Camp Lamoille Eyes Phase 3 With County Lease

ELKO – The final phase of rebuilding from the ashes of Camp Lamoille could begin 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 room are ready for the final stage that would bring Camp Lamoille back to full operations after it was destroyed in the Range 2 Fire on September 30, 2018.

The lease comes several months after the camp has recouped many of its seasonal reserves after completing a roofed pavilion and cooking prep area, Camp Lamoille President Chuck Stout said.

Stout explained that the first two phases of the Camp’s rebuild were the result of fundraising and volunteers donating labor and materials.

Through those efforts, the club was able to install new power and water lines, renovate the restroom and shower building that was destroyed eight months after the fire, create 14 new RV spaces with power and water hookups, and build the pavilion about the site. of the Warner Whipple Lodge.

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However, the next and final phase was “out of reach” of what the Lions Club could afford and build with volunteer labor, Stout explained. Insurance was also a factor.

“We realized that even if we had enough money to build the structures, we didn’t earn enough annually from our Camp income to secure the site,” he said. “Our insurance estimates for all buildings ranged from $25,000 to $30,000 per year for accident and fire. We didn’t make that kind of money.”

In 2019, estimates called for $1 million to rebuild the Camp and around $600,000 for the third phase. Two years later, Stout said cost projections had almost doubled due to problems with the supply chain and inflation.

After the club approached Elko County for ARPA and grant funding, a partnership developed through the Lions and the county “where we will continue to maintain and run the camp. We will take the grant money that was offered to us and We will build the dining room and kitchen.”

“Once it’s complete, we’ll sell all of the buildings, not the lease or land, to the County for $1. They, in turn, will insure all of those buildings and put them on their insurance, which will be considerably lower than what we could get,” Stout continued.

The agreement also causes the Lions Club to pay the cost of the insurance premium to the County each year.

Stout stressed that the Lions Club would continue to operate the camp without any help from Elko County, which will only own the buildings.

“We still have sole use,” Stout said. “We will be the owners. The county will have no say in how we run the buildings, rent them or anything like that.”

He added that the three-year contract also allows for a “finish line for construction” of the last few buildings.

Despite the fire, Camp Lamoille remains a popular destination for families who rent it annually. Stout said that four years after the fire, the camp reached 70% occupancy last summer, mostly from “historic tenants” who reserve the outdoor venue each summer for events, including reunions and weddings.

“Many of our traditionally longstanding customers are interested in coming back, even more so than last year,” he reported.

Additionally, the Rotary Club rented the Campground 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, which provides that Elko County will lease Camp Lamoille for three years with the option of a two-year extension.

The Lions Club also agreed to be responsible for all ongoing Camp maintenance and repairs and property taxes in exchange for the County providing property insurance.

Elko County Administrator Amanda Osborne explained that the insurance needed to be in the name of the county as a reason for the property transfer.

Elko County Commissioner and Lions Club member Delmo Andreozzi told the board that much work had been done to rebuild Camp and thanked the individuals and organizations that had contributed to the Club’s efforts.

“The community has been very generous,” he said. “Many donations and contractors put in a lot of time and effort.”

Andreozzi credited the volunteers for their work in 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 that the US Forest Service supports the lease.

The Range 2 Fire burned more than 9,000 acres in Lamoille Canyon. The fire descended on Camp Lamoille, destroying the Warner Whipple Lodge and nine A-frame cabins, as well as damaging power and water infrastructure.

Members of the Lions Club vowed to rebuild “from the ashes.”

New infrastructure, RV hookups, and restroom renovations were planned for the first phase, with the second phase being the construction of a roofed pavilion on the site of the old Lodge.

A laser-etched brick patio was installed last summer. Individuals or groups can sponsor a brick to be personalized with a logo or name “so people can leave their own legacy at camp,” Stout said.

“We want to see that as fluid and moving into the future,” he added. “It will be an ongoing project.”

The camp also mounted solar panels on the roof of the pavilion to power the camp with solar energy, allowing the propane generator to be a backup power source. The pavilion also features a new BBQ grill and sink.

Stout said the redevelopment efforts allowed the Campground to expand services to campers with RV spaces, giving renters a new option to bring their RVs or travel trailers for their stay.

“Previous renters like to bring their RVs, but they haven’t had facilities,” Stout said. “We take your request seriously and support the spaces. You can bring your RVs instead of tents.”

Stout said that once the buildings are built, the Lions Club is considering adding a separate campground with RV and tent spaces away “from the center of camp” to alleviate crowding at Camp Thomas Canyon.

“It’s a nice separation, but it still caters to the camping public that wants to use the Canyon,” Stout said. “We have full cooperation with the Forest Service to do this.”

Camp Lamoille, located in the Ruby Mountains, was established by the Boy Scouts of America in 1939 before the Lions Club took over 47 years later and Camp Dat-So-La-Lee began.

Stout explained that the Club believes that running the Camp is a civic service that benefits the local community and those who live out of state.

“We don’t consider Camp Lamoille ours. It belongs to Elko County. We are stewards of the land,” Stout said. “We don’t want to see that asset disappear. It’s very important.”

He also noted a trend in declining memberships for civic groups like the Lions Club, fueling concerns about the longevity of the Club’s ability to oversee facilities with fewer volunteers.

“Now we have a path forward with the County,” Stout said. “We’re excited about this, and they’re excited.”

Stout said he had explained the route the Lions Club is taking with the Camp to other people. “To maintain the legacy, this was a purely business decision” and protects the investment many people have made in the camp, especially after the fire.

“We can’t afford to maintain it, and it’s not fiscally responsible to build buildings and not have insurance on them,” he said. “Most of the people I’ve talked to don’t have a problem with the way we’re doing it. It’s a win-win, especially the people of Elko County.”

Overall, the changes meet the Lions Club’s goal of keeping Camp Lamoille in business for all generations of campers who travel near and far to enjoy the beauty of the Ruby Mountains.

“We are excited about the future and hope to put together something that will be a legacy that will outlive all of us,” said Stout. “That’s the real goal here.”

A tour of Elko Lions Club Camp Lamoille with Camp Manager Chuck Stout on September 29, 2021, one day before the three-year anniversary of the Range 2 fire that burned over 9,000 acres and most of the campground.

Tony Milan