Western North Carolina is home to 83 summer camps. At 35 years old, Green River Preserve is “the new kid on the block,” in the presence of so many established, traditional camps. Sandy Schenck knew that if he was to succeed in starting a new camp in Western North Carolina, it had to be different. When Green River Preserve was founded in 1988, a cornerstone of the camp’s mission was to teach future leaders to be better stewards of the land. It remains the hallmark of the camp today; a niche in sustainability that no other camp in this region claims.
The Schenck family purchased the land that is Green River Preserve in 1953. As a child, Sandy traveled on weekends and summers to their family’s property to fly fish and hunt. He was very fortunate to learn the lore of the land from families who lived in the Green River valley for generations. From these memorable teachers, he learned a reverence for the land and a joy for outdoor living. They were his counselors, and he was their camper. The origins of camp are rooted in Sandy’s childhood memories, in lessons passed from one generation to the next, and in the simple pleasure of sharing nature with young people.
In 1987, construction of the base camp began in an old cornfield bordered by springs. Timber harvested from the site became logs for the camp’s lodge and cabins. Virtually the entire camp was built by people from the Green River valley. From sawyer to carpenter, stonemason to electrician, the people who built the camp are from many of the same families that taught Sandy to love the Green River valley. The sustainable practice of using timber harvested on The Preserve for building projects and craftsmen from the valley continues today.
The 3400 acres of Green River Preserve include the headwaters of the Green River. In 2007, Missy and Sandy Schenck completed a conservation easement on The Preserve which included protecting the watershed of the Green River. This was done through an agreement managed by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the Clean Water Management Trust. Along with protecting the Green River watershed, the easement protects the land which is home to many endangered species of plants and wildlife. The National Federation of Wildlife recognizes Green River Preserve as a certified wildlife habitat.
Soon after purchasing the Green River land, Sandy’s father formed a hunting club. A requirement of the “Buck Club” was to live within seven miles of The Preserve. This provided generations of families in the valley hunting rites at designated times of the year in exchange for maintaining wildlife feed plots and protecting the land from poachers. The creation of the Buck Club encouraged a relationship with the valley families of mutual respect and kindness we continue to share today. First and second generation members maintain nine protected feed plots on The Preserve along with a healthy sustainable wildlife population.
The mission of GRP is to inspire environmental stewards through a joyful connection to nature. A big part of our time as Directors (Anne & Steve) has been walking the walk as much as possible within our programs, facilities, actions, really everything we do. Slowly over our tenure, we have made improvements and prioritized projects to help model this behavior. Some of the things we have accomplished include:
In the fall of 2021, the GRP Board of Directors approved an initiative to dedicate 1% of 2023 tuition income to sustainability initiatives at Green River Preserve. This is huge for us and we are really excited about the possibilities we will create for our community.
This past summer, GRP hired Kendall Prtisch, an MBA student at Colorado State, to be our sustainability intern. We charged Kendall with assessing our current impact as an organization and helping us map out our sustainability plan. Kendall divided her recommendations for our future into seven different categories: environmental, water, waste, food, energy, social, and general. They are rated on a scale of 1-3 based on time and financial investment. To find out more, please read Kendall’s full report here.
As we make plans to implement Kendall’s recommendations, we also are continuing with our “grass roots” efforts here at camp. We have begun discussions with the Burns family (a local valley family) about harvesting 2 instead of 1 cow from their herd this next year, we have made a commitment in our office to monitor our heat and air conditioning, and we just got a load of wood off The Preserve milled by Marshall Beddingfield, another valley local, for our next facilities project.
We are all citizens of the Earth and all need to do our part. We truly believe being an environmentalist is foundational to our existence and needs to be part of all of our core. Teaching, learning, living, being this way is part of GRP. We will continue to do our part to educate and “walk the walk” to inspire stewards of the Earth to do the same.