In celebration of its 75th anniversary this year, Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center has announced a $3.5 million expansion plan.

Located on 1,200 acres outside Little Rock, Ark., the year-round camp and retreat center is owned by the Presbyterian Foundation of Arkansas and is governed by a board approved by the Presbytery of Arkansas.

In the past decade, Ferncliff’s summer camp registrations have doubled, and conference center use has grown by 88 percent.

The plans include a new dining hall, the addition of 10 hotel rooms, two additional cabins for 36 youth, and a new pool/water recreation area. The additional facilities will allow Ferncliff to serve its growing number of summer campers and retreat/conference groups. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2013.

Other projects include an Eco Center and a Young Adult Volunteer House. The Eco Center will house up to 28 people for low-carbon impact retreats and workshops. It will feature straw bale walls, solar power and other green features.

Ferncliff has been awarded a $1 million challenge grant from the Walton Family Foundation toward the expansion effort. 

Ferncliff’s growth can be attributed to its commitment to outreach, creative programming and eco-sustainability, said director David Gill.

One of Ferncliff’s unique outreach programs is a Disaster Assistance Center (DAC). Built in 2006, the 10,000 square foot DAC receives Church World Service disaster kits made by churches around the country. The kits are received, checked and prepared by volunteers for shipment to disaster sites around the country. The DAC also serves as the national warehouse for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Another program that involves both eco-sustainability and outreach is Solar School. In a three-day course conducted at Ferncliff, students learn how to install small-scale solar energy systems in low-income communities. These systems can provide power for a community’s highest priority need, such as water purification. In its first three years, 150 people have graduated from the Solar School and have installed 27 solar powered water purifications systems in Haiti.

Information for this story furnished by Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center.