Camp Dearborn Could Prove Profitable for City

Once an expensive privilege for residents, the city searches for ways to make the Milford property a money-maker.

Though Camp Dearborn has closed for the season, discussion of and preparations for improvements to the camp continue–as does debate over the city’s spending on the property.

While city officials maintain that spending on the camp–which is located in Milford and has been owned by the city since opening in 1948–is necessary to bring it to profitability, residents have voiced concerns that the improvements are taking away funds from other recreation features in Dearborn, including neighborhood pools.

From Expensive to Profitable

From 2001-2005, the Dearborn Recreation Department borrowed approximately $250,000 per year from the city’s general fund to operate. However, during fiscal ears 2006-2010, the camp was break even or in the black by around $100,000 each year, explained Recreation Director Greg Orner.

As a result, around $750,000 of the $1.2 million borrowed from the city to operate the camp has been returned.

“Primarily, it’s been a revenue increase,” Orner said of the turn-around, adding that camp revenue has gone from around $1.3 million per year to $2 million at its highest point in the latter part of the last decade.

But increased revenues haven’t come without first investing in costly upgrades, such as RV sites that were added in recent years.

“I believe a significant part of that has been our RV site development that has allowed us to have revenues over expenditures,” Orner said.

While the RV sites are paid off, two more developments have been approved in recent months for the camp: On Aug. 8, City Council from one of the camp’s lakes at a cost of $71,330.65. Then, on Sept. 20, council approved a $314,712 subsidy at Camp Dearborn along with new playground equipment.

The new cabins will include self-contained campsites where campers can have their own lavatory as well as a shower all in their own facility. There will be eight of them built.

Like the RV sites, the Recreation Department is expected to repay the cost of the cabins and playground equipment over the next 5.6 years.

And the plans were not made without one goal in mind: to make Camp Dearborn profitable for the city.

Goals for the Future

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly has that he would gladly sell Camp Dearborn–if he wouldn’t receive “pennies on the dollar” for the property.

The city of Milford refuses to rezone the property, meaning that it could only be sold to a developer looking to use it for recreational purposes. Because of that, O’Reilly said, prospective buyers are zilch.

As such, the only other way to make money off of the property is to make it one that people–including residents and non-Dearborners–want to visit.

“If we can’t sell it,” O’Reilly said at the Oct. 3 City Council meeting, “it should become a revenue generator for the city.”

“Our job is to find things that will attract people to Camp Dearborn,” added Councilman Dave Bazzy. “(The resort-style cabins) look like they may be something that brings life into Camp Dearborn, and that’s the goal.

“It must be maintained as an asset or it will become a liability.”

The idea is to test the resort cabins, said Orner, to see if the demand is as high for them as the city hopes.

“It’s really attracting a different market to the camp and we think that, years in the future, this may be a direction that the camp wants to aggressively pursue,” Orner said. “But we really won’t know until we get out there and try it out.”

The hope, Orner added, is that once the funds for the cabins are paid off, Camp Dearborn could sustain its own future capital improvements–and eventually, possibly even subsidize other city services.

“It’s going to continue to put that property in the black and remain in the black and eventually, we hope, subsidize more recreation programs,” he said.

Future developments could include water park-like attractions, more biking trails, and possibly more cabins, depending on user demand.

And beyond making Camp Dearborn profitable, Councilwoman Nancy Hubbard–whose father Orville Hubbard first founded the camp during his time as mayor–said that improvements were also about keeping the premiere recreation spot open and vibrant for residents.

“A lot of people can’t afford to go any further than Camp Dearborn and it’s their own private camp,” she said. “They love it there … it’s their vacation time. It’s for the people. It always has been.”

The resort-style cabins are expected to be completed in time for the kickoff of the 2012 camping season, Orner said.

