Update on the Red Hook Campus
Over the last year the LAJF Board, Staff, and Volunteers have worked diligently to preserve our Camp at Red Hook and make the best use of it to further our mission. What follows is an update on what is being done to restore the property, the property tax-exempt status, the use of Red Hook by 2017 campers and the steps required to re-open Red Hook.
The property is being maintained with the efforts of Cameron Rylance, LAJF Facility Manager, and the help of very caring neighbors with expertise in property maintenance. The goal of maintenance is to prevent further decay, preserving options for an eventual reopening. The buildings have been secured, utilities have been turned off, and the landscape is being maintained by neighbor Mark Angelier. With guidance from Mark and neighbor Brian Willams, we have identified trees which need to be pruned or removed and small projects to prevent damage from the elements. The roof on ED Hall will be replaced in the next few weeks to prevent water damage.
The Old House porch roof was found to be structurally unsound and is being rebuilt. The gutters will be cleaned out and the trees flanking the porch will be removed. Droppings from the trees were clogging the gutters which over time caused water damage to the porch roof. Inside the Old House, we have decluttered removing unusable furniture and old mattresses. We have cleaned the Camper’s Lounge and the Green Room to preserve their historical archives and important Camp memorabilia. Cameron visits the property regularly to assure the safety and security of the buildings and to observe any damages or hazards. We thank our wonderful neighbors including Susan Hinkel, who keep a watchful eye while we cannot be there ourselves.
Tax Exempt Status
The Red Hook Property is currently exempted from Property Tax. In 2016, the property exemption was temporarily lost due to a missed filing which resulted in a payment of $55,030 by LAJF to the Town of Red Hook. LAJF is considering several approaches to recouping the lost funds. Moving forward, the property will remain exempt with timely annual filings with the town assessor and maintaining current use. For more information, click here. We researched the possibility of renting the Red Hook property to create a revenue stream. Unfortunately, our property exempt status limits us to rentals to other 501c3, not-for-profit organizations for exclusively our current use which is camping trips. Therefore, we cannot rent the buildings or outdoor facilities to individuals, for-profit corporations or business initiatives without risking the loss of exempt status.
Through an innovation initiated by the Program Committee, the Red Hook campus was used by the 2017 campers for overnight “wilderness camping trips.” Campers were dropped off in the international theater and sorted out luggage, preparing to head into the trails and fields, and creating camp-grounds by the fire-road and the new treehouse. Before heading out, the campers were taken on a tour of the main area, climbing up tent hill and peeking into ED hall and the Old house – even giving the assembly bell a good ring.
During the two days that the campers spent at Red Hook, they learned how to set up a campsite, discussed how to live waste-free in the wild, and further how the impact of waste and rubbish effects our environment and the free nature. During a fun Geo-caching game, the campers got to explore the entirety of the property, deciding where to hide tokens and objects for their fellow campers to search for using GPS-tracking and maps of the site – some groups are taken as far as New Cabin in the attempt to explore.
Many of the campers expressed a profound gratitude for having seen the Red Hook property and connecting with the history of Camp Rising Sun. They used the observatory to scout Long Field and took an afternoon rest in the Hogan in Gettysburg Field. As one camper expressed, it was a great realization that the Sawkill and its banks, of which we sing to welcome visitors, is the very same Sawkill that he had washed his dishes in during the wilderness trip.
Path to Reopening Red Hook
We are dedicated to the sustainability of LAJF and the longevity of Camp Rising Sun. There are specific financial targets that we must meet in order to return to a two camp program. First, we must get annual fundraising to $1.1m. This would allow us sufficient funds, when added to the allowable withdrawal from our investment portfolio, to meet the operating costs of two camps.
Once we reached that level of fundraising for two consecutive years we would then go through a design process to determine the combination of renovation and new construction required to restore safe and sustainable facilities at Red Hook. This would set the stage for a capital campaign to raise the funds required.
Our fiscal year ends in just over a week. We expect annual fundraising to total approximately $550k. While that’s a long way from $1.1m, it’s far more than was raised last year. There is a lot of work ahead but this is only the first year in the five-year strategic plan. This is a chance for us all to come together, and to rise to the challenge.