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A group of children from the Minneapolis Public Schools participates in an activity in front of the Peter J. King Leadership Center. King was a businessman from North Oaks, Minn., who established a foundation dedicated to improving children’s health, education, welfare and family environment. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Randy Hanson)

New Camp St. Croix building shows environmental leadership

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The Peter J. King Leadership Center at YMCA Camp St. Croix was built to help inner city youth develop to their full potential.

And the building itself is demonstrating leadership.

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Recently, the U.S. Green Building Council certified it as a Gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building.

The 3,000-square-foot lodge and meeting facility earned the group’s second-highest level of certification because of its energy-saving features, preservation of natural resources, site placement, use of local contractors and materials, and indoor environmental quality.

“This is an environmental camp out here. We’re sensitive to that,” said Tom Madigan of Hudson, chair of Camp St. Croix’s Board of Directors and a civil engineer by profession.

Senior Program Director Amy Schneider and Camp Director Tom Kranz spent some time at the end of an interview last week checking to see how the framed certificate and engraved-glass LEED Gold Award would look on a wall of the building’s multipurpose room.

Schneider said an educational display that will explain to guests what a LEED Gold building is and how it protects the environment is still in the works.

Xcel Energy has given the camp a grant to create the display.

“We want to educate anyone who walks in the building on how all of this is sustainable,” Schneider said.

Leadership program

The building was constructed to support a program that brings more than 100 eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders from St. Paul and Minneapolis schools to the camp for leadership training.

The students, identified by their schools as having leadership characteristics, remain with the program for three years, attending sessions in the summer, fall and spring.

“It’s the King Leadership Program, and a lot of the urban kids think it is Martin Luther King. It’s a different King,” Kranz chuckled. “This guy is Caucasian.”

According to his obituary that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, King was born Peter J. Kalafatas. He apparently later changed his name to the more common one.

The fifth of six children, he grew up in Boston and graduated from Boston College. He rose to a senior officer of five companies during a career in finance and manufacturing management, and later formed a successful equipment leasing company.

When his King Capital company phased out of leasing, he vowed to donate the proceeds to charity and started the family foundation, now headed by his son Russell.

One of the foundation’s areas of interest is youth development. Over the last nine years, it has contributed $30,000 annually to support the King Leadership Program at Camp St. Croix. The program is run by Camp St. Croix staff.

A number of the participants have gone on to college and served as Camp St. Croix counselors in the summer. Six of them were counselors this past summer, according to Kranz.

They are youth who otherwise wouldn’t have any connection to the camp, Kranz noted.

The Peter J. King Family Foundation also focuses on helping provide “brick-and-mortar” facilities for communities and organizations whose activities are dedicated to improving children’s health, education, welfare and family environment.

Early on in the relationship with Camp St. Croix, foundation representatives told Kranz to let them know if the camp had any building projects in mind.

“Not many people say that,” Kranz observed with a smile.

When the camp proposed a building to house the leadership program, the King foundation committed to funding half the design and construction cost. The foundation provided close to $300,000 of the nearly $600,000 it cost to build the King Leadership Center.

Not just for youth

When not being used for the youth leadership program, the King building is available to businesses, schools, churches, nonprofits and other organizations for retreats and training sessions.

The 3,000-square-foot building has single beds for 24 people in two rows of interconnected bedrooms on the east and west sides.

The well-lit, south-facing multipurpose room has a screen and the latest in audiovisual equipment to allow groups to give presentations and connect to the Internet. The building has wireless WiFi Internet service.

The knotty pine woodwork, a large mock-stone fireplace and the south-facing Andersen windows add to the warmth of the room.

There are two restrooms and two shower rooms for guests.

The woodwork throughout the building is a semi-rustic varnished knotty pine.

Schneider said it was a balancing act to create a building sharp enough for a conference group to want to use, and yet maintain a camp atmosphere.

The design

Architect Michael Huber of Hudson designed the center.

One of its more unique features is the line in the tile floor of the multipurpose room showing true north and south, as well as east-west lines marking the farthest reach of sunlight from the summer solstice to the winter solstice.

Gavic Construction of Hudson was the general contractor.

Craig Tarr of Energy Concepts, Hudson, designed the solar thermal hot water system.

Steiner Plumbing, Heating and Electric of River Falls installed the solar panels and piping, along with the plumbing and the rest of the in-floor natural gas heating system.

“It doesn’t take much to heat this building,” Kranz said. It is super insulated, and doesn’t have an abundance of windows.

Andersen Corp. provided a grant to purchase the windows.

“Andersen has given us a lot of grants for a lot of buildings in here,” Kranz remarked. When the cabins were remodeled, new Andersen windows went in to replace Andersen windows from 1960.

The low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets reduce water usage. The porches and wide roof overhangs shade the building from the summer sun, eliminating the need for air conditioning.

The reason the LEED Gold certification is coming more than a year after the building was dedicated is that the U.S. Green Building Council requires a full year’s worth of meter readings to see that a building meets its energy reduction standards.

According to an application scorecard, the King Leadership Center improved its energy performance by 28 percent over the norm.

Capital campaign

The leadership center was the second major project of a Camp St. Croix capital campaign that has been ongoing for the past four years. The first project was the renovation of the camp’s dining hall.

Now the camp is looking to build a program center with seating for up to 250 people on its north Day Croix campus.

The center will provide shelter for summer day campers in bad weather and accommodate large banquets and meetings.

“We are looking to expand our convention and retreat business,” said Schneider. “There are groups that look for a place in the city to house retreats, conventions and business training conferences.”

The Day Croix program served more than 2,500 children last summer, including more than 1,000 from the St. Croix Valley and a significant number from the Hudson area.

Parents sign up their children, ages 4-15, for the Monday to Friday camps. Some enroll them for two or three weeks.

The youth participate in all the traditional camp activities -- swimming, canoeing and kayaking, horseback riding, arts and crafts, wall-climbing and more. The difference from overnight camp is that their parents drop them off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon.

Some campers ride buses from St. Paul, Woodbury, Stillwater, Afton and Lakeland.

Board chair

Madigan is in his first year as chair of the Camp St. Croix Board. He’s been a member of the board for about six years and served on the Buildings and Property Committee before that.

“Because it is for the kids,” he replied when asked why he has chosen to be involved with the camp.

He said he’s a believer in the camp’s goals of helping youth:

--Develop integrity, self-reliance and leadership skills;

--Build friendships that could last a lifetime;

--Enrich spirit, mind and body through challenging and fun activities;

--Gain an appreciation for the natural environment; and

--Experience a sense of community.

“It instills values that carry those kids through the rest of their lives,” Madigan said of the camp.

Camp St. Croix is located on County F on the south side of Hudson, near River Crest Elementary School. Call (715) 386-4380 to learn more about renting camp facilities. You can learn more about the camp at www.ymcatwincities.org.

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Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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