The YMCA of Greater Seattle (YMCA) and the Nisqually Indian Tribe are joining forces to create a new overnight camp on land adjacent to Mineral Lake in rural Lewis County.

In addition to a traditional camp offering youth and families from the local area and throughout Washington access to hiking, swimming, canoeing, arts and crafts, archery and other outdoor activities, the YMCA, in collaboration with the Tribe, plans to develop other programs to build awareness and appreciation of the natural environment and cultural history of the area. Plans call for the collaboration to establish an environmental education center to educate young people on the area’s dynamic ecosystem; provide the Tribe with expanded access to camp facilities and land for cultural and traditional uses, and develop joint programming for Native American youth and families. The YMCA is in the process of applying for permits from Lewis County to begin developing the property.

The YMCA’s camping and outdoor leadership programming is designed to give youth and families access to high-quality environmental opportunities. Longtime and oversubscribed overnight camps run by the YMCA, Camp Orkila on Orcas Island, and Camp Colman on the Key Peninsula, have primarily focused on water-based experiences. The Mineral Lake collaboration will diversify the YMCA’s outdoor offerings by providing not only water-based activities, but also mountain-based experiences and education.

As original stewards of the land, the Nisqually Tribe’s participation will provide an essential link to the history and values of the Native American Tribes of the Pacific Northwest that will be incorporated into programming.

“Camping and outdoor experiences provide critically important tools for youth and families to grow individually and together,” said YMCA President and CEO Loria Yeadon. “This is the YMCA’s first new overnight camp and outdoor education center in over one hundred years.  As we begin to envision this new center to meet the needs of the growing population of Washington, we are thrilled to collaborate with the Nisqually Tribe and look forward to being a part of the Lewis County community.  Our goal is to have both the camp and the environmental education center honor the history of the land while serving as national models of collaboration in both design and programming.”

The partnership will provide Nisqually Tribal members with expanded access to berries, roots, and other native plants for spiritual retreats and vision quests and will offer opportunities for game and bird hunting to fulfill cultural and traditional experiences. The Tribe plans to help build the next generation of stewards of this land by working directly with the YMCA to develop programming and curriculum for Tribal families and by providing the Tribe access to the camp’s facilities.

“We are excited to collaborate with the Seattle YMCA to purchase these lands to protect, restore, and teach future campers about Nisqually and our lands,” said Willie Frank III, Nisqually Tribal Council. “These lands are sacred to us and to have access again to this area for our traditional purposes is amazing.  We are also energized to partner with them to create a Native American program and environmental education center to share our ways and to protect mother earth for the seventh generation. We also recognize that the more people know about our natural world the more likely they are to protect it. Education is absolutely the key to our future.”

“We are committed to being both good stewards of the land and an asset to the local community,” said Yeadon. “We look forward to working with local officials and local residents to bring this center to fruition for the benefit of youth, families, and community.”

“Youth and families throughout Lewis County would benefit from this camp and from a community-focused organization such as the YMCA,” said Richard DeBolt, Executive Director of the Lewis County Economic Development Council (EDC). “It is encouraging to see new opportunities like this grow and take shape throughout Lewis County. The EDC is always focused on new ventures that improve the local quality of life, and we believe this project aligns with that goal,” he said.

“We look forward to watching this project take shape.”

Plans for further development and programming are in the early stages, but the YMCA hopes to offer backpacking and tent camping programs on site as early as the summer of 2022. Eventually, the camp is expected to include some permanent structures, such as a dining lodge, bathrooms, cabins, and staff housing. Full build-out of the camp and environmental education center is expected to take five-ten years.

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