For nearly 70 years, Camp Comeca has provided a scenic recreational facility for church campers, family reunions and other events in the area.
Later this month, the next chapter of the camp’s story will be determined.
Camp Comeca, 300-plus acres on Midway Lake southwest of Cozad, was established in 1950 by the Cozad United Methodist Church. After several years, its operation was taken over by the Nebraska United Methodist Conference. The Nebraska and Kansas conferences later merged to become the Great Plains Methodist Conference, which now owns the camp.
Justin Hoehner, Comeca’s camp director for the past two and a half years, said tight finances are driving the conversation about the camp’s future.
“The camp has carried a deficit for about 10 years now,” said Hoehner. “Even though we have increased revenue by about $100,000 in the past two years, the expenses have been about that same amount. The good news is we don’t anticipate a lot of big operating expenses in the near future because we have taken care of a lot of that.”
The Great Plains Conference Camping Board will meet Nov. 26 to discuss options for the camp, and then vote on how to proceed.
Hoehner said the board will consider selling the camp, closing the camp, or changing management.
Hoehner said he hopes the board decides to sell.
“The big thing I’m working on right now is getting our 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) designation and getting the camp back under local control. That is when the camp was the healthiest — when it was locally owned and managed,” said Hoehner. “We think there is a solution that will be amicable to everyone. The conference wants to see the camp succeed too.”
Hoehner said once word began to get out about a possible sale or closure of the camp, his phone started ringing.
“I have gotten phone calls from people all over the country who want to help keep the camp going,” he said.
Though the Methodist Church owns the camp, Hoehner emphasized it is available to anyone.
“As long as we have been here, the camp has always been for anybody who needs a retreat, a reunion spot or a church function. We have a little bit of everything, and we are unique in that we offer three styles of lodging available,” he said.
He said summers at the camp are busy.
“To get a big group in here, you have to book a year to year and a half in advance. In the offseason, you have to book about eight to nine months out to be guaranteed a weekend,” said Hoehner.
“We’re growing and excited at where we are. We are still a few years from being self-sustaining, and we recognize that. But we are really excited about the direction we are moving.”
He said getting the camp back under local control will help it achieve its full potential.
“We want to get to self-sustainability, so the annual pledges and donations will go toward capital improvements rather than paying the bills,” he said.
During the summer months, the camp employs about 30 people, and during retreat season, that number declines to nine. Hoehner said the camp staff works well together, and all of them are mission-minded.
“This is more than just a camp. This is a ministry. Our job is to serve people,” said Hoehner.