The 5-Cities Community Service Foundation has confirmed it is purchasing Camp Arroyo Grande after more than a year of uncertainty surrounding the 29-acre property.
The nonprofit will work with the city of Arroyo Grande to establish a plan for how the historic campground will be used, with the intention of the city eventually taking ownership, Foundation president J Johnson said Friday. The Foundation is the fundraising arm of the 5-Cities Men’s Club.
“Luckily, working with the city, we have the ability to do this,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can get it all squared away and keep it for the whole community.”
The group did not disclose how much the property was being purchased for. Escrow is expected to close in the coming days.
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The Arroyo Grande City Council will consider approving a partnership agreement with the Foundation at its meeting Sept. 26 and will take comment on what the community wants to see the campground used for.
The news comes after a roller coaster of a year for the campground, also known as the Arroyo Grande Methodist Camp.
The California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (Cal-Pac) put the property up for sale in mid-2016, kickstarting a grass-roots effort led by concerned members of the community to preserve the 132-year-old campground.
Arroyo Grande city officials applauded the new deal Friday, calling it a “huge benefit” to the community.
“It’s 29 acres immediately adjacent to the Village; it’s actually right in the middle of the city,” Community Development Director Teresa McClish said. “I think that’s extremely extraordinary in terms of an opportunity for the community to come together.”
City Manager Jim Bergman thanked the Foundation for its help preserving an important local landmark.
“These days, when you have a group of volunteers who are looking beyond themselves, and looking to pay back to their community, I think that’s another thing that is great for the community,” Bergman said. “I think it’s important we show that we have these shared resources, these shared commonalities and we want to act on that. Seems pretty exciting to me.”
According to interim Recreation Services Director Sheridan Bohlken, the property could be used in the future for things like youth camps, school-based learning experiences, retreats and conferences.
“The city of Arroyo Grande has that rural feel to it,” she said. “This property lends itself to offering that to our youth, as well as citizens of the community ... where they get to interact with each other in an outdoor atmosphere. So this property is ideal for that.”
Public Works Director Bill Robeson emphasized that whatever the city chooses to do with the property, it will have to be financially sustainable. This means establishing specific revenue streams, forming a business plan and potentially setting up an endowment, he said.
“It’s not just a money pit,” he said. “We’re going to go through the conceptual process, make sure all the design and uses on there are agreed upon, and then there is that business plan that is going to substantiate everything and make sure that it is something that is a real asset to the community, both financially and with the uses that come along with it.”