An Opportunity Of A Life Time
The ministries of Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp started in 1957 serving the youth of the Rocky Mountain Synod on this special site. Today Rainbow Trail’s ministry has expanded to serve not only over 1,200 campers through ten weeks of resident style camp in the summer but also over 1500 campers through 37 day camps, over 200 campers through our Compass Points high adventure program, 204 campers through our Bridging Borders service oriented programs, and a full gamut of retreat ministries throughout the rest of the year. The future holds great possibilities for this ministry with expansion of on-site ministries as well as new and innovative programs. Literally thousands of people have come to this special place to be renewed in their faith while basking in the sanctuary of God’s creation.
The Need To Own Our Site
Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp is a holy place for so many people and has become a precious gift of the Church. Yet the land on which Rainbow Trail is located is not owned by the Church, but by the federal government as part of the San Isabel National Forest. Since its inception Rainbow Trail has leased land from the Forest Service. This arrangement is concerning for several reasons, including:
- The possibility our lease would not be renewed or even terminated if the Forest Service perceives a better use for the property;
- Some day the existence of a religious organization located on public lands may become controversial, threatening the security of Rainbow Trail’s lease.
- Because we are on public lands, we cannot limit stranger access to our site. This could become a safety issue.
- Operating the camp can be difficult with the federal government as landlord. For example, it is anywhere from a six month to two year process to make any significant change to our buildings on the site.
Ownership of the property would protect the camp’s investment of $4 million in buildings to date. And by owning our site, we will guarantee that Rainbow Trail will be available for generations to come.
How to Acquire the Site from the U.S. Forest Service
The Forest Service does not have the authority to conduct an outright sale of National Forest lands. A land exchange is the only method for acquiring federal lands such as the site on which Rainbow Trail currently resides.
To complete an exchange, Rainbow Trail needs to secure private lands on the San Isabel National Forest with high public values that the Forest Service is interested in acquiring. Once private lands more or less equal in value to the federal lands at the Rainbow Trail site are found, a formal exchange proposal will be submitted to the Forest Service, beginning the 64 step land exchange process. The process culminates in the Forest Service issuing a patent to Rainbow Trail and Rainbow Trail deeding the private lands it secured to the federal government.
The Forest Service has indicated that it would be interested in conveying between 80 and 108 acres to Rainbow Trail in order to create a logical management boundary. The 80 to 108 acres includes Rainbow Trail’s existing 19-acre site and extends north of the ballfield to the Forest boundary and east to the Lake Creek Campground.
The Availability Of This Land
There have been many years of starts and stops looking at the possibility of acquiring our site through a land exchange. Finding willing sellers for the lands the Forest Service is most interested in acquiring – and thus motivating the Forest Service to agree to pursue an exchange involving the Rainbow Trail site – has been very difficult.
In January of 2013, our land exchange consultant contacted a landowner whose 120 acre parcel is located within the San Isabel National Forest on the east side of the Wet Mountains. After several conversations, the owner allowed us to have the property appraised so that we had an idea of the value of the property. Though the owner was not initially excited about selling the property, they embraced the idea and decided to sell.
This 120-acre in-holding property is extremely attractive to the Forest Service as the entrance to the property crosses through a Lynx habitat that has been disturbed because of the plowing of the road in the winter. They would love to return that area to its natural state.
The Opportunity Before Us
After careful deliberation, the Rainbow Trail Board unanimously voted to enter into a purchase contract for the land in late May, 2013. Our original offer was countered and the Rainbow Trail Board countered that offer. On January 16, 2014, the Rainbow Trail Board approved the purchase price of $630,000. On February 19, 2014 Rainbow Trail closed on the non-federal land and we are now landowners!
The purchase price of the land was more than we had anticipated. The reality is that there were only a few parcels available in the San Isabel Forest and this is one of the requirements of the Forest Service. Currently we anticipate that we will need to raise a total of $998,000 to purchase this land, cover the cost of consultant fees, administrative and fund raising expenses, and complete the Forest Service’s 64-step exchange process. We wanted to raise the total cost of the non-federal property, $630,000, by the end of 2012. We accomplished that by raising $712,000! Because of the increase in the price of the land, additional funds will now need to be raised to cover the administrative costs and the cost of the actual land exchange process, approximately $286,000 more. Any funds received over the cost of the land purchase and the exchange process will be used for our new ropes course, and other major building projects in our site master plan.
The purchase of this property is only the first step, but a critical one to realize the goal of Rainbow Trail owning its site and having control of its future. This kind of opportunity may never occur again.
We need your prayers and we need your financial support. The good news is that we have raised $827,350 to date! For us to achieve the goal of raising another $170,650 to finish this project, we need people to step forward that believe in the value of this ministry in the lives of youth and families. We are open to matching fund opportunities or a capstone gift if you would like to use your gift to help encourage others to give as well. We hope that you will give and give generously for the sake of future generations. I would love to have a more in-depth conversation with you and explain more about this once in a lifetime opportunity. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 719-429-1377.