Camp Howard is raising funds for a new $3.5 million lodge, shown in this architect’s rendering. The current lodge is 63 years old. 


Camp Howard is raising funds for a new $3.5 million lodge, shown in this architect’s rendering. The current lodge is 63 years old. 

At summer camp, shakiness is understandable when it comes to canoes, or to a kid’s legs as he’s about to soar down the zip line for the first time. 

But not for a lodge. 

Camp Howard’s current dining hall goes back to 1953. Built on cement piers, rather than a foundation, it has served nobly. But the building’s long-term stability is questionable.    

Catholic Youth Organization, which runs Camp Howard, is launching a capital campaign for a new lodge. Set to cost $3.5 million, it’s nothing lavish. But it will have space to feed everyone — something the current setup lacks. Set on a bluff, the new building will face 11,000-foot Mount Hood and will feature a vista of the Bull Run Canyon, with the river 600 feet below.  

“It can transform the experience at camp,” says Henry Fitzgibbon, the architect on the project. 

In the 1960s, Fitzgibbon spent childhood summers at Camp Howard and knows the place can transform lives. The lodge will become a new, clear center of the 240-acre parcel snuggled in the foothills of the Cascades near Corbett. 

Fitzgibbon, a member of St. John Fisher Parish and a principal at Soderstrom Architects, is designing the lodge to bring indoors and outdoors together. He included a large deck and plenty of windows that open.    

Joe Weston, a Central Catholic graduate who has a successful real estate and building management business, got the lodge campaign going with a $1 million pledge. Fundraising is about halfway home. 

Most days at camp now, staff must erect tents as temporary dining spots. And lack of space in the current dining hall means kitchen workers can’t store enough supplies for an entire week. Someone needs to leave in the middle of camp to go shopping. In the new lodge, the main hall will seat 320 diners indoors. In addition, there will be outdoor tables, some covered, for 200 more people. The lodge will have a fireplace, a conference room, ample storage and a more spacious kitchen. 

The building is emerging as Fitzgibbon consults the vision of Sister Krista von Borstel, executive director of CYO/Camp Howard. It was Fitzgibbon who suggested orienting the building so it overlooks Bull Run. 

“It will be beautiful and it’s long overdue,” says Michelle Garcia, a principal at Northwest Investment Counselors who is helping with the lodge project. Her son was a Camp Howard counselor and told her, “You need to help them get a new dining hall.” 

Garcia says the new hall will not be fancy, but will enhance what can happen at the camp. It will be able to host conferences and larger sessions of Outdoor School.   

A member of St. Pius X Parish, Garcia says Sister Krista is known for getting the job done right, but doing it frugally. “Sister will get every penny out of what we are trying to do,” Garcia says. “She wants what is best for kids.”

Kevin Kelly, retired president of U.S. Bank, is helping raise funds for the lodge. As a boy, he attended St. Thomas More School and went to Camp Howard often. He recalls the joy of swimming, hiking and meeting new friends. 

“Right now, the camp can’t feed all the kids at the same time,” Kelly says. “If we get this expansion done, we can welcome more kids.” 

Kelly says Sister Krista and her innovations — like laser tag, zip line and giant swing — will draw more campers. “She’s a nun who understands kids,” Kelly says. “She is right in touch. 

Kelly thinks camp is more important today than in the 1950s and ’60s. “It gives kids things to do that really appeal to them, but in the Catholic and Christian environment that can really form them,” he says. 

The lodge could mark a completion of major camp renovations Sister Krista has undertaken over the past 20 years. New cabins, covered basketball courts and a star-gazing deck are among the others.

“This new lodge will be more user friendly and offer more space and indoor-outdoor options. It is going to make a big difference.” 

After the lodge, there could be only minimal upgrading and maintenance. But it’s unclear if Sister Krista will slow down. She foresees a new infirmary and an office on the main entry road. 

“You need to keep changing to meet the needs of new campers,” Sister Krista says.