Proposed camp for at-risk kids worries neighbors

September 30, 2018

Residents with homes scattered throughout the forests off Spring Creek Road near Somers may gain a new neighbor as plans come together for the construction of a 16.3 million, she hopes to raise $20 million through private donors and some state grant funding.

The overall purpose of the camp, according to Hammer, would be to teach kids, through carefully controlled lessons and activities, skills such as discernment, accountability and relationship-building, which she said most kids today are not learning at home.

However, Hammer has not yet developed a timeline, nor has she finalized most of the plans laid out for the camp as she raises money.

Hammer’s camp has been raising concerns among nearby landowners, however.

Though she said she finds Hammer’s cause noble, Suzy Lindsay-Moore, the owner of a property connected to Hammer’s, feels many questions have gone unanswered.

During a meeting initiated by Hammer on Tuesday night, several community members, landowners and residents with investments in the area turned out for a question-and-answer session to learn more about the proposed camp’s noise, traffic and property-value impacts.

According to Lindsay-Moore, the session consisted mostly of a PowerPoint presentation by Hammer outlining some of the social problems kids face today, the work she’s done through her various other companies and how she plans to help kids through her camp.

“We want to know how this is going to affect the environment where we live,” Lindsay-Moore said.

When it came time for Hammer to answer the public’s questions, however, Lindsay-Moore said she heard a lot of “I don’t know’s” from Hammer.

“I didn’t really get any information. Anybody that had a question was told to email her,” Lindsay-Moore said. “Then it just ended.”

Hammer had a different take on the evening.

According to her, she flew out while still recovering from a recent surgery in order to settle rumors that had cropped up around her proposed project and to answer questions.

The problem with the questions she got, she said, were that they were either based on untruths or she was not far enough along with planning to answer them.

“It’s not that I don’t want to answer the questions. It’s just that we’re not there yet,” she said.

Many of the major decisions about layout have not yet been made, Hammer added.

Though she hopes to utilize the property off Spring Creek Road for outdoor activities either way - whether she builds on the property or not - she said she’s currently looking for and hoping to purchase more property on Flathead Lake to build the camp itself. If she can’t find any, she said, then she still has to decide where on the property to put the building.

As she gathers more funding and plans progress, Hammer said she would be willing to work with her neighbors to reach a solution that would suit everyone.

However, she said, the land she purchased is not zoned by Flathead County and there is nothing preventing her from building her camp there.

“If they really wanted that much isolation, they could have bought the property. It was for sale for years,” Hammer said. “I’ve been doing this my entire life. This is not a whim.”

Though she said she felt like she has stepped in a bee’s nest of accusations, Hammer felt she answered the questions as best she could.

For example, she said she planned to look into alternatives to the “toxic oils” traditionally used on roads but had every intention of making sure the dust was controlled.

Regarding traffic, she said the property would be accessible only to foot traffic, non-resident camp staff, delivery and road-improvement vehicles, small buses and “essential vehicles.”

As for noise, she said she simply does not know, but could work on finding answers to that and other questions as plans move forward.

“I think that the more they learn about who I am and what I’m doing, those problems will go away,” she added.

Another of her new neighbors, Rowdy See, lives full time with his wife and baby on their property adjacent to Hammer’s and said he got a different impression from Tuesday’s meeting.

“She was talking a lot and saying nothing,” he said of Hammer. “She doesn’t care about the neighbors at all.”

See said his concerns focus more on the camp’s impact on his family and his way of life.

“It’s going in my backyard, and this camp is going to affect a lot of people,” he said. “We were looking for the impact of the overall camp.”

Lindsay-Moore said the property she and her husband own was passed down to them from his parents, and they had planned to build a home on it this coming year.

Now, however, she said they are putting their plans on hold until they find out how the camp will impact the area and whether it comes to fruition.

“We really don’t want it here,” Lindsay-Moore said. “It’s a fantastic life mission, but just not in our backyard.”

For more information about Camp Champion, visit https://campchampion.com/ or contact Hammer’s assistant at sandy.watt@campchampion.com.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor may be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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