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Camp St. Croix at 100 still growing new ideas

John Marnell, the current chairman of the board of directors of Camp St. Croix, planted a seed earlier this spring that has taken firm root and grown into an 80-by-120-foot vegetable garden. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl

This weekend Camp St. Croix is hosting an overnight celebration of its centennial anniversary. On hand to celebrate will be John Marnell, current chairman of the board of directors.

"The reason I wanted to be on the board was because my kids all enjoyed the camp," said Marnell, whose children were counselors and four grandchildren attended camp last summer.

This spring, Marnell presented the idea of creating a vegetable garden onsite that would give campers the chance to learn about plants and give the camp a source of fresh vegetables for the cafeteria.

Today, his idea has become a reality, with the help of volunteers and donors from Amery to a major garden center in the Twin Cities.

In an 80-by-120-foot fenced garden area, campers can see a wide assortment of planting styles, from raised beds to companion planting and a separate pumpkin patch. This week, counselors are coming by in groups for briefings by garden program coordinator John Huber.

"We are excited to be able to teach the campers about the earth plant connections," said Naomi Balismo, director of the day camp. All 2,000 of the day campers will have a chance to visit and work in the garden.

On Tuesday afternoon River Crest Elementary students also came over to plant pumpkins.

The produce created by the garden and the campers who tend it will be used in the cafeteria throughout the summer.

At age 100, Camp St. Croix continues a tradition that includes new and innovative programming. It is one of seven camps operated by the St. Paul YMCA and is closest to the metro area.