YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin History

From the humble beginnings of YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin’s 40 acres donated by then YMCA Board President Mr. Herman Liesveld in 1913, to today’s 160 acres, Camp truly reflects its Ojibwa Indian moniker “where the Great Spirit lives.” YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin was founded after a 16 year YMCA camping program for Grand Rapids boys was first held at Green Lake in 1897. From then until 1912, camp was held in temporary locations from Green Lake, Whitefish Lake, to Spring Lake, and on the Muskegon River near Croton.

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The Early Years

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Mr. Liesveld, President of the YMCA at the time, donated 30 acres of property on the east shore of Barlow Lake.

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The first Camp Director, Oscar J. Fox, influenced the lives of thousands of boys who attended camp from 1913 to 1919 with his deep and lasting Christian leadership.

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While the facilities and equipment were very different back then, many of the ideals remain the same.

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Camp’s major equipment included six steel boats with air chambers, two canoes, ten tents, one screened club house, one ice house with 1,000 cakes of pure ice, kitchen equipment, 76’ dock.

Unlimited Potential



Campers were able to sleep and live in cabins for the first time

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“Uncle Bob” Augustine joined the camp staff. In 1931 he became Resident Director, from 1932-48 he served as Camp Director.



Four cabins and one bathroom/ shower building known as “Freddie’s Village” was built from funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Bryant in memory of their son, Frederick.



The modern health infirmary was added, using funds provided by the Harold Fletcher Estate.

Growing Potential

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Two log cabin family, along with staff cabins, were built on the north shoreline funded by Y’s Men’s Club. Canoeing was the most popular sport in the ‘60s.

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Added three cabins, winterized with bathrooms and showers, funded by the Y’s Men’s Club.

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Outposter Program begins with trips to Rocky Mountain National Park, Aracadia Park in Maine, and bike trips along Lake Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Transformations Begin

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First all-female camping session (completely filled). After that, camp became co-ed.

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160 acres purchased from John and Frances Misak across the street. Moved the equestrian program to this area.

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Baxter Conference Center addition including conference room, two dormitories, and living quarters for Camp Director.

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Day Camp Pavillion completed. Day Camp moves to Camp Manitou-Lin with buses picking up campers from the greater Grand Rapids area.

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Stan Cheff’s generosity and vision allowed us to build a beautiful new lodge that became the center of camp.


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Gates Chapel Dedication. This chapel was built with funds from the Chuck Gates family in memory of his son, Skip

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The Van Daalen family donated the funds that enabled Camp to build a new waterfront, animal farm, and climbing tower.

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The main camp archery shelter was re-built in 2009

100 years


YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin celebrated its 100th year of serving youth and families in the Grand Rapids community.

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The Welcome Center opened, providing camp staff with much needed reception space, offices, and meeting rooms.



Willem’s Discovery Place and Trail were dedicated in memory of Willem Radosevich, a beloved fourth-generation camper.