WesMin Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council has transferred ownership of Smokey Timbers Camp to a newly formed nonprofit, Smokey Timbers Foundation.

The transaction, with assistance from Bremer Bank in Alexandria, took place August 3.

Those involved said it's a fitting and positive conclusion to an effort that began six years ago when the former Girl Scout camp on Lake Miltona was destined to be sold for lakeshore development.

A brief bit of history:

In 1958, William and Minnie Schultz, a local farm family, made a 21.3 acre tract of land on Lake Miltona available to the local Girl Scout troop to be used as a camp.

This land later became property of the Land of Lakes Girl Scout Council, serving 23 counties in this region and approximately 6,000 Girl Scouts.

WesMin got involved with this project when, in 2003, it was discovered the Land of Lakes Girl Scout Council had decided to sell the camp for lakeshore development.

Members of the original family who made the property available, local Girl Scouts, and numerous interested citizens were outraged that the camp would be lost for use by area youth.

This was not the Schultz family's vision for this beautiful, unique lakeshore property.

Through the efforts of many citizens, organizations and businesses, and with assistance by WesMin RC&D, funds were raised and the camp was purchased in 2004 and became the property of WesMin RC&D Council.

WesMin began working with a group of dedicated and committed volunteers to run the camp, help raise funds, maintain the facility and save it for future generations.

From the beginning, the intent was to transfer ownership and responsibility for the camp to a successor organization, once it achieved nonprofit status.

Working in partnership with WesMin RC&D, the volunteers formed the Smokey Timbers Foundation, which was incorporated in the state of Minnesota, and recently received its own IRS 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) designation.

This paved the way for WesMin to transfer title to the camp. Included in the transfer documents are covenants that will preserve and protect this pristine piece of property for the enjoyment of future generations, noted the foundation.

WesMin RC&D is a locally-led 14-county nonprofit that helps local sponsors develop and implement natural resource related projects. Its mission is "working to develop human and natural resources through cooperative efforts."

"We therefore did not intend to continue to own and operate Smokey Timbers Camp on our own, but rather place it back into local ownership with those who sincerely care about and value the camp," noted Lyle Hovland, president of the WesMin RC&D Council. "Some of the family members of the original land donors are on the Smokey Timbers Foundation board. We feel strongly that WesMin RC&D has accomplished its goal of preserving the camp for our youth and protecting its natural resources through this transfer to the dedicated volunteers of the Smokey Timbers Foundation."

Jack Anderson, president of the Smokey Timbers Foundation, whose members have worked closely with WesMin RC&D during this process, added, "WesMin RC&D Council truly stepped up to the plate at a very critical time. Without the Council's involvement six years ago, Smokey Timbers Camp would certainly have ended up as yet another lakeshore development. Indeed, the entire extended community owes WesMin RC&D a debt of gratitude."

There will certainly be challenges ahead for the newly formed Smokey Timbers Foundation and Smokey Timbers Camp, noted the leaders.

There is a sizeable property loan that was part of the original financing package that needs to be paid off. However, the camp is currently in better shape than ever with newly refurbished and maintained buildings and campsites, all achieved with volunteer labor and local contributions, the leaders added. With continued community support and involvement, and the tireless efforts of an enthusiastic group of volunteers of the Smokey Timbers Foundation, the future looks bright.

WesMin RC&D thanked the many local volunteers and service organizations for their support of the project, including the Lake Miltona Association, Tastefully Simple, the Douglas Machine Foundation, Bremer Bank, attorney Morris Grover, and the Smokey Timbers Foundation.