ALGONQUIN – A small group of residents got a look Thursday night at a company’s proposal to turn the unused, but historic, Camp Algonquin site near the Cary-Algonquin border into a luxury camping experience.
Officials from the McHenry County Conservation District and ModCamp, a new company with sights on providing an “outdoor hospitality” experience in the Chicago metropolitan region, detailed their plan to revive Camp Algonquin after it closed in 2011.
ModCamp’s pitch for Camp Algonquin features a few different dwelling options for visitors to stay at when visiting the Fox Bluff Conservation Area along the Fox River.
Guests could choose from a small cabin, Airstream travel trailers or a luxury tent. The latter two are geared more toward visitors during spring, summer and fall, while the cabin could stay open year-round and offer guests a chance to cross country ski or snowshoe through Fox Bluff.
“This does not currently exist in the Chicago metropolitan area,” said Amy Haiar of ModCamp.
MCCD publicized in early February that it would have two introductory meetings open to the public regarding the proposal, the first of which was Tuesday night.
MCCD Executive Director Elizabeth Kessler said the district got a phone call out of the blue from Haiar in July. She wanted to talk with the district about collaborating on a public-private partnership to accommodate her outdoor hospitality idea. At the time, she wasn’t sure which site she’d be interested in, but was pointed in the direction of Camp Algonquin given its history and potential.
“I hiked every property the district had,” Haiar said. “And I learned the unique history of Camp Algonquin.”
Camp Algonquin is one of only four camps built in the U.S. as part of the “Fresh Air in the Country” movement started during the late 1800s.
The 50-plus buildings that were on the site have hosted underprivileged kids from Chicago, victims displaced by Hurricane Katrina, veterans and school groups. About half the buildings have since been torn down.
Kessler said the district has been looking for ways to create interest in Camp Algonquin, which closed when the McHenry County YMCA filed for bankruptcy. That chapter of the YMCA was leasing Camp Algonquin from MCCD at the time and ran camping outings in conjunction with other groups.
In 2014, Camp Algonquin was named by Landmarks Illinois as one of the top 10 most endangered historic places in the state.
The district wants to make Camp Algonquin a destination again, and officials believe this is a way to do it, Kessler said, adding the district does not have the money to do so on its own.
Haiar said she envisions partnering with local businesses to bring different offerings to Camp Algonquin, including yoga, meditation and the arts.
Julie Ninos, owner of Handmade on Main in Algonquin, attended the meeting at Prairieview Education Center in Crystal Lake and is a fan of the project. The site has a Cary mailing address but is next to Algonquin.
“We need this in our town,” Ninos said, sensing a potential opportunity for the two local business owners to collaborate down the road.
The district has torn down about half of the buildings that once stood on the property, with more slated for removal. Officials have identified four buildings that they want to keep and preserve, three of which are the Pioneer Center Barn, Tribune Building and the Board of Trade Recreational Hall.
If it gains a positive review from officials this year, the project could come to fruition in 2020.