Facility Profile - March 2008
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Weathering the Storm

Dunes Bible Camp in Ocean Park, Wash.

By Jeff Mullins

hen dark clouds bring strong winds that leave behind a tangled mess of branches and trunks where mature trees once towered in forested, park-like settings, it may be difficult to see the proverbial silver lining. At the Dunes Bible Camp on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula, the "silver lining" was found in the color orange, the hue sported by the new thin kerf sawmill camp staff utilizes to convert storm-downed trees into high-quality lumber.

Today, according to camp director, Steve Holmes, "Instead of just having a big mess to clean up, we now see storm-downed trees as a natural resource with much potential value. The sawmill enables us to realize that value and, in doing so, both saves us money and results in positive environmental contributions to our community."

By way of example, Holmes points to a winter storm that wreaked havoc at the facility in early 2007. More than 60 trees were toppled on a 20-acre forested recreation facility operated as part of the camp. Until recently, the time, effort and expense for cleanup would, at best, have netted the campground an excessively large volume of firewood. Today, the Dunes is utilizing the new sawmill to convert the downed trees into usable lumber for facility improvements, and an event that once might have been an expensive disaster now represents an opportunity.

Operated by camp staff, the sawmill is a Wood-Mizer LT40 thin kerf (kerf is the thickness of the cut a blade makes as it passes through the wood) portable sawmill. The mill can easily be towed to the side of a downed tree and set up in a few moments. Then one or two people can process lumber from the fallen stem. The mill utilizes an ultra-thin band that produces smooth and consistent lumber from logs as large as 3 feet in diameter and over 20 feet long. "The mill's lumber scale makes it very easy to consistently cut dimensional boards," Holmes said.

As a bible camp, the Dunes strives to provide a fun and rustic setting conducive to physical, mental and spiritual growth. On the Pacific Coast 15 beachfront acres offer a year-round camping experience for up to 400 campers. A heavily forested 20-acre site at nearby Loomis Lake currently provides "fair weather" tent sites, RV hookups, restrooms and a general purpose building. Holmes anticipates lumber from downed trees will soon be used to construct facilities at Loomis Lake suitable to keep 100 campers out of the frequent Pacific Northwest rains.

Initial projects made more affordable—and, thus, possible—because of the sawmill will include the sheathing of existing buildings, the construction of eight cabins and the building of a dining hall. "The mill will become an ongoing management tool as trees are periodically removed for safety, aesthetics, development and forest enhancement," Holmes said. "We are now able to recycle downed trees into camp structures."