Lots of new trees and a sports field for busy Ocean Park Retreat Center

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Donna Murry (front), Shirley Carlson, Sue Smith, and Terry Carlson apply stain to a secluded picnic area at the Ocean Park Retreat Center. The workers are part of NOMADS, an organization of the United Methodist Church that build and repair churches and camps throughout the country. There are currently 14 volunteers working at the Retreat Center from as far away as Oklahoma, Ohio, Arizona, Indiana, and Nevada.

OCEAN APRK - "When we are full of campers, this place is alive. There is just a glow about the camp," facilities manager, George Orr says of the Ocean Park Retreat Center (OPRC), also known as the United Methodist Camp.

Orr says the camp has been existence for 65 years and counting, with 1,000 visitors a year who stay for about 5,000 camper-days.

"We usually have kids in the summer and are getting more into adult retreats the rest of the year," Orr explains. "We welcome any non-profit organization that wants to stay."

OPRC is located a mile north of Ocean Park on 80 acres bounded by 282nd street and Joe Johns Road on the south and north and by Vernon Avenue to the east and the mean high tide line of the Pacific Ocean to the west.

The camp can house 220 people at any one time and a sizeable dining hall can feed about half the visitors in one setting. From 15 to 20 people are employed by OPRC during the summer months and the staff is reduced to three to five full-time workers during the off-season.

In the early 1930s campers would visit and stay in tents, according to Orr. In 1938 Pastor Dixon of the United Methodist Church in Ocean Park officially opened OPRC. The biggest boom to OPRC came just after World War II when Camp Pioneer, an army installation on Pioneer (now Sandridge) Road was closed. "The Methodists got the dining hall, three dormitories, and the officer's quarters from the army camp," Orr explains.

The buildings still stand today and serve the same basic functions for OPRC as they did for the army in the early 1940s. Another military windfall came from the radar station that had occupied Leadbetter Point. "We received all the wiring from the radar station when it was surplused in 1946," according to Orr.

The facility is paid for from camper fees, and additions and maintenance are often performed by volunteers. Recent changes include a half-court basketball area created by high school age campers. A new director's home setting on the high dune was completed at the end of August 2003. In 2000 much of the 80 acres was logged and 12,000 trees of seven different varieties have been planted, according to Orr.

Twelve hundred more trees are set to be planted in the near future. "A four-acre sports field is our next big project," Orr says. "The field is already cleared and level, we just need to get the lawn in for softball, soccer, football, and other sports."

The camp welcomes a variety of people and faiths. "We have Muslims, Mormons, and Methodists," Orr relates. "We have hosted Camas High School's sports teams, Camp Victory for children who have been abused, Camp Hope for mentally challenged children, and Life Tides Camp for people in their 80's. We are now hosting many adult retreats this time of year."

OPRC also manages Camp Morehead located north of the Port of Nahcotta and hires a kayak instructor in the summer. "Some of the 80-year-old Life Tides campers got out there and did well in the kayaks," Orr shares with a smile. Other activities at OPCR include archery, volleyball, an indoor climbing cave, and an outdoor labyrinth for personal reflection. And of course, the main attraction is the Pacific Ocean just a few paces to the west of the camp.

"The United Methodists have always tried to maintain a positive and enjoyable camp experience for kids," Orr says, and it is obvious that kids of all ages have enjoyed for over 65 years the setting by the sea that is Ocean Park Retreat Center.

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