A brisk springtime revival resonated through the forest last Wednesday morning at the Smokey Timbers Camp on Lake Miltona. As saws and drills whirred, May Day felt more like the autumnal equinox with temperatures lingering around freezing.

"Last year, students were putting in the docks at this time."

Jack Anderson


Once a year, the Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC) SkillsUSA students spruce up the camp for youth groups, campers and nature enthusiasts.

"Last year, students were putting in the docks at this time," said Jack Anderson, Smokey Timbers board president. "That would be a little hard to do today." Lake Miltona was a glacial plain extending out from under the boathouse.

This year, 40 ATCC trade and industry students participated in SkillsUSA Community Service Day at Smokey Timbers.

"It's very convenient for our program. We know we always have something to do at Smokey Timbers."

Les Zimmerman


Construction of six new picnic tables took center stage in front of the main dining shelter. Students rescreened the shelter last year. Deck repair and re-shingling of buildings at the camp were done in recent years.

"It's very convenient for our program," said SkillsUSA advisor Les Zimmerman. "We know we always have something to do at Smokey Timbers."

Part of the SkillsUSA program philosophy is teaching students responsibility and community involvement. Zimmerman said next week is community service week for the SkillsUSA organization nationally. The ATCC group got an early start since May 15 commencement is the following week.


The SkillsUSA group came together with the Smokey Timbers Foundation six years ago with a common goal: to breathe new life into the old Girl Scout camp and give back to the community. Smokey Timbers has a long history that the foundation board did not want to see end when the Girl Scout group could no longer maintain the extensive property, Anderson explained.

In 2009, the Smokey Timbers Foundation was formed to keep the camp alive. The Schultz family donated the land in 1958 when the camp started.

The foundation took out a $150,000 loan to pick up the parcel. Rental fees help pay down some of the loan, Anderson said, but donations are always welcome. An Operation Round-Up grant paid for materials used for this year's picnic table project.

"We're a non-profit," Anderson explained. "Money that comes in is used for maintenance and upkeep."

The 2.3 acre wooded camp is open to the public when youth groups are not using the site. Nature trails weave through the campground amid picnic shelters and campsites. One trail honors the ATCC Law Enforcement student alumni who have died in the line of duty. In memory plaques bearing fallen officers' names line the path.

Approximately 550 feet of natural lakeshore borders the camp, complete with a shallow, sandy swimming beach.

"It's a neat place to study nature," Anderson said.

For more information about Smokey Timbers, visit www.wesminrcd.org, call (320)766-5290 or email smokeytimbers@gmail.com.


SkillsUSA is a leading student organization known for supplying the workforce with highly qualified leaders showing: Exceptional Technical Skills, Excellent Academic Skills, Remarkable Employability Skills. Majors included in the program are: Carpentry, Child Development, Diesel Mechanics, Human Services Practitioner, Law Enforcement, Machine Tool Technology, Marine and Small Engine Mechanic, Mechanical Drafting, Design and Engineering Technology, Mechatronics, Medical Laboratory Technician, Nursing, Phlebotomy Technician, Truck Driving and Welding Technology.