Plans focus on upgrading Camden residence
LYND — The Minnesota State Park System is working toward a plan that will re-purpose Jason Holm’s boyhood home.
Plans are in place to convert the former park manager’s residence into a guesthouse. It will be available to families, youth groups, community clubs, and others who want to use it as a lodge-style residence.
Camden State Park Manager Bill Dinesen said the residence has not been used by park staff since the 1990s. Attempts to use it as rental property did not meet expectations.
“The rental property idea was the most obvious option, but it didn’t work as well as we’d hoped,” Dinesen said. “We looked for other possibilities. The guest house idea seemed like the best answer.”
He said the guest house concept has year-round potential. From spring through fall, it will encourage non-campers to stay overnight at the park. The residence is located next to the former park entrance along Lyon County Road 25 at the north boundary, conveniently placed near the North Picnic Ground, the swimming beach, and the remnants of the former Camden village. The former mill race that carried water to Camden’s grist mill is still visible as a ditch-like structure.
Dinesen said renovations are being planned to make the house amenable to guests. The front porch, installed when Jason Holm’s father, Dean Holm, was park manager, will be removed to restore the original appearance that was created by Veterans Conservation Corps workers in the 1930’s.
State park system officials had to make a harder decision with the home’s back steps. They chose to leave the current steps in place because the property will keep its original appearance. The back steps leading into a wooded area will not be handicapped accessible, but the house will meet all federal disability access requirements.
“Historic authenticity is very important to us,” Dinesen said. “We want it to look like it did when it was first built.”
Jason Holm, currently a U.S. Fish and Wildlife official based in Washington D.C., lived at the manager’s residence for nine years. He compared the experience to the 1986 movie “Stand By Me” about the outdoor adventures of four young boys, a movie that premiered the same year he graduated from Marshall High School.
He added that much of his free time was spent exploring the Camden woods, spending time at the Redwood River and the swimming beach, and hiking very familiar park trails.
“I never thought about coming back inside until it started to get dark,” Holm said. “Camden was the best place to grow up I could ever want. I wish everyone could have the same kind of experience.”
He’s encouraged by the park system’s plans to upgrade the manager’s residence, which he shared with his parents, Dean and Bonnie Holm, and his sisters, Jonie and Jackie.
“I definitely support how they want to find a new way to use the house,” Jason said. “It will help to guarantee that it’s well-maintained. I’m glad families and youth groups and other guests will have a chance to enjoy it.”
The manager’s house was originally known as the “custodian’s house,” according to historian Bill Palmer, who has done extensive research on VCC activities at Camden State Park in the 1930s.
The Corps built the manager’s residence by cutting each block of stone. They then carefully laid down the stones and filled them in with locally produced mortar.
Besides the manager’s residence, the Corps also constructed the swimming beach bathhouse, the main picnic shelter, and a group of stone bridges. They created the swimming beach and beautified the creek area along the former Sioux Lookout Trail (now the Dakota Valley Trail) with a series of small waterfalls. The trail ends at a lookout point with a view that stretches more than 10 miles to include Marshall.
Palmer said he’s pleased with the park system’s plans for one of the most important VCC projects.
“I’ve gone past the house on my bike and have hoped they could find a new way to use it,” he said. “I also hoped they could get enough funding. I think it’s fantastic.”