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CAMP DEARBORN – THEN & NOW

Camp Dearborn Then and Now explains the past and present Camp Dearborn, along with options for it's future.

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.

http://www.pressandguide.com/articles/2012/11/08/news/doc509bf3a587294274043449.txt?viewmode=fullstory

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

NBC January 17, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Hey, didn't we meet 100 years ago during a dance @ the Canteen? Good times!
Michael D. Albano January 18, 2013 at 06:45 PM
Was that you? I guess that would make us both somewhere around 113-118. :)
edward binkley January 19, 2013 at 08:18 PM
i would like to meet with you some day think that you are a very good activist for the city and other important places of the city and have alot of ideas need to talk to you about a few i have and throw them past you.
Michael D. Albano January 19, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Thanks for the kind words Edward. I'll be at the signings for my and Colette Richards Dearborn City Council petitions on Feb 4, between 5:30-7pm at Park Place on Park Street south of Outer Drive. Why don't you come by there and we can talk some, and then perhaps talk more after the event is over.
John Hoffman January 21, 2013 at 05:30 AM
Nice article, Mike. I share your frustration with and disdain for needless consultants. Quite simply, government officials today are too eager to spend other people's money to absolve themselves of any potential blame for bad decisions.
Concerned Citizen January 21, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Mike, Nice article but a few points missed. Examples are "the city spends over $500,000 dollars for 8 cabins and the (4th) feasibility study suggests to add 16 more? Thus looking at over a million dollars for 16 more cabins? That ,by the way are only opened from Memorial Day through Labor Day? I'm no business-man but the ROI doesn't add up. Currently the city can brag about 80-90% fill of the "new Cabins" ONLY because it is a "thing" to do, so someone can have bragging rights. I dont see how the city can justify spending over a million dollars on 8 cabins and yet let the pools close. I enjoy both having the pools open and Camp Dearborn. I use to enjoy the Fireworks out at Camp but it became cost prohibited... So loose one night of Homcoming Fireworks and move them out to Camp. Charge people $10 a vehicle to come in and see if any businesses want to sponsor the firworks? There is a ton of ideas for make camp much more profitable, if the City would listen to the people. Besides I dont think it was the peoples idea to BUY a NEW CITY HALL. Guarenteed the cost of the new city hall plus the renovations will exceed the cost of repairing the original City Hall. Do not name the new City Hall the Oreilly building... Name the out house that!
Michael D. Albano January 21, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Edward, I erred on the time for the signings on Feb 4th. The event is between 5-6:30pm.
Michael D. Albano January 21, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Concerned Citizen, I agree with you on the cabins, but did not include them due to space limitations. But I have mentioned them in previous articles. I also agree with you that the pools should be saved, and Save Our Pools is a group I have worked with since it started, attempting to help save them. I was also critical of the new city hall in this Dearborn Press and Guide article, http://www.pressandguide.com/articles/2012/11/20/opinion/doc50aba66307390185246665.txt
Jodi Stone June 01, 2013 at 09:42 AM
Okay, you say then many of us can again become regular visitors to Camp Dearborn. Can I ask you an honest question? When was the last time you even went to Camp Dearborn? How many times have you been to Camp Dearborn?
Michael D. Albano June 01, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Jodi, as I stated in the article, I hardly go to Camp Dearborn anymore. I am a social person, so when there were plenty of people out there, I went. Now that hardly anyone is out there anymore, I probably go once every 2 years just to see if visitors are picking up, and to walk the entire Camp. My guess is that in my lifetime I've visited Camp thousands of times. Was there every weekend almost in my teen and early adult years, and lived there in my mobile home from 1979-83.
Annette July 25, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Michael, your last statement "I hardly go to Camp Dearborn anymore" is quite interesting since you seem to have a lot to say about Camp Dearborn. I am posting this as I sit around the campfire while at Camp Dearborn, with family and friends. My husbands family has been coming here since the 1950's and although its changed from the heydays, it's still a vibrant and much loved vacation experience for many families. Take some time to come and experience the joy of the kids doing crafts, hear the bakery cart driver as they call out "Donuts, bagels, bread" in the morning as kids run out with their change, and especially the canteen at night as everyone lines up to get their ice cream. There's also tie dye, gimp, the hay rides, and don't forget the talent show. Great times, has been, and still is...

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