FAQs about the Y and outdoor education at Mineral Lake

Please read through our frequently asked questions about the project. If your question isn’t addressed please use the contact us form.

What is the Y proposing to build on the Mineral Lake property?

The Y is proposing to create a new overnight camp and environmental education center on approximately 2,100 acres of forest land adjacent to Mineral Lake in rural Lewis County.

We expect the camp to include a dining lodge, cabins, staff housing, an environmental learning classroom, and program areas such as arts and crafts, swimming and canoeing, and archery. A majority of the acres of forest land will remain in its natural state. 

Why is the Y looking at the Mineral Lake property as the site of its next camp?

The Y’s two existing camps (Camp Orkila on Orcas Island and Camp Colman on the Key Peninsula) are full with waitlists. We want to get kids off of waitlists and into outdoor programs. As a large rural tract of land featuring a beautiful lake, the Mineral Lake site is the perfect location for the Y’s next location to serve youth and families. 

How big will the camp be?

The current plan is to protect the natural environment at Mineral Lake in the decades ahead by leaving the forest substantially intact and undeveloped.

When will the camp open?

The camp will open in phases, and we expect full build-out of the camp to take 5-10 years. We may begin with small groups of campers hiking and tent camping on site but more permanent structures such as a central lodge for dining and bathrooms will not be built until county approvals are obtained and camp infrastructure like a wastewater system is developed. Cabins for campers can be constructed over time.

How many campers would attend a typical camp session?

At full build-out, our largest camp sessions could include up to 400 campers and 100 staff. Other events and activities will be smaller.

Where will campers come from?

As at our other Y camps, campers, both youth and families, are expected to come from all over Washington state. This camp will be open to all. Membership in the Y is not required to participate in camp programs.

Will local youth and families be able to attend camp?

We welcome conversations with local families to understand how this camp can serve local youth. Some options include holding spots in summer camp for local youth, partnering with local schools to provide environmental education experiences, and offering summer day camps for local youth. We are also interested in partnering with local organizations to provide events for the local community at large. YMCA camp attendance is not limited to members of the Y. All are welcome.

Will the camp operate year-round?

Once permanent camp facilities are constructed, there will be family camp events and environmental education programs scheduled throughout the year, but the predominant use of the camp will remain in the summer months.

How much will it cost to attend camp there?

It’s too early to tell what the camp’s rates will be. However, the YMCA is committed to making camp experiences available to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstance. In 2019, 1 in 5 youth received financial aid for summer camp at Camp Orkila and Camp Colman, and 1 in 3 youth received financial assistance for our teen outdoor leadership programs. We are planning to raise funds that will allow a similar level of scholarships at our new camp. We will work with local families to ensure that youth can attend camp at whatever price works for each family.

What is an environmental learning center?

In the non-summer months, the overnight camp facilities will be primarily used to provide environmental education to school groups in keeping with the state mandate of outdoor education for all. This will not require additional buildings – we will use the same facilities that we use in summer, including the environmental learning classroom. We will develop programs using the site’s natural features to educate youth about topics such as responsible forest management and freshwater ecosystems. The Y places a high value on helping young people develop a deep love and respect for the outdoors.

What kinds of activities are planned at the camp?

As at Camp Colman and Camp Orkila, Mineral Lake will offer traditional camp activities, such as arts and crafts, swimming, canoeing, archery, evening campfires, climbing and hiking.

Are other activities planned for the property?

The Y will be working with the Nisqually Tribe to provide tribal members with access to the land for cultural and traditional uses and to develop joint programming for Native and Non-Native youth.

Will you allow motorized vehicles, such as ATVs and dirt bikes, on the property or motorized watercraft on the lake itself?

No, and we do not allow their use on our other YMCA camp properties, either. Beyond designated parking areas, the only vehicles allowed onto the undeveloped property will be as needed for maintenance. Y campers will not use motorized boats on the lake, but there may be one motorized boat available for staff to operate as needed for safety and maintenance.

Will the property be accessible by local residents?

In addition to ensuring that local youth and families have the opportunity to participate in programs offered at the Y camp on Mineral Lake, we are open to exploring what additional access and activities on the remainder of the property would benefit the local community while balancing the Y’s need to provide a safe and secure environment for youth campers.

How many people will the camp employ?

When fully built, we will have up to 100 staff working on site during summer in positions such as food service, facility maintenance, and camper supervision. A smaller workforce of 5-25 staff will be onsite for the remaining months of the year as needed for programming, facility upkeep, and security. Additionally, we will seek local contractors to develop the site over the next 10 years and provide ongoing services as needed.

Will the property be removed from the Lewis County tax rolls if it is owned by a non-profit like the Y?

The YMCA currently does not intend to apply for a property tax exemption based on its non-profit status at this time. As a result, we will be paying property taxes on the land we acquire. Additionally, because we will continue to maintain the site as a working forest, we also will continue to pay timber taxes on revenue from timber sales.

How will fire protection and other services be provided to ensure the safety of campers and staff?

Every Y camp has a detailed emergency response plan. Before operating with campers, we will develop a plan for this site that includes evacuation procedures, shelter-in-place procedures, procedures for inclement weather and fire, and more. We not only train our staff extensively on these procedures, but we also will work with local officials to ensure that these plans work in coordination with and add to the services available in the county.

What kind of safety personnel will you have on site?

All staff are required to have CPR and First Aid certifications. All staff working at the waterfront are required to have additional lifeguard certifications. These trainings (CPR, First Aid, and Lifeguard Certification) will be offered on site and can be made available to other members of the community if there is interest. In addition, camps must have a more qualified medical professional on site, such as a registered nurse or doctor. When we offer backpacking experiences, we will also have staff who have participated in Wilderness First Responder training. We encourage staff to pursue EMT and fire-fighting certifications and to participate in local volunteer fire fighting.

