With an expansion to the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA expected in the future, the organization has taken action to expand its space and programs into the outdoors.
The YMCA has leased a 40-acre property along Tokul Road to be used as an outdoor education space. The property will be known as Camp Keller named after the Keller family, longtime Valley residents.
Harold Keller was the executive director of the Snoqualmie Falls Community YMCA in the 1930s. The Keller family has remained in the Valley and was part of the formation of the current YMCA location on The Ridge.
Snoqualmie Valley YMCA executive director Nate Smith said the property would be a place to focus on programs about outdoor education without the need for a development of a large building or structures like rock climbing walls.
“This isn’t going to be a developed property,” he said. “It’s designed more to use the natural landscape as the tool for teaching.”
Smith noted that the Valley’s outdoor resources are one of the area’s greatest appeals, and getting residents to engage with their surroundings has been a goal for the organization. The YMCA plans to develop an outdoor curriculum that focuses on “leave no trace” principles, promoting preemptive measures to have minimal environmental impact as people engage with their environment.
There will also be a small outdoor classroom to provide a sheltered area and a meeting space, Smith said.
While parking is available at the property, providing buses to and from Camp Keller is one of the ways the YMCA itself is trying to improve its carbon footprint as part of the program as well.
Some of the programs planned for the 40-acre space include teaching orienteering skills, survival skills and environmental studies during summer camps. A few events will be offered at the end of June including Outdoor Survival Camp, Outdoor Cooking Camp and an Archery Camp. An expanded list of programs is expected to begin in 2020.
In the fall the YMCA plans to begin partnerships with other outdoor recreation organizations to offer more educational opportunities.
Pretty much all of the space is usable, he said, with good trails running through the property and a diverse range of forested areas available for several different programs.
For now, volunteer groups have been working to clear trails and install a few additions such as picnic tables and some basic signage.
Summer programs are now open for sign ups, Smith said, at the YMCA website ykids.seattleymca.org under the Snoqualmie Valley location.