The January 16, 2013 Dearborn Patch article “City Council Approves Budget for Camp Dearborn” brought up many memories of the wonderful times I spent at Camp Dearborn. When I was a kid my parents rented a tent every summer for two weeks there, and in my teenage years, I was out there most summer weekends. In 1979, I bought a mobile home in TV3, and lived in it every summer through 1983, as well.
In the 1950-60 summers I remember dad waking the family up early to get ready for a Camp Dearborn picnic with family and friends, as he knew since Camp was so popular then, that if we did not arrive by 6:00am we might not find available picnic tables. Back then I believed every city had a city-owned campground. Later I learned that Dearborn is the only city in America that owns its own campground that is not within its city borders, which is still the case today.
When I had my mobile home in Camp from 1979-83 and someone would ask me what city I lived in, I would inform them that I lived 9 months of the year in Dearborn, and the summer in Milford in Oakland County. I always enjoyed telling others that, especially snobbish people.
Growing up in the original Rock & Roll era of Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and more, that music seemed to fit when we were cruising Camp Dearborn in our muscle cars. However, when we would drive by the beach and main Canteen, nothing fit better than a Beach Boy song. Friends and I would spend all day on the main beach tanning, swimming and mingling, and at night attend the Canteen dances.
I will always cherish those wonderful memories of Camp Dearborn.
Sadly though, in all my previous visits the past 10 years or so to Camp, there are few, if any people using the beach, few at the Canteen, and the picnic areas of the park are pretty deserted, which is why I hardly visit Camp Dearborn anymore.
This brings me to other issues about Camp that merits discussion.
With all due respect, to city leaders and our Dearborn Recreation Department, I never liked it when the city decided to take a large portion of Camp Dearborn and convert it into the 27-hole Mystic Creek Golf Course. Credible sources informed me that the reasons the city built the golf course in Camp Dearborn was that Oakland County had a shortage of golf courses, and Camp was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. The city hoped that the new golf course would help cover that deficit, and it did for a while.
However, since Total Golf, the company managing Camp has defaulted on their lease payments to the City of Dearborn for Camp Dearborn for quite some time, and because both the city and Total Golf found it difficult to continue to earn profits on the golf course, now the city has taken back management of Camp Dearborn. This default came at a very high cost to Dearborn taxpayers, which is explained in the following Dearborn Patch article link: http://dearborn.patch.com/articles/dearborn-council-approves-budget-for-camp-dearborn-golf-course
On November 1, 2012, the City of Dearborn utilized two municipal planning firms, which presented a feasibility study of suggestions as to how to bring Camp Dearborn up to date, and how to increase visitors and profitability, which is further explained in the following link.
The article suggests respecting the Camp’s heritage, but maybe considering a name change. How does changing the name respect the heritage is a question many are asking me. Nonetheless, in reality, this is all about a large corporate sponsorship, which could help fund improvements to Camp. While I do not relish the idea of changing Camp Dearborn’s name, perhaps calling it Camp Henry Ford may change some minds, and bring it wider appeal, since the report states that many do not know it is also open to non-residents.
What really amazes me about this report though is that the city needed a high dollar firm to tell us that the Camp needs volleyball nets on the beach, zip lines, a splash pad, and floating water toys, when the city could have obtained this information free from many residents who already knew that.
While I do agree with the feasibility study’s recommendations that the city should place restrictions on upgrades made to trailers and RV’s in Camp, the suggestion that would require trailers to move to a storage area in the off-season may cause problems. Especially since many of these trailer owners have invested thousands of dollars into cabanas and patios, and the expense of owners to remove them could be excessive. It could also result in many trailer owners simply moving their trailers out of Camp Dearborn, which would be a loss of crucial income for the Camp.
I also like the recommendation of selling 40 acres in the Camp for an outside developer to build homes, which may bring in millions of dollars that could fund the new recreational options suggested, and help renovate rundown areas of Camp.
My suggestion is that the city sells some land to developers for residences in the golf course area, eliminate the golf course, and reopen those areas to picnickers and bring back the wonderful Youth Camp, as well.
Either way, let us all hope that one day soon changes to Camp Dearborn help significantly increase its visitors, which will make it highly profitable, and make it as relevant to Dearborn as it was back in the days from 1948 when it opened to the late 1990’s.
Then many of us can again become regular visitors to Camp Dearborn.