What is the approval process for the camp proposal?

Lewis County planning officials and the county commissioners are currently reviewing the Y’s plan to create a new outdoor camp for youth and families at Mineral Lake. In March, Lewis County issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) regarding the YMCA’s plan. The MDNS means the county has concluded that, with appropriate mitigation steps, the camp can be created without a significant environmental impact on the lake or its surrounding environment. Issuance of the MDNS is one of the first steps in a detailed review process that our plans will undergo.

What are the opportunities for public input on your proposal?

In addition to the voluntary meetings the Y has already held, Lewis County will be holding official public hearings on the project as part of the review process on our proposal. The county is responsible for scheduling these meetings and informing the public when they will be held, which we understand to be in the latter half of 2022.

What experience does the YMCA have with camps in Washington?

The YMCA of Greater Seattle currently operates two camps in western Washington: 

  • Camp Orkila: Located on Orcas Island, Camp Orkila is the Y’s oldest camp, having been founded in 1906. At approximately 280 acres, it is a significantly larger facility than what is being proposed at Mineral Lake. Orkila serves approximately 500 campers and 200 staff per week during summer sessions. 
  • Camp Colman: Located on the Key Peninsula is also over 100 years old. It serves approximately 200 campers annually with approximately 50 staff at full capacity during summer sessions. Many of the water activities at Camp Colman, such as swimming, canoeing, and kayaking, will be offered to campers at Mineral Lake. The camp is currently undergoing master planning for a major renovation as part of the state’s large-scale restoration of historical tidal channels and fish passage.
How will the YMCA serve the community of Mineral Lake and Lewis County?

While local community usage varies from camp to camp, here are just a few examples of how current YMCA facilities are being used: 

  • Providing outdoor education opportunities for local schools 
  • Offering swim lessons for local youth 
  • Hosting first-aid and CPR classes to local community 
  • Offering use of the lodge/dining hall for community events, dinners and celebrations 
  • Fostering partnerships with local food banks to use commercial kitchen facilities 
What impact will the camp have on the community? Traffic, waste, etc.?

This is one of the questions where more detailed answers will be developed and presented to the community, the Planning Commission, and the County Commission in the binding site plan for the project. Studies will be conducted on a number of these issues and their results shared as part of the project site plan application. 

For now, we can say that we take our role as a good neighbor to nearby communities seriously. With that in mind, we provide shuttle services that deliver most campers and staff to the camp to reduce the traffic impacts of single- occupancy vehicle trips. Overnight youth camps are limited to participating counselors, staff and campers (without their parents or families). Our camps have on-site wastewater septic systems for processing waste, and we work hard to maximize composting and recycling while reducing trash generated at the camp. We contract with local refuse haulers to pick up recycling and trash on a regular schedule. 

The project site plan application will include detailed plans for emergency services, including fire prevention and emergency medical response, in terms of both site access and service providers. We have made provisions for a consulting firm, Modern Volunteer Fire Services, to begin discussions with Lewis County Fire District #9 on some of these issues and we appreciate the department’s engagement. It is also worth noting that staff in many of the facilities listed serve as volunteers in local fire departments, emergency response, and search-and-rescue teams. We anticipate that the staff at Mineral Lake would become similarly involved in local activities. 

Finally, we will soon begin outreach to other local resources, such as EMT services and hospitals, and we will share the results of that outreach with the public during the project site application process. It is also worth noting that, once the camp is operating, we intend to pursue accreditation from the American Camping Association, which identifies best practices for camps and related facilities, including engagement with local community safety agencies and providers. Our other two camps have earned this accreditation.  

What are the YMCA’s hiring practices and where will employees will be coming from?

There are two types of job creation and employment that will occur as the camp is constructed and begins operations over the coming years. The YMCA will be hiring staff (counselors, lifeguards, cooks, maintenance personnel, and others) required to operate the camp. As we do at our other camps, we expect to hire from the local area, the greater Puget Sound region, and beyond as necessary to fill these positions with qualified individuals. Most of the operational staff are hired for the peak summer camping season, while a much smaller group remain living and working at the camp location year-round with school outdoor environmental education, family camps, and community events. 

Additionally, during the development of the camp, individuals will be hired to prepare the small portion of the site that will be taken up by the camp, develop the necessary infrastructure, and build camp facilities. While the individuals hired to perform this work will not be hired directly by the Y, we will encourage our contractors to look for opportunities to hire Lewis County residents and businesses to perform this work when possible.

What is the Nisqually Tribe’s involvement?

The Nisqually Tribe has donated financial support that has been important in allowing the Y to move forward on the project. The Y is the owner of the property and will be responsible for the creation and operation of the proposed camp facility. The Nisqually Tribe will have access to the land for historic, cultural, and education purposes during agreed upon times of the year, and we have negotiated an easement to provide them with this access. This easement is in the process of being submitted to Lewis County for recording. We also plan to work with the Tribe to develop joint programming for native and non-native youth and families. 

Will the camp be open to the wider community? What approximate percentage of the year?

The Y is committed to being a good neighbor to the Lewis County community and especially to the residents of Mineral. Local children and families are welcome and encouraged to attend camp. As with all our camp programs, financial supports will be made available to ensure that family resources do not preclude local youth from participating. 

Additionally, as discussed in the first question, we anticipate there will be opportunities for the community to access the camp and the property, and we look forward to working out the details for that access as the permitting process moves forward. 

What is the anticipated timeline for construction?

There are many factors that will drive the timeline for construction, with two of the most significant being the Lewis County permit review and approval process and the success of the Y’s fundraising to support the project. We believe that it will be a gradual construction process taking 5-10 years to complete the camp.