Resort and Camp Craze infiltrates Teller County

Commissioners Approve Expansions of Knights of the Heroes and Colorado Lions Camps

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Teller County, with its scenic beauty and abundance of hiking trails and outdoor amenities, is becoming a growing hub for retreat resorts and camps, whether for military families, special needs children/adults and more.

Only now, with the demand for these facilities, camps are expanding and must obtain more approvals from county regulators. Gone are the old days when these facilities could operate under a hand shake deal system and by a pat on the back. Regulations and health standards for camps have increased, as part of the county’s land use code. For example, the county now has official enforceable rules for camping and temporary housing.

Likewise, more enforceable rules are in in store for outdoor resort retreat areas, which are quite popular in certain unincorporated areas of the county.

In the last few weeks, the Teller County commissioners addressed requests for two growing camp endeavors. These dealt with Knights of the Heroes camp on Gold Camp Road near Victor and the Colorado Lions Foundation facility outside Woodland Park off Hwy. 67.

In both cases, the commissioners praised the proponents of these endeavors and signaled the green light with no delays. After all, both project requests involved no new development, but mainly dealt with an increase in usage of their current facilities.

The elected leaders admitted they had trouble separating their role as commissioners from their desire to champion these noble causes. Luckily, they didn’t have to play the bad guy role, as both the Knights of the Heroes and Colorado Lions Foundation expansion bids passed with flying colors. Plus, no nearby neighbors or landowners nearby opposed these requests.

These approvals could become part of a growing trend, as many operators of camp facilities try to get their mini-resorts up to par in meeting current regulations. Many old facilities are grand-fathered in, but if they expand or want to alter their permits, they must meet certain standards.

As a result, these special use resort requests could occur more frequently, with the Centennial Building in Cripple Creek (where commissioner meetings are held) turning into camp day on certain occasions. Here is a synopsis of the latest resort expansion bids.

Knights of Heroes Foundation

Proposed by Steve Harrold on June 13, this project encompasses a 115-acre camp area on Gold Camp Road.

It was originally designed to serve “Gold Star Children,” meaning kid survivors of a mom or dad killed in combat.  But under their new plans, the camp resort would be increased to meet the needs of children of fallen firefighters and police officers and emergency medical service folks, and address a growing problem with certain foster children.

The camp proponents also wanted to up the amount of weekends their facility is used by six weekends.

During an emotional presentation, Harrold stressed the booming success of the camp and the growing need for their mission. He reiterated that no big changes would occur and that they are serving kids who are really hurting.

According to Harrold, surviving kids of first responders and law officers are often forgotten and they often experienced as many problems as military survivors.

This request received much support from county planner Dan Williams, who is involved himself in many veteran-oriented tributes. “The focus of the camp will remain consistent with what it has been for the past three years, character development and confidence building events, high and low ropes, mountain biking, archery hiking etc. There is no request or intention to include any additional shooting events in order to minimize any impact to adjacent property  owners….Finally no further development of any structures or buildings is requested or contemplated as part of this request,” stated Williams in his staff report.

The planner also stressed that the county has experienced no compliance issues over the last few years.

Other than posing a few minor questions on how food is handled at the facility, the commissioners gave the camp expansion request a huge thumbs-up.

Colorado Lions Foundation

In a similar action, the commissioners found themselves last Thursday dealing with an expansion of sorts for the Colorado Lions Camp on Hwy. 67 near Woodland Park.

The 40-acre camp, which is celebrating its 50th-year anniversary, mainly handles the needs of children and adults with disabilities and special needs. They offer nine week-long summer residential camp sessions, with approximately 40 people attending each session. The facility offers a bevy of outdoor and therapeutic activities, such as horseback riding, miniature golf, hiking, fishing, ropes courses, drama plays, and much more.

But to offset the expenses for these programs, they want to use their facility more for rentals, wedding receptions and such.

Like the proposal for the Knights of Heroes Foundation, no new development would occur. Once again, Williams heavily supported the request and lauded the Colorado Lions Foundation for working with the county to bring their facility, and their bid for increased usage into compliance with Teller rules. “This request is to ensure that all camp activities are properly reviewed by the county,” said Williams. “No new development is requested.”

In a presentation, Jodi Franke-Young, the executive director of the Lions Foundation Camp, stressed the benefits the camp provides, and that they operate under the philosophy of  not turning anyone away. “The need is definitely there,” said Franke-Young.

But she noted that many of their  expenses, per camper, are not compensated for, giving them an annual gap of a little more than $111,000 a year to cover. She also noted the costs associated with providing top quality care for their campers, comprised of all ages, is quite high. “It is a very medically fragile population,” said the director.

As a result, Franke-Young advocated the push to open their facility up more for non-traditional uses, such as weddings and retreats for other groups as an additional revenue source.

The commissioners granted the request with no major concerns. The only questions asked dealt with their facility serving as a tough challenge for some campers and retreat-goers who aren’t accustomed to the altitude.

The director agreed, but said they are fully prepared for these occasions. “We are overly safe with our procedures,” said Franke-Young. “The mountains can be brutal.”