BY PAUL BLACK
SPRINGFIELD – The trustees of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of The United Methodist Church announced Feb. 28 they have reached agreement for the sale of the 550-acre property located in northwestern Brown County, Ill., that previously was the site of Jensen Woods Camp.
A St. Louis-based buyer submitted a fully-funded offer to the Conference, culminating a nearly three-year period the property has been on the market. The buyer has requested that its name not be disclosed prior to closing on April 27.
Trustee Chair Betty Treat noted that the offer was the highest bid Conference trustees have received for some time and the first offer that was backed with approved financing.
“In all, there have been 15 different parties that expressed interest in purchasing the property, but several did not submit offers when asked for proof of funding,” she said.
The sale price is somewhat less than the average ($2.139 million) of three appraisals conducted on the property. However, funds from the sale will go directly into the Conference’s Camping program for improvements to upgrade the remaining two operational campsites.
Improvements are already underway as the Conference Council on Finance and Administration approved a line of credit for Camping to allow them to jump start a number of improvements. Nearly $76,000 in improvements have already been made.
“Exciting improvements are underway at both East Bay and Little Grassy as we take steps to implement the Camping Master Plan approved by the Annual Conference,” said the Rev. Larry Gilbert, chair of the IGRC Camping Commission. “The Gatehouse building at East Bay is currently undergoing a major remodeling project. By the beginning of the camping season this summer Gatehouse will hold a modern camper health care facility with an examination room, overnight accommodations for campers needing extended care, an isolation room if needed and living accommodations for the nurse on staff. Additional space in the building is being converted to provide for small group retreats with meeting space and overnight accommodations.”
At Little Grassy the first project has been completed which was the complete remodel and upgrade of the Mt. Tabor building. The second project is still in the planning process and with work hopefully to begin this fall. This project will consist of an extensive remodel of the Dining Hall. This project will call for some small additions to the building to accommodate new larger restrooms and a modern first aid station. Major improvements will be made to almost every part of the building including, kitchen, dish washing and storage, dining hall and food service.
“For both Little Grassy and East Bay the next phase of Master Plan work will be the construction of new camper living spaces,” Gilbert said. “Architects have already completed a significant part of the planning on this phase but a timeline for this construction has yet been established.”
In 2015, the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference approved the sale of three of the five Conference campsites due to dwindling headcount and to concentrate resources in fewer facilities. A comprehensive Master Plan was presented and approved after consulting with an Ohio-based Kaleidoscope consulting firm which conducted on-site interviews at all five campsites before presenting its findings.
Epworth Camp, located in Louisville, previously sold and Living Springs Camp, located near Lewistown in Fulton County, remains on the market.
UPDATE -- March 20, 2018
SPRINGFIELD—The IGRC Board of Trustees closed with St. Louis developer Brick by Brick Farms, LLC on the Jensen Woods Camp property March 20.
Brick by Brick paid $1.7 million cash for the 550 acres and requested the closing be moved up from April 27 to March 20 in order to prepare the farm acreage for spring planting.
IGRC Camping was able to remove equipment that will be used at East Bay and Little Grassy camps. Brick by Brick is planning on naming the grounds Jensen Woods Farm.