- Illinois Great Rivers Conference
- Connectional Ministries
- Camping & Retreat Ministries
- East Bay Camp
- Explore East Bay Camp & Rereat
The story of East Bay Camp goes back to the early 1900’s when an interesting set of circumstances which led to the building of what is now Lake Bloomington.
In 1874, when the city brought in wells to supply water to its citizens, the water was so hard it was advertised to have unusual medicinal value and was sold to some people on that basis. A chemist in the 1920’s called it the hardest in the state, estimating that Bloomington would save a ton of soap a day by having soft water. To provide a better source of water for the citizens of Bloomington, it was decided a lake would be built by placing a dam on Money Creek. To help sell this idea, the lake formed behind the dam would also be open to recreation for area citizens.
There were some who also felt that part of the land bordering the lake should be reserved for all to enjoy, and upon completion of the dam in the fall of 1929, a meeting occurred between Mr. Frank Breen and Atty. Lester Martin, representing the Bloomington Water Company, next to Money Creek. With a handshake, 40 acres was set aside with Rev. Frank Breen as the director and East Bay Camp was born.
The focus of East Bay Camp was to provide a place in which children could enjoy Lake Bloomington without their parents having to own a cabin. But times were hard as East Bay was born just as the Great Depression of the 1930s was starting. For a while, the camp and the Depression moved into harder times together, about the only resources available to the camp were 40 acres of land, a few willing workers and Miss Vera Snow's signature on a $1,500 loan which grew rapidly.
By 1934 the wilderness had been turned into a summer village with a score of buildings and a striving camp program. But Rev. Breen saw a crisis on the horizon and was quoted in the newspaper as saying: "a crisis now at hand since larger groups are eager for use of the camp. The pull now is more uphill than it has ever been and I ask that you all stand by to make East Bay all that we dream for it."
With the Depression over, camping caught on and people began pouring in. The camp was full as there were no other camps in the state. The Evangelical Reformed camp, started by a minister in Minonk, had its beginning at East Bay Camp. Their first camps consisted of around 20 or 25 campers and rapidly grew to around 1,000 campers in the course of a summer." But the fact that camping caught on wasn't all good as groups started to feel they wanted their own camps where their people would go and they would have their own rules and regulations. Twelve different camps from all over Illinois had their beginnings at East Bay Camp then left to build their own camps.
Things started to look bad for East Bay Camp so Rev. Breen turned to various places trying to get someone to take over. He first tried the Presbyterians, but they'd had an experience in Michigan for many years and they were not interested. Next he went to the Illinois Church Council followed by other groups and got the same answer – not interested. As the years passed, more Methodist groups were using the camp than any other groups. Ultimately, The Methodist Church entered an agreement with the Community Camp Associates to back the camp financially putting $30,000 toward the camp facilities. With this level of investment, the bishop felt that they should have weight in the associates.
At that time, the camp was governed by a local group called the Community Camp Associates which consisted of 10 community leaders who composed a board responsible for the camp. Their focus was to insure a fair share of use for the investment that camping groups would make. While the bishop’s proposal made sense, many were concerned that the Methodist Church would take over and limit use of the camp. To meet this concern the associates reformed into a board of trustees with the camp being run by an administrative board. On the administrative were representatives from participating groups, people who were involved in camping in the same way as the Methodists were. These groups included the Evangelical Reformed, United Brethren, American Lutherans, Presbyterians, the GAA, the Kiwanis Club.
Then in the 1980’s the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church took ownership of the camp and continues as the owner today.