By RAY BALOGH
The Lodge in Syracuse represents 40 acres of earnest invitation by Grace Community Church for the community to “refresh, refuel and come alive.”
In June 2016 the Goshen congregation purchased the former Smith Walbridge Camp, 13900 N. Eastshore Drive, across the road to the east of Maxwelton Golf Club.
“One of our hopes for The Lodge is that it be a place for the community to retreat to with the family,” said Jim Brown, Grace’s pastor.
Brown attributed the purchase of the camp, which had been dormant for a decade, to God’s grace. The church’s intent is to dedicate the property back to God. “We would love to see this place redeemed. This is a picture of what redemption can do. We want to point people to Jesus,” said Brown.
“Want it to be a place to tell the community, ‘We love you, we value you and we are here for you. We’re glad you are here. We want you to come here. Use this place up. It is not about us.”
The camp has had glowing reviews on Facebook, receiving a unanimous five-star rating from the 36 reviewers who have weighed in so far. North Webster resident Michael Raymond Karr expressed his kudos in an April 27 review:
“Are ya kidding me? Kayaking, usable grills, fire pits, basketball, paddle boats, nature trails, fishing, the lodge with coffee, fireplace, games and tranquility, indoor fire pit for winter, 18-hole disc golf course and it’s all free for anyone to use — an absolute blessing to anyone who steps on this property.”
The main lodge can accommodate 150 overnight guests and is ideal for weddings, graduations, family reunions, business conferences, church retreats and other gatherings. Individuals are also invited to use the grounds for personal renewal.
The church has plans for the camp’s eight buildings, one of which was sacrificed to make way for the residence of The Lodge’s caretakers, Ken and Shaila Swartz.
“We are working on two outbuildings for people to rent,” said Brown. “Each building will house 25 people overnight and will come with a kitchen, showers and meeting area. We are going through the permit process now.”
Other improvement plans are in the works.
“We are looking into updating one of the pole barns into a garage to work on cars for single moms and widows,” Brown said.
The disc golf course was professionally designed and is sanctioned by the Disc Golf Association.
The camp maintains a web presence at www.facebook.com/thelodgesyracuse. The profile image incorporates a flag system to indicate the camp facilities’ availability “so people don’t have to drive there to find out,” said Brown.
The flag notices are updated daily and consist of:
- Green: full access available
- Yellow: a portion of the accommodations is being used. “You may come and use the property, but respect their space,” instructs the website.
- Red: the camp is in use
The camp is available dawn to dusk and no alcohol is permitted on the property.
For more information, call (574) 457-5774.