MERRIFIELD - A medieval castle, complete with rooks, flags, catapults and a courtyard, is under construction amidst a fortress of trees at the Parker Scout Camp north of Merrifield.
The camp is not preparing for royalty, but rather a group important to Boy Scout leaders - children.
Construction for the $1.7 million, 600,000 square foot castle began in mid-June and is expected to be completed in the fall. The castle is the starting point in a three-phase expansion and improvement project at the Parker Scout Camp.
David Trehey, the executive director for the Central Minnesota Boy Scout Council, said that the 300-acre camp started in 1941, but stopped functioning in the mid-1970s as a Boy Scout summer resident camp. It continued to be used as a Cub Scout camp.
This summer at the Parker Scout Reservation construction is underway to build the Jim and Marion Miller Castle, a 600,000 square foot medieval castle that will serve as one of the themes for weekend camps. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
After touring about four Cub Scout camps around the Midwest, the group decided to redesign the camp with five different themes so that children would come five years and experience something new each time.
"If we keep kids five years," Trehey said of involving children in Scout programs, "studies show that the values and things we teach them, after five years, have made a profound impact. They sink in."
The medieval times castle is the first theme to be built, and it will be followed by a wilderness fort, Flintlock village, Indian village and a "Nature's Wonders" theme that will be built when funds are raised.
"We're not blazing new territory," Trehey said. "But we are improving what we've seen."
While the camp mainly hosts first- through fifth-grade boys, other groups also use the facility, including YMCA, girls and church groups. Most camps are run Friday through Sunday.
Trehey said that because the castle and fort will be four-season facilities, he hopes they will be filled each weekend. "Once you build it, you want it to be used as much as it can," he said.
Activities will be key in defining each theme. Trehey listed many ideas, including a metal-working craft for the castle, leather-working or blacksmith crafts for the Flintlock tent city and huts for the Native American village. "Who knows where it goes," he said. "We'll develop every year and gain activities."
The castle and fort will be bunk camping, as Trehey calls it, and the other three themes will be outdoor wilderness camping.
Trehey said parent reactions are mixed. "Some think this is going to be so fun," he said. "And some think latrines are a luxury ... and that this isn't necessary. ... We could play hardball and not improve this place, but we'd be the only people up here."
"We'll meet them halfway," he said. The bunk camping will allow those not ready to camp outdoors a transition period. The wilderness camping, though, will give an outdoor experience.
David Trehey, executive director for the Central Minnesota Boy Scout Council, talked this week about the Parker Scout Reservation's goal to create five themes that would spur Boy Scouts to return for five years. The medieval castle in the background is the first theme to be built. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The castle's bunkhouse can house up to 32 children and 16 adults. For safety, a storm shelter was built into the castle basement.
The castle is named after Jim and Marion Miller of the St. Cloud area, who donated the leading gift of $400,000.
The majority of funding for the first phase came from the St. Cloud area. For the second phase, Trehey said he wants to reach out to other communities for contributions. "I'm hoping that the Brainerd lakes area becomes a player in the next phase of the program," he said.
Trehey expects the second phase, which includes the construction of the remaining four themes, to cost about $1 million. The third phase will involve smaller improvements around the camp and is expected to cost about $500,000.
Donations may be made by calling Trehey at (320) 251-3930 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMY FREDMAN may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5866.
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