The Orono City Council approved the master plan for Temple Israel’s day camp, Camp Teko, on July 8. The plan outlines repairs throughout the entire camp.
Camp Teko was purchased by the Temple in the mid 1960’s after their day camp grew from church outings on Lake Nokomis with Temple incorporated.
It has transformed into a Jewish day camp for children going into kindergarten. According to Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, the name Teko comes from Temple and Nokomis.
“We know from a lot of research that very much after the camp was established that Jewish camping was one of the main strong Jewish identities in young people,” she said.
The camp offers children the opportunity to learn the ways of camping, which include learning how to swim, how to understand nature and how to sing Jewish songs as well as “powerful lessons of independence and understanding empathy for other campers in your group and how to experience Judiasima in a whole day experience,” she adds.
However, since the mid 1960’s, the 18-acre camp has only received minor repairs and it is now time to make a few major and minor changes in order to accommodate the camp’s growing popularity.
The master plan includes building a new program center in order to host 200 children instead of 165. The building will allow enough space for camp fun but also serve as a safe space for every child in case of severe weather.
Three out of the four cabins have been condemned. The project will tear them down and build new cabins for overnight campers.
“One of the things we went to the city council with, because we don’t want to lose a summer, we’re going to be doing this in phases over the fall, winter and spring within the next five years,” Zimmerman said.
Other areas the master plan addresses include: waterfront improvements, improvements to the changing rooms, parking, welcome center, maintenance building, entrance monuments, the pavilion, restrooms, a new trail and path network.
Even though Temple Israel runs the camp, Zimmerman said only 40 percent of their campers are members while 60 percent are members within communities in and around the Twin Cities.
City council members and Mayor Denny Walsh all agreed the camp has been great neighbors over the years and expressed support for their growth. Zimmerman adds she hopes they continue to be good neighbors because they have great ones.
“I think we have great neighbors and people over and over keep saying they didn’t know we had a camp there and that’s important because we want to be great neighbors as well...It felt reaffirming, which we know we will have that continued relationship with the city,” she said.