Ohio Conference Board of Directors, as a resource for them to use in their long range planning for the future our Outdoor Ministries program in the Ohio Conference. Our hope is that the Conference leadership will find this report useful and helpful and will ultimately put it to work. Our group will be attending the Board of Directors Meeting on December 9th to give them a full report on the Kaleidoscope project.
I would like to extend my appreciation and gratitude on behalf of all of us with Affirm Camp to each of you for your support of this project. Our hope is that collectively we can all find a way to give our Outdoor Ministries a sustainable future with a commitment of time and resources they so undoubtedly deserve.
If you have any questions regarding Affirm Camp or the Kaleidoscope Project, I would be happy to answer them at any time. Happy Camping.
One of the best things you can do to help our camps is... go to camp. Use the sites. Send your kids and grandkids to summer camp. Book retreats, attend Fall Youth Event and Lantern Fellowship and Workdays. For all the information on this summer's camping program, please visit www.journeythehills.org. Remember March 31st is the earlybird deadline to lock-in to the lowest rate for camp, but you can sign-up all the way until June or until a camp fills up.
Please forward our website to as many of your friends in the U.C.C. That care about these camps and our Outdoor Ministries program. Help us to gather as much support for this fundraising effort as possible.
You can use the following images and materials to help spread the word about this project.