Dream to Reality

Step Two: Evaluate your current facility.

This is the step where we look at our current facility and how it is meeting the needs of the current program. Look at this question seriously.

We found out that there were some areas we didn’t need to address just to address them. Our chapel is great! Initially we thought we should build a new one, but after really looking at the current program and ideas for the future we realized that it was fine the way it was. We were trying to use the space differently than it was designed to be used, but in how we used it, it was perfect. We decided to clean it up and just by cutting back some of the overgrowth and repairing the seats we gave it a new look.

Our cabin discussions were pivotal, particularly the big decision about camp bathrooms, and whether they should be in the cabins or not. Initially, you might think that of course bathrooms should be in the cabins! But wait… If a cabin has 12 people (10 campers and two counselors) and only have one shower. Do they all get showers? Luckily in our case there was an easier decision about this issue.

We looked at the camp as a whole and discussed the areas of camp. We can sleep over 430 guests a night in basically four different areas. Each of the areas represents a different type and style of living comfort: Rustic, cabins with bathrooms, bunk house with bathrooms and cabin areas with bath houses.

After much debate we decided to shape our vision based on the different areas and expanding them to meet a greater variety of accommodation needs and desires. Now our future facility will have options for our guests to meet the needs of the type of camping weekend they are looking for, from total comfort to bare bones rustic.

During the evaluation phase write down the two or three ideas that come out about each area. These are the strong ideas and visions that have to be discussed in greater detail. Do not try to solve the problem and set your mind in stone based on the walk-through or initial evaluation. You need to stay open to the idea.

Next, hold two more retreats to discuss the ideas presented for each area. We brought up the bathrooms in the cabins twice more. In addition, we sent out the basic questions and ideas through e-mail to our alumni, guests and supporters to answer in a survey.

The return on the e-mail poll was interesting. Based on the e-mail questions and two meetings of staff, volunteers and board members we decided to renovate the bath houses and expand the fronts of the cabins in the main camp area.

In addition, we decided to grow the cabins with bathrooms in the village and expand on the dormitory with bathrooms building. In all, the alumni, polled campers, volunteers, staff team and board members all agreed with a majority opinion on the direction and decision.

Remember to take multiple ideas for each area during the evaluation phase of pre-planning and discuss them thoroughly. Make a list of what programs are not be supported by the facility, and lastly keep in mind future programming that you want to expand into.

Step Three: What dreams are made of.

My favorite step is answering the questions of what facilities are needed to support current and future programming. These are the buildings from scratch!

Keep grounded by the ideas you have discussed and make sure the ideas stay true to your facility image and sense of identity. During an observation a team of planners wanted huge dormitories and lodge-like facilities, but when some alumni and a potential major donor looked at the plan they felt as though the planners were trying to build a resort and destroy the character of “their camp”. Make sure the old is brought to the new and the new fits in with the old.

The question asked during this phase was, “What do we need that will support participants?” It was here that new cabin villages, pavilions around camp, VIP housing, multi-purpose courts, water front areas and so forth were imagined. This is where you can create.

Make a list and along with the list make some notes as to why certain features are needed. Who is it being built for? What is my audience? How will it support the camp and the camp’s mission? Do not hinder yourself with worry about resources, but let it be guided by need and not greed. We decided we wanted a plan that had 7-12 projects that were absolutely achievable and could stand alone as individual projects and campaigns.

We also wanted renovation ideas to be part of the thinking, rather than demolition to make room for the new. It was amazing what happens to expense and idea when you try and spend some time working with what you have.

Lastly, guiding themes were decided upon to help guide ideas and discussion. Ours were relationship-building areas, historical imagination, natural beauty, and hide in the environment.

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