Sussex IMand a Hartford-based nonprofit Catholic organization have purchased portions of a 225-acre former Girl Scouts camp property in Dodge County.
The Sussex-based custom injection molding business has acquired 110 acres of the former Camp Winding River – located in Neosho, about 15 minutes north of Oconomowoc – with plans to make it available for company events and employee recreation.
The new “Camp SIM” will be used for company meetings, team building events, company picnics, and will be available for employees at their leisure, the company announced to employees last week.
The property, at W1468 County Road NN, gives the company access to 5.5 miles of trails, canoeing on the Rubicon River, camping and cross-country skiing. With many Sussex IM employees living in Milwaukee, CEO Keith Everson said the campgrounds will provide them with the opportunity to enjoy recreating in a different setting, pointing to Quad/Graphics' "Camp Quad," a corporate retreat and recreational area for the Sussex-based printer's employees, as inspiration for the idea.
Sussex IM affiliates purchased the land for $428,000, according to state records.
Meanwhile, nonprofit group Laudato Si’ Project purchased an adjacent 59 acres of the camp property to establish its new home and an ecology center.
The property will give the organization a central location where it can offer its programs, including ecology education, hikes, retreats, prairie and butterfly garden plantings, and restoration service projects, said Joe Meyer, Laudato Si' Project executive director. The organization was established in 2016 as a response to an encyclical of the same name from Pope Francis imploring Catholics to care for the environment.
Currently, the organization runs programs on site at local parishes, schools and nature-based sites in southeastern Wisconsin.
“The big benefit to the property is that the facilities exist already, so we’re able to hit the ground running with everything that already exists on the property,” Meyer said. “We don’t have any major changes in the immediate future; we’ll just continue with some stewardship and prairie planning on the property.”
Clare Gardens, an organic gardening and education program of Milwaukee Catholic Home, is partnering with Laudato Si’ Project, with plans to open its community garden on the campgrounds. The program plans to grow vegetables, orchard and perennial fruits like apples and raspberries, host bee hives and incorporate composting from food waste generated on-site. Its produce supports Milwaukee Catholic Home retirement communities and the Riverwest Food Pantry.
“What’s so exciting about our new home at the Catholic Ecology Center is not only producing wholesome food but the educational opportunities for teaching people of all ages about growing food and living sustainably,” said Anna Metscher, farm manager for Clare Gardens.
Meyer envisions Laudato Si' Project members, school groups, and members of the public visiting the property, along with groups who come for retreats.
Laudato Si’ Project has initiated a fundraising campaign to support a planned chapel addition and accessibility upgrades to bathrooms on the property. The organization has raised about $80,00 toward its $250,000 goal. It purchased the camp property for $435,000, according to state records.
Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast disclosed in October 2020 its plans to sell Camp Winding in Neosho and Camp Pottawatomie Hills in East Troy as part of a long-range property plan.
Christy Brown, CEO of GSWISE, said the proceeds from the sale will be directed toward its remaining four camp properties, camp programs and the organization’s overall mission.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye, and Camp Winding River and Camp Pottawatomi Hills will forever hold a special place in our hearts. We are thankful for the memories and friendships made, as well as the confidence gained at these Girl Scout camps, and we look forward to the next awesome adventures our remaining properties will provide,” Brown said.
Meyer noted that he hopes former Girl Scouts and supporters will continue to visit the property under his organization’s new ownership.
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