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Decision Hills United Methodist Camp

Decision Hills United Methodist Camp Corporation exists for the purpose of buying, developing, and maintaining a Camp and Retreat Facility which will provide an environment for Christian Outdoor Education to benefit the congregations and agencies of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

During the summer of 1957 the Central and Southwest District Corporation purchased 52 acres on the northeast shore of George Lake, two miles west of Spicer, Minnesota. Since that time additional land purchases have been made to total nearly 70 acres and 4,000 feet of shoreline. From the original collection of tents and temporary structures, private cabins and existing cabins, Decision Hills Camp has grown to a year‑round facility with sleeping room for 80 persons. In addition, it has a family camping area for tents and trailers with 20 sites.

Decision Hills is owned by the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church. A Board of Management oversees the operations of the camp. The pastor and lay representative from each cooperating U.M.C. make up the corporation which elects the officers and board members under the guidance of the Annual Conference.

Much of the following in­formation comes from the 20th anniversary report (1978) of the Decision Hills Camp.

In September 1956 a Bi-District Campsite Committee of the Methodist Central District Conference recommended es­tablishment of the Central District's own campsite. Com­mittee officers were Edward Shannon, chairman; Dudley Keech, vice chairman; and Edwin Bissell, secretary. Upon acceptance of the recommendation, the Central and Southwest Districts filed the articles of incorporation on April 2, 1957. The 52‑acre site chosen was where the site is today, in New London Township, with Spicer as the post office address. The site cost $24,467.

Work camps and construction of buildings took place during the fall of 1957 and the summer of 1958. By October 1958, with an expenditure of $13,250, additional lots and woods were bought from property owners named Taylor, Michelson, Bergstrom, Huber, Minke and Wilson. "25 cents a member asking was requested from the churches of the Southwest and Central District." By 1975 that asking amount had risen to 50 cents a member.

First officers of the corporation were Edward Shannon, chairman, and Ed Mueller, treasurer. Eldon Quiring was the first' grounds manager. In 1959 Mrs. Harold Dayton and daughters, Jean and Jan, were employed as cooks, with Jan working also as lifeguard. That year a group of 144 was the largest camp and 47 the smallest. Located on camp property, a hive of honeybees owned by Mr. Rittenhouse of Hawick provided all the honey needed in the dining hall.

More buildings were set up in 1960, including 14 (eventually 20) hogans with platforms 8 feet by 16 feet, Philippine mahogany frames, and canvas covers. Each hogan could hold five army cots. Five camp areas became known as Chipmunk Hill, Cedar Hill, Terrace Heights, Sherwood Forest, and Hoganville. The name "Decision Hills" was chosen in 1960.

Alvin Anderson of Spicer, who lived on his farm near by, became part‑time camp manager in February 196 1. His family assisted in the kitchen and as grounds helpers.

During the entire first 20 years, building construction, remodeling, and refurbishing, and improvements of the grounds continued. Attendance grew but fluctuated, largely because of national economic conditions. For example, 1963 saw 593 campers and 200 persons at retreats; 1964 brought 756 campers and 250 retreaters. Total camper days mounted to 6,297 in 1972 and 5,037 in 1973. But the energy crunch in 1974 hurt both winter and summer attendance. Camp fees rose from $20 in 1963 to $42 in 1975. 1978 saw a total of 4,662 camper days.

In 1972 title to the Decision Hills property was transferred to the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Annual Conference and member congregations have continued their generous support with financial contributions and donations of materials and furnishings.

Chairmen of the Corporation from 1958 to 1978 were Edward Shannon, Harold Dayton, and Ed Bissell. Chairmen of the Deci­sion Hills Board included Ted Drackley and Winfield Forsberg. Ed Mueller, Dean Wilford, Richard Reynolds, Mr. Loehr, Don Kienholz, Dwight Hendricks, Ron Rieke, and Wilma Galer served as treasurers during the first 20 years.

Persons serving as grounds and/or camp managers (part‑time or full‑time) in the first 20 years were Eldon Quiring (1958‑1961), Alvin Anderson (1961‑1966), Gerald Domonoske (1966‑1977), Dave Palmer (1977‑1980), Tom Werder (1980‑1982), and Kim Embretson (1982‑present). The Ralph Powells became the first paid program directors in 1973; Donna Dickerson was a summer program director in 1976.

The first wedding at Decision Hills occurred on August 2 1, 1971, when Fay Domonoske and Thomas Peterson were married by Dr. Cowman in "a lovely outdoor ceremony."

In 1978 the year‑round dining/retreat facility was completed, which then allowed programming for year‑round retreats.

A discovery of special historical interest regarding Decision Hills church camp came about through Brad Domonoske's social studies project. He learned that "the worn tracks behind the Central and Southwest Cabins were part of the Red River Valley Trail. Oxen had traveled through there coming from the Lake Florida region, from Pembina to St. Paul. The lilac bushes are the original and are over 100 years old; the old filled‑in basement in back of Central Cabin was a hiding place for white settlers on many occasions."

Since 1978 Decision Hills has continued to serve its Method­ist constituency as well as other groups for conferences, family reunions, and their own retreats. Kim Embretson continues as the current year‑round camp director.