Phillip S Smith December 01, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Seems like the City is telling or not telling the truth on profits, Camp Dearborn does make a profit, and ensures all avenues are taken care of, ask the residents who have camp sites, the mere problem is not revenue, its how it is conducted. Most of the reduction of sorts is retirements and laying off people due to the current financial budget restraint of the City. Cutting cost it seems his hiring part-time help or students for less minimum wage then those employees, possibly interfering with the union scales. Camp Dearborn is a retirement or relaxation for those Dearborn residents or those outside of Dearborn, those outside of Dearborn pay more, then residents. Maybe this is one of the avenue that should be investigated on who is telling the truth. Camp Dearborn has always been profitable. They have tried to sell Camp Dearborn like they did of the TPC, now look at the grounds of the golf course. No TPC in Dearborn for years, that was a money maker. Phil Smith
Beth Hamilton Sundman December 01, 2011 at 03:25 PM
As a EFHS alum and the daughter of someone very active in Dearborn city events, I am also someone who spent 8 yrs as a camper at Youth Camp and then spent another 6 summers working at Youth Camp and wearing a variety of red, blue, and green shirts. I am sorely disappointed that there are no opportunities to send my kids to Youth Camp but, as I now live in NW Illinois, I would LOVE to bring my family out to Camp to a cabin to spend a week. Maybe marketing more to the segment like me, those that miss the "old" Camp Dearborn, get us to see it as a nostalgic "vacation destination" so to speak might help!
Dearborn Taxpayer December 01, 2011 at 05:34 PM
It appears the city's plans for Camp Dearborn are based largely on "hope." Hope for "high demand" of new sites, hope that the "funds for the cabins are paid off," hope that Camp Dearborn could "sustain it's own capital improvements and possibly even subsidize other city services," hope to "continue to put the property in the black and remain in the black," and hope for "future developments." This seems like a lot of hope but not many facts. The only fact mentioned is that the estimated pay back for the recent expenditures is 5.6 years. Anyone in the private sector will tell you that projects with over 5 year paybacks don't get funded! Lastly, Councilwoman Hubbard is so entrenched in government that she mistakes Camp Dearborn as "their own private camp" and "premiere recreation site" when it is clearly an out-of-date property subsidized by Dearborn Taxpayers. The harsh reality is that Camp Dearborn is an expense that Dearborn Taxpayers can no longer afford to fund and our city leadership continues to "hope" otherwise. Instead, they should look to transfer the property to the city of Milford, the Metro Parks system, or Oakland County Parks in order to get this "asset" off the city's books and Dearborn Taxpayers' wallets!
Christopher olind December 02, 2011 at 08:33 AM
Oh okay mayor Pudding pants the city of Milford won't rezone it. Well grow a pair of balls and tell them what to do. If it wasn't for camp Dearborn there would be no Milford. Oh it's our own private camp. BS we have our own private city pools right here in our community and your shutting them down. Cut camp Dearborn and the sill homecoming and worry about our own back yard you self absorbing turd!! LET'S GET RID OF OUT OUT OF TOUCH MAYOR IF IT WASN'T FOR HIS LAST NAME HE WOULD BE CHASING ABULANCES At OAKWOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Michael D. Albano December 02, 2011 at 03:21 PM
To add to the article, city leaders have stated that Milford "commissioners" refuse to rezone it from recreational only to multi-use residential, commercial and residential, and that is why the camp is hard to market for sale. Also, 2 of the 8 "Amish" cabins just approved have water, sewer hook-ups, thus restrooms, not all 8.
Dearborn Taxpayer December 02, 2011 at 05:22 PM
So, nearly $315K for 2 cabins with bathrooms? Those must be some pretty nice bathrooms... This is exactly why Dearborn Taxpayers need to push the mayor and Council for the facts on this. What exactly are we getting for our money when this money could be spent to keep the pools directly in our neighborhoods open for many years instead.
Frank Lee December 02, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Zoning is BS a simple lawsuit would take care of that, the mayor has never shied away from lawsuits when it benefitted his personal cause ie comcast, Wayne county airport, Terry jones,Christian missionaries etc etc. The zoning argument is completely bogus does not stand up to case law and only fools the idiots who serve on boards and commissions.
marooned in Dbn December 03, 2011 at 08:49 PM
I agree with Frank Lee. Zoneing...if abused is tantamount to tyranny. If a land owner cannot reasonably excersize ultimate control over his/her real property, then they are land-bound serfs. When did the city of Dbn. buy that land ? I'll bet it was in the first half of the previous century...at least. So the city of Dbn was there before that zoneing law in Milford. The city of Dbn should have had grandfathered special rights to sell this land or go to court to overturn the zoneing law , and another thought ... the city of Dbn was probably there before Milford was even incorporated. (a nice thought thrown FREE by me to the citie's Legal Dept.)
marooned in Dbn December 03, 2011 at 08:50 PM
marooned in Dbn December 03, 2011 at 08:55 PM
yes, referring to Dbn Taxpayer's comment below, that 315,000 bucks, if saved thru property sale could pay the salary of this over-stuffed Mayor for 3 years. Gee O'Reilly, think of the possibilities here.
Anthony Randazzo March 02, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Agreed !


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