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County’s Camp Zerbe Restoration Considered

OSWEGO, NY – The basketball court and lodge at Camp Zerbe could be getting a facelift in the near future.

Kathy Fenlon, director of the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau, recently approached the county’s Health Committee about transferring funds within her budget to be able to restore the court to useable condition.

“It’s very deteriorated. It’s become a safety issue,” she said. “We have had to rope it off.”

The Youth Bureau is seeking grant funding to get a restoration project under way for the lodge at Camp Zerbe. The restored lodge could be used for a variety of family events and much more, county officials said.
The Youth Bureau is seeking grant funding to get a restoration project under way for the lodge at Camp Zerbe. The restored lodge could be used for a variety of family events and much more, county officials said.

Last year, the New York State Department of Parks and Recreation came in to inspect Camp Zerbe, which they do periodically because it was purchased in the early 1990s with EPA funds, Fenlon said.

They were cited for the condition of the basketball court, she added.

“We have been working with the Highway Department and they could repair (the court) for us if we’d pay for the material,” she said.

There is some money left in the capital project account for the camp, but not enough to cover the work.

So, Fenlon found the other $1,112 in other accounts that could be moved to cover the rest of the cost.

The committee approved the request to transfer and use the funds.

The lodge at Camp Zerbe is also in line for restoration.

“Last year, when Parks and Rec came in, the other thing they cited us for was the lodge,” Fenlon said. “The county has not used the lodge since Zerbe was purchased in the early ’90s. Over the years, it continues to deteriorate. Parks and Rec cited us for the lodge’s steps (safety hazard). So we took the steps down and just roped it off so somebody can’t climb up on the front porch.”

When you purchase something with Environmental Quality Act funding, you just can’t go in and rip stuff down,” she explained. “You have to keep things historic; you have to consider archeological things as well.

The county attorney agreed that the county couldn’t tear down the lodge without having to go through all sorts of legal hoops and hurdles.

“We can’t just take it down, we have to replace it,” Fenlon said.

There is an opportunity to apply for an Environmental Protection Act grant from NYS Department of Parks and Rec, she said.

“No one has ever looked at the big picture. No one knows what it would take to restore that lodge,” Fenlon said.

Camp Zerbe's basketball court, background, could be getting a facelift in the near future.
Camp Zerbe's basketball court, background, could be getting a facelift in the near future.

She could apply for a ‘mega’ grant, but she wouldn’t know what figure to put on it because no one knows what it might cost to restore the lodge, she explained.

Therefore, she’d like to apply for a planning grant first.

“It would allow us to hire a structural engineer who could come in and assess the complete building, what it would take to restore it and also do the planning/construction documents so that we would have construction documents ready to go out to bid,” Fenlon explained.

Then, the county could look for other sources of funding and probably next year reapply for restoration funds through the state.

“That way, we’d know what we’re talking about; it wouldn’t be just guessing,” she added.

There was an engineer that took a cursory look at the lodge four or five years ago and there are definitely some structural issues that need to be addressed, Fenlon said.

Legislator Morris Sorbello questioned when the facility is renovated, what could it be used for.

“I think there are a lot of uses for that lodge,” Fenlon said. “It has one very large room with a fireplace at each end. It also has a kitchen; it’s not useable right now.”

“We could set up a usage schedule, like we do at Camp Hollis, and charge groups to reserve it for activities. I think a lot of groups would be attracted to it to use it for family events, for school events, for weddings – we have weddings at Camp Hollis. Camp Hollis is booked every weekend from the beginning of our season until October. We have facilities out there that people want to use. Zerbe is booked much less because it is all open door; there’s not a lot of closed in space there,” Fenlon said. “We have had to turn people away for Camp Hollis. So, I think if we had the lodge at Zerbe it would open itself up to being able to be used on a reserved basis.”

The good news is usually the EPA grants are 50-50 match, but this year for low-income areas it is 75-25 match, she pointed out. The town of Williamstown fits into that category, she added.

An engineer would cost around $60,000. So the grant would be for $45,000.

“It would be an absolute tragedy to tear this building down,” said Barry Leemann, legislature chairman. “I have been informed by Assemblyman Dave Townsend, that if we decide to rebuild it, he will try   to come up with $20,000 to put toward it.”

The committee supported her request to apply for the grant.

Camp Zerbe, owned by Oswego County and operated by the Oswego County Youth Bureau, has trails, the William H. Britton Nature Interpretive Center, an enclosed activity shelter and rare kettlehole lakes and ponds.

The camp is located eight miles east of Interstate 81 Exit 34.