By Jeff Wagner


SHERBURNE COUNTY, Minn. (WCCO) – A youth campsite recently destroyed by arson will be rebuilt in time for next summer’s campers.

That’s the plan the Sherburne County Camp Association came up with Sunday as they salvaged what they could at the campground in the Sand Dunes State Forest, just west of Zimmerman.

Sunday at the camp didn’t turn out the way Kelly Thomas expected.

“It’s supposed to be clean up (day), and in a couple weeks camp would have started,” she said. “Instead, it’s throw it away, plan for something better.”

Volunteers who run the camp hacked away at a decade’s old dorm, which police say was intentionally set on fire earlier this month. The campground hosts 4-H and church youth groups from several counties.

Thomas and other camp association members held a meeting regarding the campsite’s future earlier in the day. Afterwards, they collected tools and items that weren’t turned to ash or burned in the fire.

Pieces of wood were also saved with hopes of turning them into picture frames or other mementos of the original dorm, which dates back to the 1930s.

The campground’s other dorm was also vandalized. Police haven’t made arrests in either cases.

“We think we had separate people doing the vandalism and a separate person doing the arson,” Thomas said. “So all (investigators) do is say that they’re hopeful, but we have to go forward regardless.”

Each year the camp association has a project to improve the campground. Last fall, they built a staircase leading to the fire pit.

This year, it will be to demolish the destroyed dorm. Next year, the plan is to build a new dorm.

“No doubt we will rebuild and we’re gonna try to do it as cost effectively as possible,” Thomas said.

The camp association has already drawn up how the new and improved dorm will look. They hope to lower it to the ground, that way it won’t need a ramp to be handicap accessible. But Thomas said the estimated price tag is $200,000.

“Luckily one of our members is an electrician and other people have other talents,” she said.

They’re hoping donations will help foot the bill, ensuring that by next summer camp will be back and better than ever.

“Better would be nice,” Thomas said.

The Sherburne County Camp Association set up an online fundraiser, which also already raised nearly $4,000. To donate, click here.

Jeff Wagner

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