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Despite COVID-19, camping still goes on

By Staff | Aug 30, 2020

There are lots of activities for campers at Prairie River Camp near Bricelyn, as these photos from their website of past years camping show. This year the camp held three weeks worth of camps and was one of only about a dozen camps in Minnesota which operated overnight camping this past summer due to COVID.

While COVID-19 concerns shut down many activities this summer, one thing that managed to happen was summer camp at Prairie River Camp north of Bricelyn.

It was, however, a shortened version from previous years.

“We did have three weeks worth of summer camps,” new camp director Peter Coffey reports. “We had a one week Russian language camp, one week middle school camp and one week high school camp.”

In order to do that, Prairie River had to get permission from both the state and the county and furnish them with their plan for taking safety precautions for campers and staff.

“They were great to work with,” Coffey says of the state and county officials. “They wanted us to hold camp if we possibly could do it.”

Of course, on a normal year, the camp runs eight weeks of camps, so this was a much shorter season.

“We were one of just a dozen or so camps that managed to hold camp,” Coffey says. “Many were just shut down.”

The new director says they are also trying to host some other groups this year.

“The facilities are open to anyone to rent,” he explains. “They need to follow a set of guidelines that are in place for youth camps in the state.”

Churches and schools often rent the camp, and this year they have a women’s group coming in October, as well as several men’s groups from the Twin Cities that will come for a day of activities.

“We have three paint ball courses with all the equipment,” Coffey says. “We have a full high and low ropes courses available.”

The camp is often rented for family reunions, as there are six cabins and a lodge (like hotel rooms) available.

“We can host up to 120 folks on site,” Coffey says. “Or as few as 10, for day or overnight retreats, for planning, rest, restoring the body, mind and soul.

Prairie River Camp was founded in 2000 when it was purchased by the Youth for Christ organization.

“It was an Ag Adventure Camp for 5-10 years before that,” Coffey says. “Then they decided to go a different way and the property came up for sale and Youth for Christ purchased it in 2000 and held their first camp in 2001. They have held camp every year since.”

Including this one in 2020. But, Coffey admits this year camp had a totally different feel.

“You don’t always have to clean and sanitize a camp four times a day,” Coffey says with a smile. “We do always clean the camp areas twice a day, morning and night, but now added two more.”

He says it seems to have worked.

“We have checked with the campers and none of them reported any signs of illness or not feeling well,” Coffey says. “No sickness at all from anyone involved in the camp.”

The new camp director says that while there were not as many campers at Prairie River, the staff and volunteers have still kept busy with many projects and upgrades to the camp.

“We have added a coffee bar in the basement of the church, called ‘Cups of Faith,'” Coffey says. “Plus we are renovating the canteen, giving it more recreation activities in it. Plus we have a coffee bar there, as well, featuring some Italian sodas and snacks.”

They are also building a new sand volleyball area and an outdoor basketball court.

Coffey, and his wife, Sherry, came to Prairie River Camp from a town south of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

“We are really enjoying this area and working at the camp,” Coffey says. “We are really looking forward to having a full season next summer.”