For 15 years, the Sand Lake Camp in Marinette County inspired hundreds of middle schoolers to learn more about the outdoors and developed a deeper care and understanding for our natural resources.
In 2006 Greg Cleereman, Marinette County Conservationist, and Amanda Kostner, Marinette County Information and Educational Specialist, started Sand Lake Conservation Camp for middle school students at Camp Bird Youth Camp near Crivitz, WI. Greg and Amanda helped with the high school conservation camp, and they saw the need to reach younger students. And so Sand Lake Conservation Camp was born.
Sand Lake Camp was open to students from all of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The first year of camp in 2006 started with 27 6th-10th graders.
Anne Bartels, Marinette County Information and Educational Specialist, took over camp operations in 2007. The camp grew to 80 campers, with the average number of students attending around 75 each year. In 2011, the age range for the campers changed to 6th-8th grade focusing on middle school students.
Over the years Anne expanded the program activities to include many guest speakers and groups at Sand Lake Conservation Camp. These included The Raptor Education Group, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, WDNR staff, Timber Wolf Information Network, Bay Area Mounted Search & Rescue, and a variety of other guests with an assortment of programming for students.
They also utilized their Teaching Outdoor Awareness Discovery programs (T.O.A.D.), like the ‘aquatic creepy critters’ stream survey. Other camp staff also led program activities like birdhouse building, spinner making, outdoor first aid, bird watching, fishing, canoeing.
With the help of camper evaluations, Sand Lake Camp expanded, improved, and served as a feeder camp to the WI Land+Water Conservation Camp for high schoolers. Sand Lake Camp has educated hundreds of middle school students through the years about conservation, wildlife, careers in conservation and provided a unique and fun outdoor experience.
Sand Lake Camp has been run by Marinette County staff and other county staff and volunteers from across the state. In recent years it has become more challenging to recruit people who can volunteer the time needed to run this camp. Due to changing department priorities, liability concerns, and a shift in staff needs for other projects, Sand Lake Camp will no longer be hosted by Marinette County.
Sand Lake Conservation Camp has been a great program, and we are deeply saddened to say good-bye.
We want to thank Anne Bartels, Marinette County, and all county staff and volunteers through the years that have stepped up to make Sand Lake Conservation Camp so successful. Thank you for your commitment to youth conservation education!