Not just a camp

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Most people know the Conecuh National Forest is filled with natural treasures, including active wildlife and abundant flora, but many may not realize there is yet another hidden treasure tucked back in its recesses — Blue Lake Methodist Camp.

And, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for Methodists, and it’s not just a youth summer camp.

Phyllis Murray, the camp’s newly appointed executive director, joined the campground staff a little more than a month ago. She hopes to bring awareness about the camp to both Covington County and the nation.

“This wonderful facility is open for all religious, educational and non-profit organizations,” Murray said. “We’re not just a summer camp. We hold events here all year long. I’m looking to find more ways to offer our services to the community, while utilizing the talents and skills of our community here at the facility.

“It’s my personal goal that we become a nationally recognized camping facility,” she said. “When you look around, how could you not want to come here?”

Blue Lake covers 39 acres and is located within the 84,000 acres known as Conecuh National Forest. It has three lodging sites, one of which — Oakwood Lodge — features a large dining area, meeting rooms, classrooms and living quarters.

The other two sites — Dogwood and Pinewood Lodges — offer the same amenities on a smaller scale. There are swimming areas, playgrounds, gyms, additional classrooms and meeting areas, as well as two chapels.

Wednesday morning, the sound of campers splashing in the waters of Blue Lake filled the summer air. The camp’s program director, Patric Newton, said an estimated 1,400 children, ranging from second graders to high schoolers, will attend this year’s summer camp program.

College students, many who attended the camp as youth, serve as lifeguards and counselors. Each undergoes intensive training before assuming leadership roles.

There are still spaces available for this summer’s creative arts camp, youth choir camp and its “cultivate” camp, where participants learn how to worship God with their whole lives, while experiencing traditional camp activities like swimming and canoeing.

Emily Garner, dean of camp, said the camp experience is very unique.

“This camp is open to everyone,” she said. “It’s a great place to enjoy play, fellowship and worship, all while being involved in a community atmosphere. It’s a chance to be a part of a big family.”

Murray and other members of her staff are striving to “get the word out” about Blue Lake Methodist Camp.

“Andalusia and Covington County is such a great community,” Murray said. “What I love about the camp is that everyone who comes here loves it here. I want people in this community to know about what we do here, what we offer here, so that we can explore ways we can work together.”

Those who have never been to the Blue Lake Methodist Camp, which is located off State Hwy. 137 near the Pleasant Home community, are invited to attend Blue Lake Day on Oct. 4. Activities are planned such as a picnic lunch, games, tours of the facilities and concerts.

For more information about the camp or the summer activities offered, visit the Web site at