Indian Trails A Unique Meeting Site

September 6, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — If meeting planners want to add canoeing, shooting hoops or taking short, scenic hikes as things to do between meeting sessions, then Indian Trails Camp could be the ideal spot for their next corporate conference.

Many know Indian Trails as a daily camp for disabled adults, begun by the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids 50 years ago this month.

But a few organizations — such as Leadership Grand Rapids and Kentwood Public Schools — also know Indian Trails as a place to meet for seminars, training sessions, workshops, retreats or any gathering for up to 200 people.

“We do team-building and initiatives out here because we also have a ropes course,” said Lynn Gust, executive director of Indian Trails Camp.

“It’s a great facility. There have been a number of different businesses and organizations that have utilized us.”

Indian Trails is a 15-acre camp located at 0-1859 Lake Michigan Drive, adjacent to Aman Park a few miles west of downtown Grand Rapids. Sand Creek runs through Aman, a city-owned public park that has picturesque walking, hiking and cross-country skiing trails right outside the Indian Trails door.

“We’ve got a large dining facility and meeting rooms attached to it, with restrooms. We have different breakout areas within our facility. We have board conference rooms. We have a large room inside our aquatic center that has been used for meetings, as well,” said Gust.

“So there are a number of neat components to the facility that can be used for large groups or small groups.”

The camp also offers a spacious, outdoor deck for meetings, along with a picnic area and a basketball court, near a small lake in a woodsy setting. The dining room can seat up to 200, and Indian Trails can customize a package for a meeting planner. Prices vary and depend on what a planner wants.

“Because each group is different, we like to be able to custom-make things that a group needs,” said Gust. “We also provide food. We can provide catering options or we can have our staff provide the food.”

Indian Trails also offers a maintenance staff, a lifeguard and an instructor for the ropes course.

“We have a pontoon boat, so if someone wants to go out on a ride during a break they can. If they’re having 20-minute breaks between sessions, we have nice quiet places for them to go sit, or maybe they want to go canoeing,” she said.

Indian Trails is a nonprofit organization with an annual budget of $750,000.

Gust said the camp is hoping to increase its share of the meeting market as a means of meeting its revenue goal. Sixty percent of the camp’s income is from fees that campers pay, while the rest has to be generated by Gust and her staff.

“We certainly want to raise the awareness of the facility so that the camp can be utilized more. We don’t have to staff it as fully as we do during our summer-camp program, so there is a possibility for more revenue there,” said Gust.

“Our fees, we’ve been told, are very modest. But we also want to use that to get groups to use us and increase that awareness.”

Leadership Grand Rapids, a program of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, has been a good camp customer, having used Indian Trails last spring and will do so again in a few weeks. A number of school groups, including Kentwood Public and the English department at Grand Valley State University, have also held meetings at Indian Trails.

Indian Trails will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a birthday party and an outdoor blues concert featuring the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings and the Jimmy Stagger Band from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21.

Tickets are $20 and available at Schuler Books and Music on 28th Street, Spirit Dreams in Eastown, Groskopf’s on Monroe Center and at the camp.  Proceeds will go to the camp. Call 677-5251 for more information.

Gust hopes that not only diehard blues fans attend the birthday bash. She’d also like to see some meeting planners use the event to see what Indian Trails has to offer them.

“Exactly. That would be great,” said Gust. “Also, if they can’t make it to the party, we give tours, too. If someone is interested, they should call Jim (Gust). He manages the retreat and gives the tours.”

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