Meetings between the new camp owners on Wood Lake and the Concerned Citizens of Big Wood Lake have been getting positive as they work towards an agreement everybody will love.
At the Wood River town board meeting, during the public quorum, there was much to discuss when it came to the upcoming bible camp on Wood Lake. Sam Langenbach, the office manager of the camp owners and the chair of the Concerned Citizens of Big Wood Lake, Patrick Hanson, had only good things to say about the new future plans for the camp.
Hanson said that they had just came from the most positive meeting they had been in, in Wood River for a very long time. They sat down with Langenbach and Aaron Lidell, her boss, and talked through their plans for the 234-acre property and they are excited about the plans.
He said the owners have been very forthcoming in trying to make the community happy with their plans. After the community said no to 91 RVs, owner Pat Kinsella went back to the drawing board and made another plan. With the new plan, citizens still said no. “Kinsella could have pushed through everyone and said, “tough luck,” but instead, went back to the drawing board again and Sam and Aaron did really hard work and created a new plan.”
Hanson said that they now have beautiful, fantastic plans. “What we’re getting is 177 acres of a youth and family bible camp, a Christian bible camp, and 57 acres of a Christian based church facility with a supporting pavilion and supporting facilities so you can have church gatherings, family reunions, and the church could use it.”
Langenbach also stated that they are now moving in a good direction working with the Concerned Citizens. She reported that they will be submitting a new conditional use permit application to Burnett County which will hopefully take place in the April meeting.
“The conditional use permit application will be for a youth, family and community group camp to take place on what you would notice is the traditional camp on the historic church property.” She explained that they will do some updates to the historic church and place a building out there so groups and local churches can have picnics out there, hold family reunions, graduations, weddings and things like that.
They are hoping to repair the relationship with the citizens that did not start out on the right foot. As part of their process, what they would like to do is have an annual or semi-annual meeting for the whole town at the camp so everybody can stay updated and they will continue to come to the town meetings so everyone can know what is going on throughout the process. They would also like to give tours and things like that once it gets going. Everything now is currently under construction.
There are still a few landowners that are weary about the new camp and their plans. One woman said her family owned a cabin on Wood Lake for over 50 years. She stated that nobody has represented her, as a landowner, in the last year until she attended a board meeting and saw what was happening.
That’s when everyone signed a petition, that gained over 700 signatures last year, stating that they did not want an RV park on Big Wood Lake. When it came to vote for a new chairman, she said that her and everyone else voted for someone who would represent their interests as landowners- who would represent their houses, their environment and their city.
Nick Vivian, the attorney that represents the Concerned Citizens of Big Wood Lake, spoke and said that it was a good thing that people were attending these meetings and speaking their minds- it means that people care about their town and their environments.
“This is what democracy looks like, frankly. It’s not about a group of people that are organized or jaded, it’s about a group of people that are interested, and frankly take pride in their community.”
He also stated that it was a good thing that we live in a country where folks can stand up and speak to their representatives. As an electorate, if you do not like how you are being represented, that is what the elections are for- you get to choose who represents you. He stated that you can agree or disagree with either side, but the reality is that we live in a democracy where citizens can voice their opinions.
“The reality here is that this is not about an angry mob, it’s not about torches and pitchforks, it’s not about a group that’s jaded or a group that’s treating anyone unfairly- the other group has an equal opportunity to gather their people, to show support, to come into a room like this and have a conversation with their board and with their representatives. This is the way it is supposed to work.”
Langenbach said, “It certainly felt like a mob of people with pitchforks when we first started here,” but the relationship is slowly being repaired.
Rick Cunningham’s biggest concern is that he believes Wood River town chairmen, Ron Berg, has a large conflict of interest when it comes to the camp. “Accusations against chairmen Berg for having a conflict of interest could be read on Facebook posts, thanking the ones that Patrick puts on there, thanking chairmen Berg for one of the cofounders, thanking him for being the treasurer, and believe it or not, the beneficiary. Chairmen Berg was asked twice to step down from the treasury’s post, and have two non-threatening texts from members of the planning commission, Ron had Patrick take his name off of there and you didn’t see it there in any fiduciary or financial responsibilities and when asked by Samantha Langenbach if he was a member of the concerned citizens, he said yes, that he was supportive of the concerned citizens.”
Cunningham believes that Berg should have excused himself from any discussion regarding the Wood Lake camp, but he did not. He also stated that the original reason that he signed the petition against the camp was because of the rumors going around that there would be over 200 RV sites coming to the camp. “The way I heard it and people joked about it, was they were going to be lined up like a wagon train out there, just nothing but RVs, non-stop.”
Don Chell was another landowner who spoke about the upcoming camp. He has been a citizen of Wood River since 1939 and he told the public that all he wants is for people to follow the law. “If you follow the law, that’s how it should be and that’s how we want it.”
The plan for the camp will be brought to the public in more detail in April’s board meeting with the new conditional use permit application that will be brought to Burnett County.