When you recall your favorite childhood memories, do you think of summer camp? That magical experience is no longer just for kids.
Just three miles north of Cedaredge, on the east side of Highway 65, you'll find Camp Cedaredge. An imposing log archway opens onto an amazing compound with facilities and activities to accommodate family reunions, church retreats and youth camps.
The 65-acre campus includes a chapel, dormitory, cafeteria, snack bar and more. Activities encompass archery, a high ropes course, zip line, miniature golf, inflatables, splash pad, game room, a playground and volleyball and basketball courts.
The cafeteria seats around 360 and can be used as an indoor gym when the tables and chairs are put away. The spacious chapel will hold 400 people. The two-story dormitory has four wings, each of which will accommodate 90 campers.
The camp, which has been operated by the Rocky Mountain Ministries Network for about 50 years, has gradually developed over the years. But since Lee and Renae Terry arrived on the scene about five years ago, the pace of development has quickened.
The Terrys have been involved in youth ministry for much of their lives and were camp visitors for many years before taking over management of Camp Cedaredge.
While the camp is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the facilities can be used by anyone. In fact, use by non-religious groups accounts for much of the camp's growing popularity. Residence advisors from Colorado Mesa University come to Camp Cedaredge for team-building activities, and students from Montrose and Grand Junction build confidence on the high ropes course. HopeWest helps grieving children and teens develop coping tools at Camp Good Grief! Sessions on water quality sampling techniques and stream ecology were the focus of training for Colorado River Watch volunteers the last week of July. "The cafeteria looked like a science lab," Renae Terry said.
Flexibility is the key when facilitating large groups, Renae said. Camp Cedaredge can lead activities and host workshops, or leave all the planning to the sponsoring organization. Some groups incorporate off-campus activities such as fishing or ATV trips on Grand Mesa.
The previous week, 40 kids with physical challenges gathered for Camp Freedom, sponsored by Colorado Discover Ability. This was a first-time visit for Colorado Discover Ability and the therapists, nurses, doctors and caretakers who accompany the disabled children. All were impressed by the variety of activities provided over the three-day period.
"We're fortunate to work with organizations that give back to people's lives," Renae said of groups like Colorado Discover Ability and HopeWest. "At every camp you see leaders pouring themselves into other people. They're so selfless; you can see lives changed. That really makes us continue to want to grow this place."
Renae said Camp Cedaredge is financially self-supporting, so every penny made can be put back into amenities that will make the camp more appealing. Most recent additions include the splash pad and the mini golf course. Currently, they're working on a second entrance, and in the future Renae would like to take advantage of the topography to put in a pond for swimming and kayaking.
"We've been really blessed because the past five years we've been able to pour money into the camp," Renae said.
The camp is run with very little paid staff, thanks to an internship program that draws about a dozen volunteers ages 18-28 every summer. They handle building maintenance, clean the facilities, operate the snack shop and help out in the kitchen. They're trained to run the ropes course and certified as instructors through the National Archery in the Schools Program.
"The interns work hard," Renae said. "We couldn't do it without them."
This year's group of interns comes from Colorado, Utah, Missouri and North Carolina. Two are full-time students, one is studying to be a youth pastor and some aren't sure what they want to do with their lives.
"We teach them serving people is what it's all about. We try to make the face of camp a positive one."
Two families also came to Camp Cedaredge through the internship program. One homeschools; the other will be enrolling two girls at Cedaredge Middle School this fall.
"We operate like a family," Renae said. "We eat our meals together, have birthday parties and take the interns out on our boat. We work hard and play hard."
Camp Cedaredge is open year-round, but no events are scheduled in November and December. Those months are set aside for projects -- and with a 65-acre campus, multiple buildings and outdoor recreational facilities, there's never a shortage of those.
Paonia Elementary School second grade teacher Jodi Simpson is passionate about pedagogy. She understands that the important things kids learn in school isn't accomplished through testing, but by experiencing life and all its wonders.