Called to Conserve: How Indiana camps are stewarding the Earth

Most people recognize our Indiana Conference camp sites as places where youth experience God.
What many may not realize is the magnitude and impact of the camps as natural areas and the way camp staff and volunteers are living into God’s call to be stewards of the Earth.

“We want the camps to be sacred places, so we need to steward them in a way that they are actual natural areas, said Nick Yarde, Executive Director of Camping.

A 33-year employee of the Indiana Conference, Nick regularly utilizes his masters degree in Forestry, Fish, and Wildlife Management from Purdue University as he is tending to the camp sites, a role he takes very seriously.

“The conservation work at our camps affects hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers. Because of the places that we manage in the way that we manage them, they have a very outsized benefit to the communities,” said Nick.

Camp Lakewood
Situated in northern Indiana near South Milford, Camp Lakewood cares for half of the waterfront area of the Lake of the Woods. For about 50 years, the camp has maintained this water inlet with a system of white oaks and swamps.

As the area has become more developed with homes and lawns, the lake has been impacted by the run-off fertilizer and pesticides. This has resulted in water quality issues and repeated fish kills.

“This swamp system is basically a huge water filter for not only the lake, but for the water quality for the entire region,” explained Nick. The 50-acres of woodland areas with marshy plants act as natural filtration for the larger ecosystem, essentially buffering the impact of potential pollutants.

According to Nick, “Everyone on the lake and downstream benefits and has clearer drinking water because of the work we do to maintain the waterfront and swamps.”

Camp Adventure
Similar to Camp Lakewood, Camp Adventure has a significant impact on water quality. It is a forested watershed and has a lake that starts the Tippecanoe River. The watershed filters the water through its low-lying marshes to contribute to the clean drinking water of thousands of Hoosiers whose water is drawn from the Tippecanoe River.

The Department of Natural Resource’s (DR)
Division of Nature Preservation and The Nature Conservancy deemed Camp Adventure “one of the most significant natural areas in Indiana and worthy of nature preserve status.” This prestigious status accounts for less than 1% of areas in the state.

While many of the open waters in the state are frozen over in the winter, Camp Adventure remains unfrozen due to the amount of water from the Tippecanoe River and other natural springs. This open water area makes Camp Adventure a wildlife sanctuary for waterfowl such as Sandhill Cranes, Canada Geese, Mallards, and Hooded Mergansers, providing much-needed shelter for the region’s animal life.

Epworth Forest
Located on Webster Lake, Epworth Forest is comprised of watershed, forest, and swamp land.
The camp works hand-in-hand with the Watershed Organization to improve the water quality.

The organization has also helped control erosion on some of the islands Epworth Forest owns. Additional grants from the DR and local organizations have allowed the camp to improve the habitat on the islands.

“We get money from these organizations, and we provide the labor and coordinate the expertise, which has allowed us to improve the habitat, eliminate erosion, eliminate invasive species, and improve the lake water quality,” said Nick.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”

Genesis 2:15 (NIV)