Written by Paul Andreas, Jon Malvig, and Jessica Lippe
Prior to 1959, the various churches of eastern Nebraska held their annual District Youth Camps in several locations, including Camp Ashland of the Nebraska National Guard, near Ashland, Nebraska. The problem was one of scheduling the camp at a convenient time, which eventually conflicted with the Army's training program. During 1958 the district superintendent, the late Mr. C. R. Thomas, scanned the eastern Nebraska area with a group of pastors for a permanent camp location and the possible purchase of a camp site.
They located a piece of ground on the south side of the Platte River, about 4 miles southwest of Fremont. It was a "spectacular" purchase of approximately 30 acres of land for an amazing $4,100- approximately $135 an acre. Ten acres of it consisted of a flat grassy meadow while some 20 acres consisted of woods,, bluffs, or slope which gradually descended in elevation some 80 feet to the Platte. The dimensions of the camp were 660 feet wide, with the western boundary approximately 1900 feet long.
The camp is located on the most sacred land of the Pawnee Indians (Pawhuk Ridge).
In the early days, the sleeping quarters and all services were held in tents. Eventually, the different churches of the area were assigned individual cabin-building projects. Two churches were assigned the responsibility of building the two restrooms. The building of the dining hall was a District-wide project where the men of the entire district donated their labor.
The next major project occurred after a summer storm when tornado winds destroyed the tent. It was time to build the chapel. Like all the projects up until that time, the chapel was built by 95% donated labor. This project took nearly three years to complete. Some three years later, the annex was added, which contributed to the attractiveness of the camp.
There are currently three memorial plaques in the Chapel Annex. They are for Kenneth Steel of Fremont, the Vietnam War casualty for whom the chapel is named; Lyle Pugh of the Omaha Gospel Tabernacle who was killed on his way home from a Camp Rivercrest work day; and Terry Caldwell whose memoriam was given to the camp in remembrance of his devotion to young people.
After the completion of the chapel building, camp facilities continued to grow. The original "snack shack" was added, while various businessmen provided monies for the basketball court, the patio floor, and the 60-foot lookout tower with a breathtaking view of the Platte Valley. The tower was visited by the Nebraska Game and Parks Director, Eugene Mahoney. As a result, the great lookout tower at the Platte River State Park, 30 miles to the south, was built.
The evergreens surrounding the camp were planted in 1962 by Omaha high school students and, thereafter, a fence and gate were added. The evergreens in the gate area were brought potted from Bemidji, Minnesota at the cost of only 50 cents each.
In the early 80's a much-needed swimming pool was installed. The swimming pool can handle a maximum of 130 bathers and cost approximately $56,000; some $48,000 was enthusiastically raised by the various churches of the district. By way of a will and donations, through the Rosemont Alliance Church, monies were sent to provide materials for the $19,000 bathhouse completed in 1984. It was, as one state inspector reported, "the finest camp bathhouse in Nebraska".
A loan from the Western District provided the money for the prefabricated caretaker's quarters, and the caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Milo Stumbo, were secured. Glen Morrison, of the Omaha-Fremont area, purchased and built a much-needed steel warehouse.
The 90's brought many significant changes. The most notable was the addition of the much-needed shower house to service the west cabin area.
In 2004, the Mid America District renewed the commitment to push forward with the vision to transform Camp Rivercrest into the "premier camp of the prairies." Out of this vision came the launching of the"Never be the Same" capital campaign. This campaign plan included new lodging, dining, and recreation facilities that will serve thousands more guests during summer camps and new retreat season programs.
The initial phase of this campaign is complete. Two new state-of-the-art dorm-style lodges are now nestled in the woods overlooking the river. These beautiful lodges are a huge blessing and served as a foretaste of the many changes to come. With the help of scouting projects and other generous volunteers, the camp grounds now include better hiking trails, expanded activities, and more to make the camp experience memorable. In 2011, a complete remodel of the dining hall and kitchen was made to better serve the growing number of campers on a year-round basis. God has done great things for over 50 years at Camp Rivercrest. He is sure to do many more great things in the 50 years to come.
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2840 County Rd. 13 | Fremont, NE. | 68025