Former Covenant Camp Due for $4 Million Overhaul

Post a Comment » Written on January 15th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Rick Lund

DES MOINES, WA (January 15, 2008) – The buildings of Covenant Beach Bible Camp that provided so many lasting memories for generations of Evangelical Covenant Church members will be preserved for years to come.

Des Moines Beach Park is getting a $4 million overhaul, fueled in large part by its 2006 listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The quaint, 20-acre valley on beachfront property in Des Moines was the camping headquarters in the North Pacific Conference for 55 years.

Work already is under way on the dining hall, auditorium (the old tabernacle), picnic shelter (former Fireside/Auxiliary Hall, woodshop and canteen area), and Sun Home Lodge (the former women’s dormitory), which is pictured in the accompanying photograph.

The renovations, expected to be completed by 2009, are being funded by grants from the City of Des Moines, King County and the State of Washington. See Renovations for additional photographs of the camp areas.

LodgeThe North Pacific Conference sold Covenant Beach to the city in 1986 for $1.46 million. Proceeds from the transaction as well as the sale of Circle C Ranch near Leavenworth, Washington, and Driftwood Point, were used to purchase property and begin construction of the Cascades Camp and Conference Center near Yelm, Washington, which now serves the conference’s camping and conference center needs.

Former campers and city residents have a special place in their hearts for the property and its 630 feet of saltwater beach at the mouth of Des Moines Creek. “I run into people every day who remember going to Covenant Beach as a camp or a park,” said Patrice Thorell, parks, recreation and senior services director for the City of Des Moines. “The people in this community truly feel they have ownership of this park.”

Prior to the Covenant’s purchase of the property in 1931, the property that is now widely referred to as “The Birthplace of Des Moines” was a landing spot for Native Americans in canoes, the site of several sawmills, an orphanage, and a private park that included a dance hall.

Since the late 1980’s, the park has been used as a senior center and for day camps, public rentals and special community events. In 1988, the park was placed on the Washington State Register of Historic Places.

The park received its national designation in January 2006. A ceremony attended by Governor Christine Gregoire honoring that status was held three months later.

North Pacific Conference Covenanters who haven’t been to the park in many years will notice the swimming pool and bathhouse on the beach are long gone. Also missing are all but one of the “Roadside Cabins,” and all of the “Circle Cabins.” The old Fireside/Auxiliary Hall and restroom area next to the “canteen” is now a picnic shelter. Where several private cabins once ringed the narrow canyon, only the “Carlson Cabin” and “Caretaker’s Residence” remain. The entry road has been rerouted to the north side of the property. The old parking lot and tennis court have been turned into a large, grassy playfield.

All the remaining buildings are national landmarks, except for Founders Lodge (built in 1969) and the Caretakers Residence (built in the 1980s).

Key renovations include:
•    Dining Hall and Kaffe Stuga (built in 1934) – Damaged by flooding over the years, the focus of the $2.2 million project will be to build a new foundation and elevate the structure that straddles the creek so that it is above the 100-year flood plain.
•    Auditorium (1957) – In what Covenanters remember as the tabernacle, $1.1 million will go toward heating system upgrades and renovations to the interior and exterior, including the old “tilt-up doors.”
•    Sun Home Lodge (1934) – The $330,000 project at the former women’s dormitory will include building a new deck, stairs and other rehab work.

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