Camp Katharine Parsons Restoration Project
"Fifty years from now, I want the Wheatley to still be the advocate, the fighter, the counselor, and the helper of people over here."
- Cozelle Breedlove, former Executive Director,
Phyllis Wheatley Community Center
at the PWCC 50-year anniversary celebration in 1974
For more than 40 years, generations of Northside youth spent summers at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center's Camp Katharine Parsons, a natural oasis and a unique piece of Minneapolis’ cultural heritage. There, kids and teens from our neighborhoods learned valuable life skills that prepared them for success as adults; they experienced nature and all of its benefits for the mind and body; and they found mentorship and guidance, stability, safety, and structure in an often all too unpredictable world.
The camp's structures began to fall into disrepair in the early 2000s, and PWCC ended the summer sessions out of concerns for safety. Mounting costs and reduced financial support rendered PWCC unable to continue to sustain the beautiful 100-acre piece of property and its buildings. Though the camp, which sits on a peninsula jutting into Oak Lake in Carver County, has lain mostly dormant for 20 years, PWCC retained ownership of the donated property despite the organization's precarious financial outlook.
Today, under new leadership committed to making the organization a central resource in our North Minneapolis area once again, Phyllis Wheatley intends to see the camp fully restored and able to provide the important services it once offered to youth and families in our community.
To learn more about Camp Katharine Parsons and how you can get involved, read on below. We will continue to update our neighbors and supporters as we learn more about the history of the camp, and of PWCC. To see updates, please check here back soon.
Watch to learn more about Camp Katharine Parsons history and why it matters to Northside kids
Hundreds of people who grew up on the Northside remember summers spent at Phyllis Wheatley's Camp Katharine Parsons. We've documented just a few of their stories to share the many ways supporters of the camp's restoration benefitted from the unique opportunity for outdoor experience the camp offered, why they think the camp is so important to youth development, and how today's kids can learn, grow, and thrive at Camp Katharine Parsons, once again.
Camp Katharine Parsons is named for a member of the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center's Board of Directors who was instrumental in the creation and development of the camp.
Ms. Parsons wished to see the beautiful plot of land on Oak Lake in Carver County become a place of respite and enrichment for youth in our North Minneapolis neighborhoods. And to that end, the camp was opened and served its purpose for 40 years before falling into disrepair at the beginning of this century.
Now, PWCC intends to revitalize the historic property and reinstate the legacy of Katharine Parsons and her dream of giving our kids a piece of the nature that she so deeply appreciated. In 2019, PWCC entered into a $1 million agreement with the Minnesota Land Trust to ensure that 90% of the property remains a conservation area. The funds from this agreement have been earmarked to pay for revitalization efforts.
With the help of our community, Phyllis Wheatley will now undertake the revitalization of the camp, a project that will rebuild infrastructure, renew wildlife, and once again welcome our neighborhood kids to come out to the lake on hot summer days.
During the most recent legislative session, PWCC earned Governor Walz's support and an allocation of $4 million in his proposed budget; unfortunately, the session closed before legislators voted on the use of the historic $9 billion surplus. Nonetheless, PWCC is determined to see the camp project through to completion, and has kicked off a multi-million-dollar capital campaign toward the effort.
Our goal: Camp Katharine Parsons will be fully operational and open to our kids in 2024, coinciding with the 100-year celebration of the opening of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center!
You Can Help
You can help by donating now!
Your gift will help move Camp Katharine Parsons further into the construction phases of the project and, eventually, to its full restoration and reinstatement of a treasured North Minneapolis childhood mainstay.
To volunteer, donate services in-kind, or for other ways you can become a Camp Katharine stakeholder, contact email@example.com.
We want to hear your stories
Do you have memories of summers spent at Camp Katharine Parsons when you were a youth? We want to hear from you! Your stories can help us as we work to piece together our organization's nearly 100-year history as an advocate for African Americans in Minneapolis.
Please contact Katy Nelson, Development and Communications Director at PWCC, at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell your story, reconnect with Phyllis Wheatley, and help us better understand our rich history in the community we share.