BYU Alumni Camp Celebrates 50 Years of Offering Family Fun
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
What began as a starting point for a hike in 1911 has turned into a gathering place for more than 20,000 visitors each year. Aspen Grove—an alumni camp associated with Brigham Young University—is celebrating its 50th year in operation by doing what it does best—hosting visitors in the majestic mountains of Provo Canyon. The camp, a popular venue for family vacations, reunions, couples’ getaways, youth conferences, and retreats, was formally established in 1963.
“We have had many guests that have come and supported us over the years,” said Glen Parker, who has been the camp director for the past 28 years. “We have some families that have been coming for more than 30 years.”
Just 25 minutes away from the Brigham Young University campus, Aspen Grove is located on the scenic Alpine Loop road in Provo Canyon near the base of Mt. Timpanogos.
With picturesque mountains as its backdrop, families love coming to Aspen Grove to enjoy activities together—hiking, ropes courses, swimming and many more—and to create memories and bonds that they remember for years. Although the camp is an alumni camp, it is also available for people who did not attend BYU.
“Aspen Grove is a delightful place for families,” said Mark Longhurst, who will become the camp director in October. “I enjoy meeting the new families each week and working with the terrific student employees. Aspen Grove has been a great place for families to strengthen relationships and create lasting memories for the past 50 years. I look forward to continuing these wonderful traditions.”
Families and other organized groups enjoy the view of the mountains and activities as they visit BYU’s alumni camp, Aspen Grove. This summer marks the camp’s 50th year in operation. Photo courtesy of Mark Longhurst.
Now termed as an alumni camp for BYU, Aspen Grove’s first ties with the university began in 1911 when Eugene L. Roberts, the university’s first athletic director, used the area as the starting point for what became an annual hike up Mt. Timpanogos. About a decade later, the family who owned the land donated 35 acres to BYU, and in 1922 the Alpine Summer School was established. Students and staff lived in tents on the land as they studied zoology, botany, and geology. Just one year later a kitchen, dining hall, and three dorms were built to accommodate the students, but during World War II the need to abandon the summer school came and the area was closed for a time.
BYU’s Aspen Grove. Photo by Mark Philbrick.
In the 1960s administrators at BYU decided that since the camp wasn’t being used, they would give the land back to the family from whom it had been donated. Raymond Beckham, the director of the BYU Alumni Association at the time, knew of the camp and proposed it be used as an alumni camp.
Wilburn Van Orman, Aspen Grove’s first camp director from 1963–70. The camp, operated by BYU, is located in Provo Canyon, just 25 minutes away from the university’s campus. Church News
In order to raise the funds, Brother Beckham contacted 110 of his alumni friends and made arrangements for them to each sign a $1,000 note representing their donation. With that money construction began in the fall of 1962, and a more-established camp took shape as water, a sewage system, and a swimming pool were brought to the area. The camp opened on July 13, 1963, and now, 50 years after that dream was realized, campers still enjoy the getaway and the view.
“Those early founders had to be able to see what a very rustic setting could be,” Brother Parker said. “They had to see that it could become something beautiful and wonderful and [they had] to fight for that.”
Since then, the camp has continued to grow—both in structures and popularity—from a camp hosting eight families a week into a busy camp that caters to more than 50 families per week and that is open all year round. Each summer around 5,000 guests visit the camp for a week at a time, while the property sees thousands more during the year for retreats and day events.
“People feel the Spirit in a very natural way,” Brother Parker said. “Their hearts are softened and they come unto Christ. ... Every family comes away with a different blessing that comes into their lives. That’s the heart and magic of Aspen Grove.”
For more information visit http://www.aspen.byu.edu.