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Haycock Camp witnesses fail to allay concerns over expansion plan


It was an evening of two halves at last week’s Haycock Camp expansion hearing in Springtown: a strong opening by the defense was undermined by later stumbles.

During the first hour, camp counsel largely succeeded in portraying the facility as a good steward of the environment. The first witness, Curt Eshelman, a certified forester based in Doylestown, testified he inspected the camp on two occasions in 2012 and 2018. He said he developed a forestry management plan with ministry personnel; contained in that was a wetlands protection plan. He also stated special consideration was given to native animals and plants as well as any potential runoff from Haycock Creek, which flows into Lake Nockamixon.

“There has been no adverse effect based on what we were doing in 2012 and 2018,” Eshelman said firmly.

He added any expansion would not affect the integrity of the forest surrounding the camp.

Counsel for the local opponents, Andrew Griffin, noted the forestry management plan lacked approval by the state and sought to portray Eshelman as anything but a neutral participant.

“Are you friendly with Dave Stiansen (camp executive director)?” Griffin inquired.

“I’m friendly with everyone,” the witness replied.

Eshelman acknowledged he has had a relationship with the camp since 2012 and has been an unpaid director since 2023. Under questioning by resident Harry Squares, the witness acknowledged he received a cut of the profit from the timber harvest but offered that he had donated what he earned back to the camp. He denied any cutting was conducted in the wetlands.

The defense’s second witness, Jeffrey Harris, an architect whose specialty is churches with large campuses, also confirmed close ties with the camp. A director there for six years, Harris said he developed the master expansion plan. He confirmed the number of campers would triple under the 30-year expansion to 598 a week compared to the current figure of 70 to 100.

But when pressed on the details of how many campers had resided at the camp in previous years, he had difficulty verifying his numbers and was unable to pinpoint sources for his charts. Harris defended the expansion, saying its purpose was not to accelerate growth but to accommodate growth.

Camp counsel John van Luvanee called up Stiansen, a previous witness. The executive director said the camper numbers were based on old minutes and the most recent were from online registrations. He also fueled opponents’ concerns that the camp had morphed into a year-round operation, by noting 67 paying guests in January 2023.

Reacting to the testimony, Carla Sessions, a prominent opponent of the expansion, said the witnesses were “a prime example of the camp’s failure to produce consistent, fact-based testimony. It made me even more determined to shine a light on the camp plans and make people aware of what they are actually doing, building a commercial enterprise which will destroy this rural community and surrounding nature while it lines their non-tax paying pockets.”

The camp expansion proposed would clear additional areas on the 184-acre site, adding office, recreational and residential buildings, another shooting range, as well as a sewage treatment facility and activity sites.

Springfield supervisors and those with party status will tour the property prior to April 9, when the hearing is scheduled to continue.

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