January 10, 2018 10:12:11 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
The Frank P. Phillips YMCA announced Tuesday it has agreed to sell Camp Henry Pratt to a local businessman who owns property adjacent to the 70-acre site in south Lowndes County.
Although few details of the sale were released and neither YMCA Director Andy Boyd nor new owner Ron Harper could be reached for comment, it appears the two summer camps that used Camp Pratt will continue this year.
"The Y will continue to provide Summer Day Camp and activities for kids," Boyd said in the press release announcing the sale.
The YMCA holds three week-long summer day camps each year and will continue to use the facility for the camps under the terms of the sale.
Meanwhile, the facility will also be available this June for Camp Rising Sun, a week-long camp for children ages 6-16 who have been or are cancer patients.
Fred Kinder, a Camp Rising Sun board of directors member, said he had received a personal assurance from Harper prior to the announcement of the sale.
"It's something I talked with Ron about in December when I first heard he was considering buying Camp Pratt," Kinder said. "He told me he had plans for refurbishing the camp for church groups, business retreats, family reunions. He said we could definitely have Camp Pratt in June and then we could work on possibly extending that for several more years. At the very least, having Camp Pratt this year gives us another year to come up with options."
Kinder said this year will mark the 31st year for Camp Rising Sun.
According to Lowndes County tax records, Harper owns at least nine parcels of land near Camp Pratt, some of which are adjacent to the property. Harper, a Columbus resident, is president and CEO of Logista, an IT company.
The YMCA announced in December it was taking sealed bids for the purchase of the property. Boyd said the Y's limited use of the facility, along with maintenance costs, had been the subject of discussion for the past five to 10 years. The Y has used the facility for camps as far back as the 1930s.
" What I can say is that (Camp Pratt) is very under-utilized," Boyd said in announcing the Y's decision to consider the sale. "The fact is, we have three brick-and-mortar locations, plus Camp Pratt, to take care of on a very small budget. Right now, I'd say we're in a conversation to see if it's a smart option for us to consider."
Camp Pratt is located on 70 acres, including 1,700 feet of Tombigbee River frontage and includes nine cabins, a large metal building designed to be used as a cafeteria, an in-ground swimming pool and access to hunting and fishing.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]