YMCA Camp Duncan's Woods

Capital Campaign | Camp Duncan's Woods 

Duncan Campbell, prominent Portland business leader and advocate for at-risk youth in our community, had a vision: to serve the most disadvantaged and fragile youth of our community in an overnight resident camp. He imagined a setting away from the distractions and dangers of their local neighborhoods.

To this end, Duncan purchased 160 acres of land near Trillium Lake in the Mt. Hood National Forest—one of the largest privately owned properties in the Mt Hood National Forest—and for over two decades looked for the perfect partner to put his vision into action.

He found that perfect partner in the spring of 2016, when Duncan Campbell and the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette joined forces, with a shared vision, to develop and create a new overnight camp on that 160 acres of land.

The property value, estimated by Duncan and Cindy Campbell, is over $1,000,000, yet was sold to the YMCA for $150,000, and is now the catalyst to develop and grow a unique new camp property of the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette. With a vision to serve at least 50 percent of the camper population from at-risk or fragile backgrounds, this new camp will enable the Y to provide positive life-impacting experiences and development of new skills in a safe and welcoming outdoor space.

Traditional youth camp programs will be enhanced by the natural surroundings of Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake and may include activities such as multi-day backpack trips, mountain biking, a variety of water activities on Trillium Lake, eco studies, forestry, mountain climbing, wilderness survival, habitat restoration and more. The variety of activities will be endless and ever developing as program areas are created to meet the needs of our campers.

The new camp will have 200 beds, available year-round, making the site a perfect place to develop shoulder season programming around summer camp. Outdoor School, retreats and conferences are great examples of site uses from mid-April through the end of October, while summer camp is not in session. As development continues through later phases of the project, the addition of winter programming will include ski and snow board camps, snow mobile adventures, cross country skiing and snowshoeing trips. All of these additional offerings will serve more youth at risk and will create an added draw for families with limited means.

The YMCA of Columbia-Willamette vision remains the same: creating strong communities inspired through family, fitness, faith and fun. Serving youth through our vision and our Christian mission will change the lives of thousands of youth at risk, strengthening both their families and our communities here in Oregon, for years to come.

Capital Campaign Goal

The Need

Youth need the assistance and mentorship of caring adults. Oregon’s high school graduation rate is at 75 percent, and many kids struggle with a crumbling family structure and the challenges that often come from living in a single-parent home. There is a nature deficit disorder (a lack of time outdoors, in nature), and a loss of community in neighborhoods. The lure of gangs is taking over for kids who don’t have much guidance at home. Being in a gang appeals to an adolescent’s instinct for high drama, while providing a sense of belonging. Peer pressure and social media are creating new ways to bully and distract youth into making poor and/or dangerous decisions.

The Solution

Camping is a highly effective way to change the lives of youth, especially when that experience is coupled with well-trained, compassionate adults who demonstrate and teach our Y values of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service to these young people. The American Camping Association offers the following informative information:

The Case for Camp—Why Kids Need It Now More Than Ever

Change is a part of life. This is often directly related to survival and can enrich one's life in ways which are unexpected. When it comes to our children, we need to be sure that change is for the better. We often concentrate on the brain and as a result forget about the rest of our bodies. This has led to an unacceptable obesity rate. Our youth are not as healthy as the generation before. Families no longer engage in community. Kids spend more and more time inside in front of a screen and have lost a sense of neighborhood and community. Add to this the knowledge that our kids will inherit the economic, social and environmental challenges we've created. The legacy we leave our children and youth begins to look bleak.

A quality camp experience provides our children with the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development and healthy living—a meaningful, engaged and participatory environment.

Camp promotes community. It creates this great space that shows kids how to live together and care for one another. There are norms and negotiation of boundaries; there are rules. Camp is a place where kids can practice growing up, stretching their social, emotional, physical and cognitive muscles outside the context of their immediate family. This is what childhood should provide.

Camp teaches critical thinking. We need to remember how important it is to be actively involved in the learning process, and camp affords that. We need strong problem solvers in the next century. We need science, math and biology. But without the ability to relate, connect, empathize or inspire innovation, how will our kids be able to make a difference in the challenges now facing us?

Camp experiences embrace the natural environment. While children have fewer and fewer opportunities to be outdoors, the camp experience advances the outdoor learning environment. Kids need to catch tadpoles in the creek, wander among the trees and feel the sun on their faces to understand the importance of those things. What happens to a generation that grows up not seeing stars in the dark of night?

Camp creates future leaders, and camp is an equal opportunity life changer. Camping addresses universal childhood needs not specific to a particular racial, ethnic or socioeconomic group. Nobody is left out. Camp has a lasting impact. One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is a sense of success and achievement. Camp teaches children how to be active participants, ask questions, ask for help and try new things.

Phase One

At present the YMCA Camp Duncan’s Woods property is undeveloped. There is no water, sewage or electricity on the property. The YMCA has worked through the steps necessary to obtain a Conditional Use Permit. We estimate that it will cost about $1.5 million to begin operating the camp. Our goal is to begin operating in the summer of 2018, but no later than the summer of 2019. That investment of $1.5 million will get the YMCA started. With that funding, we will purchase program supplies and put in a well, septic system and fire suppression system. Our property enhancement will also provide portable restrooms and seasonal yurts for youth and adults and allow us to purchase the program equipment necessary to operate a camp. Phase one will include the development of a Master Plan for the entire property while moving lots of dirt and placing structures on our new site.

Your Support

This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to create a new Camp for at risk kids!

Our Mission

To put the Christian principles of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service into practice though programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

150 Years of Service in our Community

Since 1868, the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette has offered a diverse range of quality, affordable programs that help children thrive and grow, inspire young people to lead, bring families closer together and encourage individual health and wellness. The Y is a volunteer- driven charitable nonprofit. Everyone is welcome. Our programs provide safe, caring environments, positive role models and opportunities to serve the needs of others.

Contact Information

Bruce Patton
Vice President and Chief Development Officer
503.221.5342 | bpatton@ymcacw.org.