Financial struggles caused by last year’s devastating flood have forced Buffalo Mountain Camp to close, the camp’s Board of Directors announced Thursday, but leaders are hopeful a feasibility study will reveal a future for the facility.
“The way forward has proven to be a great challenge,” Chairman Paul Seay and Executive Director Jason Onks said in a letter posted on the organization’s website. “Continuing the limited operation while conducting the intensive recovery planning effort has been a huge economic challenge that cannot be sustained.
“In order to conduct this study with thoroughness and to be the best stewards of our limited resources, the Board of Directors has voted to close all operations beginning January 1, 2014, until a renewed operation is designed, developed and funded.”
On Aug. 5, 2012, the camp was among several locales throughout Washington County that were heavily damaged by massive flooding. Numerous houses in the Dry Creek area were destroyed, and downtown Johnson City streets and businesses were flooded.
Water and mudslides damaged Buffalo Mountain Camp’s infrastructure, trails and summer camp program space. The camp lost the use of its lodge, bathhouse, five cabins, office and lower trail.
“The Camp’s Board of Directors has been hard at work since the flood,” Seay and Onks said in the letter. “And the Camp’s staff has worked tirelessly. Through generous donations of many great supporters and some initial cleanup, Buffalo Mountain Camp was able to stabilize its base-camp area and continue its retreat ministry and general operations.”
The board plans to use a consulting firm to evaluate its new business model, conduct a market-research analysis and conduct a fund-development assessment.
“While this decision to close operations has been a painful one, we also move into this new phase of the journey with much hope,” Seay and Onks wrote. “The support and love for Buffalo Mountain Camp in the Johnson City and Kingsport Districts continues to be strong.
“Opportunities for the district campers continue to be explored through our sister camps: Camp Wesley Woods, Camp Dickenson and Camp Lookout.”
Onks said camp leaders didn’t want to spend money that’s already been donated irresponsibly.
“It came down to being good stewards of the money that’s been donated to clean up to the extent we were able to and maintain operations. We just couldn’t operate next year knowing we would be operating at a deficit. It was a very careful decision to make, but it’s really the right decision of the future of the camp,” Onks said in a phone interview late Thursday.
And there are still opportunities for volunteers to help.
“We’ll be inviting people to participate in this market research. It will be vital to get input from constituents and people who have been involved in camp in the past. That’s one thing people can do to help in the process. It’s sort of a stand by and we’ll be in touch with people,” Onks said.
Seay and Onks encouraged supporters to keep up with the ongoing work through the camp’s website and by clicking the “Like” button on its Facebook page.
“If there is hope, in the long run this is going to be best. We certainly hope folks can take from this that we are hopeful, the leadership is hopeful and we are looking forward to this next phase of the process,” Onks said.