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Efforts underway to save group camp

An effort to save the group camp at O’Bannon Woods State Park has begun in earnest following an article about the camp’s closure due to roosting bats.
‘I am getting supportive e-mails,’ Bob Sawtelle, park manager at O’Bannon Woods, said after this newspaper and its sister paper, the Clarion News, published a story by Lee Cable about the camp’s plight.
Bats, which normally live under the loose bark of dead and dying trees, took up residence under the siding of the camp’s structures, which were built in 1971, and caused the closing of the camp earlier this year.
The camp had been used by numerous schoolchildren, including sixth-graders in the South Harrison Community School Corp., the Dayspring Emmaus community and other groups since its opening. The original camp was built in the early 1930s as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt in an effort to create much-needed jobs for thousands of unemployed Americans.
‘A preliminary material costs estimate to restore and improve the four dormitories was $240,000,’ Sawtelle said. ‘Improvements include new windows, new doors, bathroom additions, exterior siding, insulation, upgrades to electric, central HVAC and more. Improvements to the Recreation Hall, Kitchen/Dining Hall and Comfort Station are also needed.’
Several skilled craftsmen, contractors and builders in the region have pledged their skills and volunteer hours to do the restoration work, and Sawtelle said that state prison inmates are scheduled to remove the bat guano and contaminated material removals.
‘Prison inmate and volunteer skilled labor will save us a lot of money,’ he said. ‘But we still need donations. Any funding we can attract can and will make the facility better.’
Sawtelle is seeking help in contacting all camp participants who ever stayed at the Wyandotte Group Camp.
‘If we could get a donation of $5 from every Emmaus walker, every sixth-grader, every youth group participant, every family reunion member that ever stayed at the Wyandotte Group Camp, the place could not only be fully financed, saved and restored but so much improved,’ he said.
Sawtelle is also willing to meet with anyone who is interested in helping save the group camp.
‘Just let me know when and where,’ he said.
Sawtelle knows what a difference people can make.
‘Individuals can and have made remarkable contributions and changes in our community,’ he said. ‘Groups of individuals can make bigger contributions and changes.’
All donations will be directed to the private Natural Resources Foundation to ensure that all community contributions go directly toward the group camp restoration and its improvements.
Donations and contributions should be sent to ATTN: Group Camp Restoration, O’Bannon Woods State Park, 7234 Old Forest Road, Corydon, IN 47112. Checks should be made out to Indiana Natural Resources Foundation ‘ O’Bannon Woods. In the memo, write ‘Group Camp.’
Persons who want to volunteer as a worker or to host a fundraiser should provide Sawtelle with their complete contact information (name, address, phone and e-mail address).
And Sawtelle encourages everyone to pass along the information about saving the group camp to others.
‘This truly is a community grassroots effort,’ he said. ‘We can and will save the Wyandotte Group Camp for future generations.’
Sawtelle can be reached by phone at 738-8232 or by e-mail, [email protected]