Groundbreaking for a new youth camp facility near the Jamestown Reservoir could come this fall, said Mark Watne, president of North Dakota Farmers Union, which is planning the camp.

"That's the intent," he said. "We've signed all the agreements, done the environmental impact study and are working to get the contractors in place."

The camp would include a state-of-the-art lodge with an indoor gymnasium, STEM classroom, game room and co-op store, in addition to a dormitory building, storage garage, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, softball field and other features, Watne said.

The facility would offer camping experiences for up to 130 youths in about nine sessions through the summer. This, coupled with a Farmers Union youth camp at Lake Tschida in western North Dakota, is part of an effort by the group to increase its capacity to offer camping experiences.

"We had about 1,200 (young people attend) last year," Watne said. "The demand for the camps is going through the roof."

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This year, Farmers Union has reduced the number of people attending each of its camps by about 50% to allow for social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dave Schwartz, Stutsman County commissioner, called the project a win-win for the community.

"It will be built on what will be county property when the transfer goes through," he said. "The county supported the plan because it is seen as a big plus for the entire area. It complements the facilities that are out there."

Federal legislation passed in 2019 authorized ownership of the land around the Jamestown Reservoir be transferred from the Bureau of Reclamation to Stutsman County. The legal processes of surveying and appraising the property are still ongoing in preparation for that transfer.

The 19 acres of land the project will utilize will be leased from Stutsman County. The structures of the camp would not be subject to property tax because institutions of learning not used for profit are not subject to property tax, according to Tyler Perleberg, Stutsman County director of tax equalization.

Watne said the summer camp experiences offered through its programs should be part of the educational process for students in community leadership.

"It is so important we develop our kids into leadership roles," he said. "... we think this is one of the better investments we can make in our youth."

Groundbreaking could occur in September with the intent of the project to have the facility usable in June 2021 for campers. In April, when the project was first announced, Watne estimated costs between $3 million and $4 million. He declined Wednesday to update those costs.

Watne said the organization would be reaching out to its members and other community people for sponsorships.

"We’re hoping some will want to partner on specific elements of this facility, in terms of naming rights and donations, to give the next generation of campers an unforgettable experience," he said.