United Methodist Church of Minnesota is selling Camp Kingswood, which is on track to become the 24th park in the Three Rivers system.
In Minnetrista, David W. Thill, a natural resources specialist with Hennepin County who has helped manage the land at Camp Kingswood, points out an ironwood tree. The camp has been a United Methodist Church-sponsored youth camp since 1947, but is being bought by Three Rivers Park District.
Three Rivers Park District commissioners have voted to offer $2.25 million to purchase Camp Kingswood, a 65-year-old Bible camp in Minnetrista that includes 127 acres of pristine woodlands and one of the cleanest lakes in Hennepin County.
The Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church decided in June to put the property on the market because participation has declined, and it can no longer afford to maintain it. Church officials have been negotiating with Park District officials for the past several months, and commissioners made a field trip to visit the camp in October.
The camp property brackets about 70 percent of the shoreline of Little Long Lake, which is fed by pure, cold groundwater that supports trout as well as other fish. An old-growth forest of maples, basswood and ancient oaks thrives along a steep ridge that rises 80 feet above the west shore.
"This property is a rare and unique gem in suburban Hennepin County," said Larry Blackstad, chair of the Three Rivers Park District Board of Commissioners. The board voted Thursday night to go ahead with the purchase.
"Natural resources of this quality are seldom still found in the metro area and I am excited that Three Rivers will be able to manage the natural features and provide public access to this treasure."
Representatives of the church said they were pleased to have the property become a park, and they could no longer support all five camps that they own.
"We have sought to balance the financial needs of the entire camping ministry, the rich history and tradition of the Kingswood ministry, and concern for the future stewardship of the land," said Karen Andrew, vice president of the Minnesota United Methodist Board of Trustees. That group will meet Jan. 15 to ratify the agreement.
In addition to the lake, the Kingswood property features an unusual floating tamarack bog and a 25-acre prairie. Three Rivers officials said they'd like to eventually develop a trail that would link the camp to the regional trail system and to other Three Rivers parks.
Even if the Park District had not offered to buy the land, a private buyer would have been constrained in using the land.
The nonprofit Minnesota Land Trust and Hennepin County bought a 44-acre conservation easement of camp property last year, and Metro Greenways and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are co-holders of a 66-acre conservation easement. The remaining 17 acres would have been the only part of the property that could have been developed, mainly at the top of the ridge where the camp's cabins, lodge and activity areas are located.
Assuming that the deal is finalized next month, Camp Kingswood will be the largest acquisition for the Park District since 2000, when it received 410-acre Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista as a donation. Three Rivers also acquired the 70-acre Salvation Army Silver Lake Camp in Ramsey County in 2001, and the 69-acre Historic Murphy's Landing in Shakopee in 2002.
Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388