School site may be reborn as family camp |

School site may be reborn as family camp

Ken Croley envisions children giggling and tossing Frisbees to their overworked mothers while dad reclines on a lawn chair reading a mystery novel.

In the evening, they’ll gather together for a gourmet meal before reclining around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and singing wholesome songs.

But neighbors on Tyler Foote Road have a far from idyllic vision for the proposed Shady Creek Camp, which Croley unveiled Thursday night before the Nevada County Planning Commission.

They remember the failed Encompass school and camp, a New Age venture known for its rammed earth yurts. And they vividly remember a drum fest held last summer – its pounding lasted well into the night.

Nearby residents who attended the meeting raised alarms about increased traffic, noise, harsh lighting and the possible trespassing on private property.

Shady Creek Camp will be different, Croley emphasized.

“I feel it’s incredibly important to be not just a good neighbor but an involved neighbor,” Croley said. “We do not want to be seen as a hidden, secretive place.”

Camp representative Andy Cassano, a planner with Nevada City Engineering, offered several assurances to the neighbors wary of increased traffic and noise, offering to restrict the lighting, while lobbying for a wider turning area from Tyler Foote Road onto Pathfinder Way, while adhering to strict rural noise limits.

“You could do a lot worse,” Cassano told the commissioners.

Commission Chairman Kurt Lorenz agreed, calling the camp relatively “benign.”

The commission granted the neighbors two additional weeks to research the project, which will be brought back to planners at 6:35 p.m. Sept. 23 in the Rood Administrative Center.

Croley hopes to finalize the purchase of the 125-acre property by the end of October, and he’s planning for families to begin arriving to the camp next June.

After 18 years in the technology business, Croley said he was looking for a more meaningful pursuit.

“(Technology) lost its meaning and purpose,” Croley said. “The world doesn’t really need another software product – what we need is a place for families, kids and employees.”

Croley has attended Camp Mather near Yosemite twice with his wife and children, Allison and Grant.

“It was the best vacation we’ve ever had,” Croley said. The experience didn’t directly contribute to his desire to operate a camp, however.

He founded Aligranto Destinations (named after his children) after researching the family camp business and discovering the 11 similar camps in California are regularly overbooked.

“(Family camps) are genuinely great places,” Croley said. “All (a family) has to do is hang out together… They’re in a slice of heaven.”

Croley searched for properties and came across the Encompass school site, which he praised for its beauty, easily accessible location, and “environmental sensibility.”

He then met up with Grass Valley resident Tim Holland, a 20-veteran of the camp industry and former president and CEO of United Camps Conferences and Retreats.

With Holland’s camp background, the duo planned for the opening of Shady Creek Camp, a camp not affiliated with a religion, Croley emphasized.

If their project is approved, Croley will add 25 cabins, a pool, two bath facilities and a small general store to the existing facilities on the site.

The facility would host week-long camps during the summer, which range from $2,900 to $3,100 for a family of four, and a small-group conference center in the winter. He plans to hire four to six full-time employees and two to 18 seasonal employees.

An open meeting on the project will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday in the dining hall on the Encompass property. The property is off Tyler Foote Road on Pathfinder Way.

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