Apr. 05, 2000

Columbia Sells Its Former Engineering Summer Camp In Northwestern Connecticut For Open Space

By Suzanne Trimel

Columbia has sold nearly 600 acres of rural property in northwestern Connecticut, which was originally a field camp to train engineering students in surveying and other techniques. The land in the towns of Morris and Bethlehem was bought for $2.1 million by the State of Connecticut, which plans to preserve it as open recreational space.

Known as Camp Columbia to generations of engineering students, the land about 100 miles from New York City includes scenic views, woodlands, waterfront access to Bantam Lake and rustic buildings and structures, including a 60-foot cylindrical stone water and observation tower, cottages, a dining hall, a boathouse, and a recreation building. The property was owned by Camp Columbia Inc., a Connecticut corporation created in 1962 as a subsidiary of the University. About seven acres are located on the southern shore of Bantam Lake across Route 109 from the main parcel. Although Columbia purchased much of the property in 1903, the University had maintained a summer field camp to teach surveying in nearby Litchfield since 1891, making Columbia's the oldest summer engineering camp in the country.

The engineering camp requirement for entering engineering students ended in 1966, but the University continued to use the property for other educational purposes, including a pre-college training program in composition and research, pre-season football practice, a summer science program for high school students and most recently, as a regional earthquake monitoring station.

The land will continue to be used for seismological monitoring under an agreement between the U.S. Geological Survey, Columbia's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and the State of Connecticut.

Arthur J. Rocque Jr., Connecticut Commissioner of Environmental Protection, said the purchase creates "another unique opportunity to preserve rich lands full of wildlife habitat and passive recreational opportunities for future generations."

"We are delighted that this beautiful property will continue to serve an important public function," said John Masten, Executive Vice President for Finance.

Under a resolution approved by the Trustees in 1998, Columbia negotiated the sale with the Department of Environmental Protection of the State of Connecticut. The state has purchased 4,191 acres of open space since July, 1998 under the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Fund.