Get our newsletters

Something for both sides in Haycock Ministries Christian camp ruling in Springfield

Expansion goes through. Pleased with restrictions, opponents vow to remain vigilant


Springfield supervisors have pulled off the seemingly impossible: they managed to satisfy both sides in the contentious Haycock Ministries camp expansion debate.

While board members approved the 30-year development, which includes additional recreational, residential and office buildings on the 184-acre site off Route 412, they heeded neighbors’ noise and traffic concerns and imposed the following conditions:

• Campers will be dropped off and picked up at an undisclosed location and then shuttled to the campsite to reduce traffic on the narrow roads surrounding the camp.

• Camp administration will be required to submit a traffic impact study should there be any increase in campers and provide a traffic control officer at the entrance to the camp during the peak summer months.

• Addressing the steady stream of noise complaints, supervisors limited the property to one indoor shooting range and one outdoor shooting range and restricted their hours to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

• The existing outdoor handgun and rifle range shall be abandoned and studied for possible lead contamination.

• The ruling also blocks amplified music at a level that is in violation of the township zoning ordinance.

• In other major wins for opponents, supervisors limited camp operations to between March and November, capped maximum occupancy at 600 people, which includes staff members.

• The camp will also be required to respond to any written complaints within 10 days and furnish correspondence to the township.

• The Christian camp must also provide an emergency management plan to the township and implement an odor mitigation plan to address the smell from its on-lot sewage system. The camp will be required to allow for an annual inspection of the site.

• In one of the few environmental restrictions, the camp will have to apply to the township for a forestry permit and supply the township evidence of a state-approved forestry management plan. Crucially, during each phase of development the applicant must obtain approval from the DEP.

Reacting to the decision, prominent opponent Carla Sessions said she was gratified.

“Pretty much they hit every concern that we had,” she said.

Sessions lamented that some environmental issues were skimmed over but lauded the restrictions on the shooting ranges.

“They were looking to expand to four gun ranges, and the time limit is a win for us because the gunfire was at all hours into the night,” she said.

Asked how confident she was that the camp would adhere to all the conditions, Sessions expressed doubt.

“I don’t have faith in the camp, but I have faith in the township that it’s making an effort to put some guardrails on the camp,” she said. “And there’s always appeal.”

“Two hundred neighbors or more are going to be watching them and filing those complaints,” she continued. “It’s not going to be like it was before when we were trying to be good neighbors and tolerant.”

Out in the parking lot, expansion proponents Linda Wenhold and Brenda Hendricks expressed general satisfaction with the 3-1 decision but were disappointed that the facilities would be limited to camp attendees, thus excluding local youth and family groups.

Supporters maintain the site is a vital part of the Palisades community, providing facilities and services not available elsewhere in the largely rural district.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.