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  • Jodi Eberhardt

Camp Knutson on a Mission to Save Shoreline

Camp Knutson’s beautiful 30-acre campus is nestled between the pristine waters of Lower Whitefish and Big Trout lakes. The very tip of the point where the channel connects the two lakes has a significant amount of erosion due to storms, ice, boat traffic, and wave action. When former campers return, it’s the walk through the towering trees and the view of the big lake they remember from childhood. It’s a space the camp strives to preserve for future generations.

Jared Griffin, Camp Director, explained the mission behind the project, “Our campus has over mile worth of precious shoreline that our campers with disabilities and medical conditions are proud to call their home away from home. We always teach our campers to leave camp and our natural environment better than you found it. Camp K community leaders have decided to lead by example and take on one of our biggest challenges by tripling our efforts to preserve our shoreline.“

The site’s sun-baked, sugar sand soil makes growing anything very difficult. The sand cliff is really steep and even just a little bit of foot traffic or large rain event can cause the sand to collapse. Camp Knutson has relied on the expertise of Prairie Restorations to choose native plants that can put roots down 10 to 12 feet. They planted native shrubs, grasses, sedges with a mix of drought-tolerant flowers: Rough Blazing Star, Penstemon, Spiderwort, Hairy Goldenrod, Butterfly Milkweed and Wild Bergamot.

The camp has spent over $15,000 trying to keep their shoreline from washing away. Jared Griffin, Camp Director, described the project, “The past 3 years we have invested a lot of time, talent, and financial resources trying to establish more plant growth with deeper root systems by planting native plugs and seeding. We have also installed some coconut logs, willow waddles, and other efforts. We are starting to make small progress towards restoring this hard-hit area of our shoreline, but more still needs to be done on an annual basis to address this significant challenge.”

Native plants are slow to take hold. A common phrase is “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.” The camp is finally starting to see success from some early plantings.

Camp Knutson was one of the 2021 Land and Waters grant recipients. The $2550 grant award allowed the camp to add more plants to the site.

The camp seeks out grants and the support of the community to continue efforts on this project and to support the mission of the camp. To learn how you can help, visit Camp Knutsen Volunteers website. They are coordinating two upcoming fundraisers:

  1. A Night Under the Stars will be held on Saturday, July 17. The camp website ( has details for the virtual benefit and auction.

  2. On August 14, 2021, a rainbow of quilts will be up for sale at the Camp Knutson quilt auction. Quilters from far and wide donate their time and talent to share hundreds of quilts that are in search of new homes. Through an on-line auction, anyone can bid on the beautiful quilts and the funds raised will positively impact the lives of many campers.

The Pine River Watershed Alliance recognizes the outstanding work at WAPOA and Camp Knutsen to protect water quality and restore shoreline. Thank you, Camp K, for showing a great example of natural shoreline to the campers and to your neighbors on the lake. Thank you to the countless staff and volunteers that work on the project and to the community for supporting the camp financially.

Camp Knutson is a supportive camp for individuals with disabilities, medical conditions and other identified needs. Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota partners with other organizations to host camps for youth and adults with identified needs such as autism, heart disease, skin conditions, Down syndrome, burn survivors, HIV/AIDS and youth experiencing homelessness.

The Pine River Watershed Alliance ( ) is a citizen-led volunteer organization that works with local units of government and other agencies to preserve and protect the local environment while meeting resident needs for economic development and a healthy community. PRWA sponsors a website to provide tips on how to protect water quality and shoreline at .

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