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Lights out for youth camp

NORTH LIBERTY– After more than 10 years of negotiations, revisions and unexpected setbacks, a local branch of the Muslim Youth Camps of America (MYCA) has withdrawn its plan to build a camp on the Coralville Reservoir near North Liberty.
In the works since 1999, the project was to be located on the former Camp Daybreak site off Scales Bend Road north of North Liberty. The US Army Corps of Engineers approved a five-year lease in March 2006 after the original plan, designed for 120 campers, was scaled back to accommodate up to 60 campers. MYCA had planned to build a 2,400-square-foot central lodge, five cabins and five tent pads. The 114-acre site was to contain recreational trails, a beachfront and a fishing/boating area, with camping and educational sessions to be held through summer and fall months.
The lease expired in February 2011, after some of the work had been completed. MYCA Board of Directors member Jalel Aossey said in an email communication with the Leader that MYCA had sought an extension of the lease in March 2011, in order to study a plan for an even further-reduced scope of the project, perhaps for as few as 15 to 20 campers.
“We were studying such aspects as geography, potential camper interest, costs of maintenance and development, ongoing restrictions, safety of campers, and program development,” wrote Aossey. “While there were some promising aspects to this newer development, the decision was made that at this reduced level, the original goals would no longer be in line with the original goals of MYCA.”
Therefore, Aossey notified Ron Fournier of the Corps’ Rock Island District in April that MYCA no longer wished to secure a new lease for the property.
Fournier said last week he wanted to emphasize that the Rock Island District Corps of Engineers did not terminate the lease with MYCA.
“The original five-year lease provided a schedule of negotiable developments to occur during the lease period,” Fournier said. “MYCA’s activities included clearing of vegetation along the existing roadway, grading of road and ditches, removal of former Camp Daybreak structures, and construction of two new camping platforms. MYCA has also invested in producing a variety of development plans to meet Corps approval.”
Aossey indicated that over time, the programs and goals MYCA sought to achieve could not be met under the current constraints of the project.
“The main reason MYCA ceased pursuing the lease was we could no longer pursue the objectives of the camp with the limited accessibility granted by the Army’s Corps restrictions on the site, as well as the costs to maintain a camp that would not meet the goal of being an ACA (American Camp Association)-accredited facility,” Aossey said. Further, he added, “the 2008 floods more or less sealed the deal after looking at potential costs for annual maintenance and cleanup.”
MYCA turned the completed work over to the Corps, said Aoessy.
“MYCA has donated all land improvements as a goodwill gesture back to the Army Corps, which in turn I believe can be used by all who visit the site.”
Fournier concurred, saying the site is now open to the public, where people can hike and visit the Coralville Lake as they do under normal rules for use of federal land.
There are no new plans for the site at this time, and no one currently seeking a lease for the property, Fournier noted.
Nor will MYCA seek any new leases in Iowa, Aossey said.
“In the end, MYCA as an active organization will be tabled until one day in the future when a new group of individuals comes together to start a new plan for development,” wrote Aossey. “In its place however, many of the board members who were once part of MYCA have found new groups and organizations to dedicate their efforts and resources.”
That includes Aossey himself, he said. In the 10 years that MYCA attempted to develop the camp near North Liberty, he has married and had three children, is deeply involved with his family business, Midimar Corporation in Cedar Rapids, and is continuing to pursue his personal aspirations of child development, education and providing a positive Islamic environment for youth.
“With regard to goodwill and community development I am focused now on further developing– with my wife and the Cedar Rapids Islamic Community– Eastern Iowa’s first Islamic School, My Iman Montessori (www.myimanmontessori.org) which will be starting its third year this fall,” said Aossey.
Though he admits it was a tough decision to let the MYCA camp go, Aossey said he is at peace in moving on. His new endeavors are more aligned with his personal and family goals, and he intends to help My Imam Montessori to become as successful as other private religious educational institutions in this state.
“My personal goal now is to work within the Cedar Rapids Islamic community to further prepare our children for the next several generations, just like the elders of our community did for us,” Aossey said. “Muslims have been a positive and contributing cornerstone of Iowa for over 100 years and we will continue this tradition for the next 100 as well.”