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City ready to take over Camp Arroya

The existing lease of Camp Arroya from the city of Mitchell to a nonprofit organization will not be renewed -- that's a certainty.

But there's still disagreement over what will happen after that. City officials say they'll assume control of the site, while the nonprofit group wants to negotiate a new lease.

Camp Arroya Inc. has voted to end the current 25-year, dollar-a-year lease for Camp Arroya, according to a letter presented Tuesday night to the Mitchell Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board.

Earlier this summer, the city board voted to recommend that the city not renew the lease, which is set to expire at the end of December. Board members, as well as other city officials, feel the camp is underutilized and would be better off under the city's control.

Camp Arroya Inc. will continue to operate the camp until the end of the year, the letter says.

"(Camp Arroya Inc.) wishes to develop a new agreement with the city to improve the camp with city water and sewer, road maintenance and insurance," the letter says.

Mayor Ken Tracy and Bob Everson, president of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board, both said that, as a result of Camp Arroya Inc.'s statements in the letter, the city will take control of Camp Arroya on Jan. 1 once the current lease expires.

"It will definitely be under city control," Everson said in an interview Wednesday.

Sherry Stilley, president of the volunteer board of directors for Camp Arroya Inc., said the nonprofit still wants to negotiate a new lease with the city.

"We agreed to end the current lease as a sign of willingness to work with the city," Stilley said in an interview Wednesday.

Stilley claims Camp Arroya Inc. needed to agree to end the lease; otherwise, the city would have had to renew it.

"The only way the lease can end is by mutual agreement," she said. "So, we mutually agreed to end the lease."

Camp Arroya Inc. would like to cooperate with the city and have a new lease drafted.

"We really want to work with the city to increase opportunities for youth," Stilley said.

Tracy said the city does not intend to enter into a new lease with Camp Arroya Inc., and Stilley is mistaken if she thinks otherwise.

"She seemed to think there would be a new lease drawn up," Tracy said in an interview Thursday. "I told her that is not going to be the case."

The Mitchell City Council discussed the soon-to-expire Camp Arroya lease at its last regular meeting on Aug. 5, and had planned to vote on the issue at a future meeting. Since Camp Arroya Inc. has now voted to end its current lease, as indicated in its letter, Camp Arroya will simply revert back to city control on Jan.1, Tracy said.

Camp Arroya may be put on the agenda for an upcoming council meeting, but Tracy does not think any action from the council will be necessary.

"If there is any change of heart from Camp Arroya Inc., they would have to notify the city," Tracy said.

Camp Arroya, tucked away on the northern shore of Lake Mitchell, is mostly obscured by trees and can hardly be seen by passersby on North Harmon Drive.

The 12-acre camp includes a main building, a picnic shelter, children's play areas, an open grassy area near the shore and nature trails.

Camp Arroya Inc. rents out the grounds to youth organizations, such as scouting groups or church groups, but anyone is able to rent the camp.

Stilley said Camp Arroya Inc.'s main concern is for the usage of the camp, and the preservation of its natural resources.

"We don't want to see the wildlife habitat destroyed," she said. "The community needs an alternative, more natural park."

According to Everson, the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board hopes Camp Arroya Inc.'s volunteers will still help oversee the camp after the lease expires. The group could work alongside city officials, like the Lake Mitchell Development Committee or Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association.

"It's nice to have their input and have them help with things," he said. "That's what we're looking at."