Jon Johnson File Photo: The Forest Service will decide whether the Special Use Permit for the Arizona Church of Christ Bible Camp will be renewed to it or another party interested in purchasing the property and opening it up for public use.
By Jon Johnson
MOUNT GRAHAM – The Arizona Church of Christ Bible Camp is in disrepair and now the use of the area may be lost forever if a new Special Use Permit is not granted to a new nonprofit that wants to take over the camp and fix it up for the public’s use.
The Bible Camp was first opened in 1967 but for the last 10-15 years, it has only been used sporadically. It sits on nearly six acres of National Forest land and has a large dining hall, generator house, shower house with a septic tank and leach field, tool shed, two toilet buildings, its own water and electrical systems, six barracks buildings, and four ramada shelters. Some of the infrastructure was damaged in flooding events after the Frye Fire of 2017 and are in need of repair.
The Church of Christ has attempted to sell the property for a number of years and no longer has the funds to maintain the site.
As President of the Cabin Owners Association at Columbine right down the road, Daryl Weech is no stranger to the area and its possibility to serve the community. Weech and a group of like-minded friends have proposed to purchase the property and keep it open as a nonprofit entity for the enjoyment of the public.
“The sale is a done deal, but we’re not going to purchase it until the permit issue is solved,” Weech said. “We’re not going to purchase it yet because when they canceled the lease permit for the Bible Camp, it doesn’t transfer to us. They have to issue a new permit. So, if we were to buy the camp from them and the Forest Service didn’t issue us a new permit, we would have to pay to tear it down and we would be out the money to buy the camp and tear it down.”
The Coronado National Forest has initiated a scoping process for the environmental review of a potential Special Use Permit to operate an organizational camp on the property. According to the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office, the Forest Supervisor is preparing to make a decision whether or not to reissue the currently expired Special Use Permit to Arizona Church of Christ Bible Camp or the new property holder or to deny the permit.
“We don’t want to lose it,” Weech said. “We’d like to keep it going so the public can get a lot more kids and get as many people in the forest as we can.”
Weech has asked for the public’s help in having their voices heard by commenting on the value of keeping the Bible Camp open to the public.
“We’re trying to get as much of the public to write letters in support of the Bible Camp remaining there so the Forest Service will issue us a permit,” Weech said. “That way, we can keep it going and get as many youth groups up there as we can – Boys and Girls Club, church groups, family reunions – we’d just like to get it fixed up and let the public use it.”
To comment on the scoping process to the Forest Service electronically, click here. People can also comment by writing a letter to Kerwin Dewberry, Forest Supervisor, ATTN: Arizona Church of Christ Bible Camp Potential Reissuance, 300 W. Congress St., Tucson AZ 85701 or by calling (520) 388-8306. The Forest Service is accepting comments only until the end of November.
For more information on the project from the National Forest’s standpoint, contact Alysa Hansen, Special Uses Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (520) 388-8432.
“We want to put this money into it to keep it going, but it’s a nonprofit,” Weech said. “We’re not going to make money off of this thing. We just want to help the community by getting a place where we can see family reunions, we can see youth groups going up there, churches, Boys & Girls Club . . . We think it will be busy all summer long.”