ELKO – The final phase of Camp Lamoille’s rebuilding from the ashes could start this year as Elko County has leased the buildings for three years, which will help the Elko Lions Club complete the project.
Cabins and a new kitchen and dining hall are set for the last stage that would bring Camp Lamoille back to full operations after being destroyed in the Range 2 Fire on Sept. 30, 2018.
The lease comes several months after the Camp has regained many of its seasonal bookings after completing a roofed pavilion and cooking prep area, said Camp Lamoille Chair Chuck Stout.
Stout explained that the first two phases of rebuilding the Camp resulted from fundraising and volunteers who donated labor and materials.
Due to those efforts, the Club was able to install new power and water lines, renovate the restroom and shower building that was vandalized eight months after the fire, create 14 new RV spaces with power and water hookups, and build the pavilion over the site of the Warner Whipple Lodge.
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However, the next and final phase was “out of the scope” of what the Lions Club could afford and build with volunteer labor, Stout explained. Insurance was also a factor.
“We came to realize that even if we had enough money to build the structures, we don’t make enough annually off our income from the Camp to insure the place,” he said. “Our estimates for insurance for all the buildings were running between $25,000 and $30,000 a year for casualty and fire. We don’t make that kind of money.”
In 2019, estimates called for $1 million to rebuild the Camp and about $600,000 for the third phase. Two years later, Stout said cost projections had nearly doubled due to supply chain issues and inflation.
After the Club approached Elko County for ARPA and grant funding, a partnership was developed through the Lions and County “where we will continue to maintain and run the Camp. We will take the grant money they offered to us and build the dining hall and kitchen.”
“Once that is complete, we will sell all the buildings – not the lease and the grounds – to the County for $1. They, in turn, will insure all those buildings and put them on their insurance, which will be considerably lower than what we could get,” Stout continued.
The agreement also has the Lions Club pay the insurance premium cost to the County every year.
Stout emphasized the Lions Club would continue to operate the Camp without any assistance from Elko County, which will only own the buildings.
“We still have exclusive use,” Stout said. “We will be the proprietor. The County will have no input in how we run the buildings, rent them or anything like that.”
He added that the three-year contract also allows a “finish line for construction” of the last few buildings.
Despite the fire, Camp Lamoille has remained a popular destination for families who rent it annually. Stout said four years after the fire, the Camp reached 70% occupancy last summer, mostly from “historic renters” who book the outdoor venue each summer for events, including reunions and weddings.
“Many of our traditionally old customers are interested in coming back, even more than we had last year,” he reported.
Additionally, the Rotary Club rented the Camp for its first Renaissance Fair last fall, with another Fair planned for this summer.
“The future looks bright for Camp Lamoille,” Stout said.
Last week the Elko County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the lease agreement, which stipulates that Elko County will lease Camp Lamoille for three years with an option for a two-year extension.
The Lions Club also agreed to be responsible for all ongoing maintenance and repairs of the Camp and any property taxes in exchange for the County providing insurance on the property.
Elko County Manager Amanda Osborne explained that the insurance needed to be in the County’s name as the reason for the property transfer.
Elko County Commissioner and Lions Club member Delmo Andreozzi told the board much work had been done to rebuild the Camp and thanked individuals and organizations who had contributed to the Club’s efforts.
“The community has been super generous,” he said. “A lot of donations and contractors put a lot of time and effort up there.”
Andreozzi credited volunteers for their work on rebuilding Camp Lamoille.
“It’s something that couldn’t be done with a lot of volunteers and volunteer hours and also recognizing the generosity of the community at large.”
Stout added the U.S. Forest Service is supportive of the lease.
The Range 2 Fire burned more than 9,000 acres in Lamoille Canyon. The blaze descended upon Camp Lamoille, destroying the Warner Whipple Lodge and nine A-frame cabins, along with damaging the power and water infrastructure.
Lions Club members vowed to rebuild “from the ashes.”
New infrastructure, RV hookups and bathroom renovation were planned for the first phase, with the construction of a roofed pavilion over the site of the former Lodge being the second phase.
A patio with laser-engraved bricks was installed last summer. Individuals or groups may sponsor a brick to be personalized with a logo or name “so that people can leave their own legacy at the camp,” Stout said.
“We want to see that as something that is fluid and moves into the future,” he added. “It will be an ongoing project.”
The Camp also mounted solar panels on the pavilion’s roof to power the Camp with solar energy, allowing the propane generator to be a backup power source. The pavilion also has a new barbecue grill and hand-wash sink.
Stout said the rebuilding efforts allowed the Camp to expand services to campers with RV spaces, giving renters a new option to bring their motorhomes or travel trailers for their stay.
“Previous renters like to bring their RVs but have had no facilities,” Stout said. “We took their request to heart and supported the spaces. They can bring their RVs rather than tents.”
Stout said once the buildings are constructed, the Lions Club is considering adding a separate campsite with RV and tent spaces far away “from the core of the Camp” to alleviate crowding at Thomas Canyon Campground.
“It’s a good separation, but still caters to the camping public that wants to utilize the Canyon,” Stout said. “We have full cooperation with the Forest Service to do this.”
Camp Lamoille, nestled in the Ruby Mountains, was established by the Boy Scouts of America in 1939 before the Lions Club took it over 47 years later and started Camp Dat-So-La-Lee.
Stout explained the Club believes that running the Camp is a civic service that benefits the local community and those living out of state.
“We don’t consider Camp Lamoille ours. It belongs to Elko County. We’re stewards of the land,” Stout said. “We don’t want to see that asset go away. It’s so important.”
He also noted a trend in dwindling memberships for civic groups such as the Lions Club, fueling concerns about the longevity of the Club’s ability to oversee the facility with fewer volunteers.
“Now we have a path going forward into the future with the County,” Stout said. “We are excited about this, and they are excited about it.”
Stout said he had explained the route the Lions Club is taking with the Camp to other people. “To keep the legacy going, this was purely a business decision” and it protects the investment many people have made into the Camp, especially after the fire.
“We can’t afford to maintain it, and it’s not fiscally responsible to construct buildings and not have insurance on them,” he said. “Most people I’ve talked to don’t have an issue with how we’re going about this. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially the people of Elko County.”
Overall, the changes fulfill the Lions Club’s goal of keeping Camp Lamoille going for all generations of campers who travel near and far to enjoy the beauty of the Ruby Mountains.
“We’re excited about the future, and we hope to put something together that will be a legacy that will outlive all of us,” Stout said. “That’s the real goal here.”
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