Welcome back to God’s country

Sure, Camp Halekola is one terrific camp.

Cabins, cookouts, amphitheater, wilderness — everything you need for a peaceful day under the sun and a refreshing night under the stars.

It’s all that for Rick Bundschuh, and more.

“For us, what we are trying to do is create an environment away from normal, everyday life, where cell phones don’t work, where kids can build community, you’re in God’s creation sitting out under the stars, late at night by the campfire, where we can have a chance to focus on spiritual objectives,” said the pastor of Kauai Christian Fellowship.

Bundschuh is a board member of a nonprofit group that’s been cleaning, renovating and improving the camp on the hillside of Kokee Mountain State Park since 2011.

For Bundschuh, the site offers a place to get away from daily pressures of life, and provides a chance to focus on the spiritual side.

“It can help us accomplish our goals more than one hour on Sunday morning,” Bundschuh.

One thing for sure, Camp Halekoa is back.

It wasn’t that not long ago it was home to an abandoned car, a collapsed cabin, random junk, faded paint and debris.

Bundschuh recently toured the secluded site, pointing out the changes. He opened cabin doors and windows, walked in the meadow and showed off the main hall.

“What we’ve done, we’ve preserved a valuable asset that’s been around and maybe was under used,” he said. “We preserved it and restored it.”

For instance, there are windows in the main building where there were none.

There’s fresh paint.

There are refurbished cabins with skylights and beds.

Fields were cleared.

And for that, the credit goes to volunteers from around island “who had a deep commitment to having a place for group camping.”

Carpenters, builders, contractors, along with pastors and anyone with a strong back and willingness to work, pitched in. There has been about $60,000 donated.

“They believed in what we were doing,” Bundschuh said. “The cool thing about this is that the community’s rallied behind it.”

In 2011, the state granted the nonprofit the lease on the camp that was built in the early 1940s. The military used it for a time, and it passed through different owners over the years. Kauai Christian Fellowship even had campouts there.

But gradually, the site fell into disrepair.

“Eventually, cabins started collapsing,” Bundschuh said. “Things got dangerous to the point where we stopped using it, because it was a little too spooky to us.”

A collection of photos show how bad things were.

Dirty mattresses rest on broken frames, blankets and boxes strewn about.

Some of the grounds are overrun with brush.

A collapsed cabin rested in a heap.

During their first visits, they hauled away truckloads of trash.

“You can see what we inherited,” Bundschuh says.

Not so now. Camp Halekola is greeting guests again.

There aren’t many places, especially in Kokee, that can accommodate large groups and offer a large enough kitchen and facilities. Camp Halekola can hold 30-plus adults and kids. Cost is $12 a person, per night, for at least 30 people. It was important the price be affordable.

Kauai Christian Fellowship uses the cabin several times a year for retreats and other events for adults and kids, but others are welcome.

“It’s not just our church, it’s for the whole community.” he said.

Funds from rentals go to the Camp Halekoa Association, which in turn uses the revenue to continue making improvements.

“We’re going in and bit by bit, trying to refurbish as we get funds,” he said. “We’re just trying to pour it all back into the camp.”

There’s still painting and clearing and refurbishing to do. There are cabins to renovate, grounds to clear.

A basement room is being refurbished into a rec room, with plans for pool tables and activities for kids. Zip lines and rope courses are possible additions.

“Nobody has a financial agenda,” Bundschuh said. “They just see this as a great opportunity to serve the community.”

Information: campHalekoa.com.

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