Rebuilding Our Youth:
Camp Katharine Parsons Restoration Project
A Capital Campaign of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center
Equitable access to the outdoors can improve the physical and mental health of individuals and communities, foster a greater appreciation for the natural world, and promote social and environmental justice.
It's an area Phyllis Wheatley Community Center (PWCC) has been working in since long before the environmentalist movement took hold in the U.S. — PWCC has been providing outdoor adventures for African American youth dating back to the 1940s, when records show that the organization leased a camp in Savage, MN to give Northside kids access to nature and the outdoors.
The original buildings and infrastructure at Camp Katharine Parsons will soon be replaced by new, modest, environmentally-conscious structures that will be no larger than the footprint of the camp's 1956 architecture.
By 1956, long-time board member and PWCC supporter Ms. Katharine Parsons had arranged for the purchase of a parcel of land on Oak Lake in Carver County, which she donated to PWCC with the instruction that it become a permanent day camp that served a specific demographic — Black youth growing up on the Northside of Minneapolis.
For the next 50 years, hundreds of youth from the Northside spent summers at Camp Katharine Parsons, where they, like almost any kid who grew up in Minnesota, developed skills that are only learned at camp — and discovered the healing power of nature. The benefits that the structure and support the camp provided youth for those years is evidenced now in the successful legacies of many former campers who have gone on to find great success in business, the nonprofit sector, and positions of elected office.
In the early 2000s, with deferred maintenance costs mounting and support for camp operations dwindling, the neighborhoods that PWCC has supported for nearly 100 years were facing new challenges. Due to the housing crisis and tornado that ripped through the Northside, leaving dozens of families displaced, PWCC was forced to close the camp and shift its focus and resources to the newly emerging needs of our historically marginalized community.
Now, PWCC has a new commitment — to return Camp Katharine Parsons to its original purpose — that of creating environmental equity and incomparable youth development opportunities for urban, African American kids in our community.
But we need your help!
The Minnesota House and Senate votes in the coming month will decide which of the hundreds of proposed community projects receive funding, and that's you come in! Reach out to your MN district legislators and ask that they Support bills HF0851 in the House and SF1796 in the Senate!
Support House Bill HF851 and Senate Bill SF1796!
This project will
Create educational, recreational, & restorative opportunities for BIPOC community.
Provide healing through nature, which urban kids might not otherwise have access to.
Provide mentorship, guidance, safety, and stability.
Create a new generation of civic leaders.
Copy and paste the information below into an email to let legislators know that Camp Katharine Parsons is a priority for their constituents, for our African American youth who deserve a fair shot in life, and for the future wellbeing of our environment.
Please feel free to personalize your message if you so choose!
Please support Phyllis Wheatley's bonding request to restore of Camp Katharine Parsons (House Bill HF0851 and Senate Bill SF1796), the state's only outdoor spaces dedicated to the importance of providing urban, Black youth from the Northside of Minneapolis with a place to grow, learn, find their passion, and become great stewards of the environment.
The summer camp experience is one almost all Minnesotans can point to as a key part of their childhood development. Camp Katharine is a place where disadvantaged kids are able to see that there is more to the world than the urban streets, and there is much they can do to contribute to better futures for themselves, for their communities, for the environment, and for those who come after them.
At Camp Katharine Parsons, children and teens will learn about opportunities to grow and find their personal callings — as stewards the environment and patrons of Minnesota's natural spaces, community advocates, and leaders. This experience can empower the next generation, and inspire them to create long-needed change — in our communities and across our city — by giving hope to kids who have none — hope for strong, purposeful, attainable futures.
By breaking the cycles of crime, poverty, and violence in Minneapolis, we can begin to address the city's historic problems that remain after decades of the marginalization of African Americans that led to the crisis point we find ourselves at today.
Use your voice to call legislators and advocate for the return of Camp Katharine Parsons!
Feel free to use the talking points above to craft your voicemail message. Thank you for your support!
Contact key legislators to support us:
Senator Bobby Joe Champion
President of the Senate
Read Star Tribune Coverage on the Restoration of Camp Katharine Parsons:
And our blog! www.phylliswheatley.org/stories
Support the Camp Katharine Parsons Capital Campaign
On Tuesday, April 18, the Carver County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted yes on the passage of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center's Conditional Use Permit, paving the way for reconstruction to begin. The approval enables Phyllis Wheatley Community Center (PWCC) to move forward with the restoration of Camp Katharine Parsons. For 50 years, the camp served as a natural oasis for Northside kids on Oak Lake near Watertown, MN.
During its 20-year dormancy, the camp was reclaimed — by nature. Virtually undisturbed for two decades, the property returned to a wildlife refuge and natural preserve. PWCC is committed to making sure Camp Katharine Parsons remains a protected habitat, and showed its commitment by entering into a $1 million contract with the Minnesota Land Trust, pledging to preserve more than 90% of the property's ecological integrity, while giving youth the same chances that generations before them had at Camp Katharine Parsons.
You can help PWCC by making a donation to the Camp Katharine Parsons Capital Campaign by using the form to the right today!
Mail a check to Phyllis Wheatley Community Center
Camp Katharine Parsons Restoration Fund
Attn: Katy Nelson or Terence Heavens
1301 N. 10th Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55411
Make a grant from your donor-advised fund to the
Camp Katharine Parsons Restoration Project of Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, EIN #41-0706132
Questions? Call us! 612.374.4342
Phyllis Wheatley Community Center