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Brighton LDS Camp Gets Makeover  
By Dian Thomas

Any girl who has lived in Salt Lake area and gone to the Brighton LDS Girls Camp will never forget the experience. This gem in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains was the first girls camp for the Church. The leaders of four stakes, Wells, Liberty, Pioneer, and Park were given the assignment to go to Brighton and find a place for the girls of the Salt Lake Valley to go learn to experience the outdoors and grow spiritually in one of the most pristine forests in the world.

The place they found is now nestled between two ski lifts at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon . It has provided camp experiences for thousands and thousands of girls to go and learn about themselves and their relationship to God.

In the early days the girls would sign up to go to camp with their mothers. There was hiking, horseback riding, and recreation outings that were enjoyed by all. By the early 60's it was turned into more of a girls' camp experience with outdoor skills being one of the main things the girls would experience.

I moved from Monticello , Utah when I just turned 12. When I went to MIA for the first time, my ward leader ask me if I would like to go to camp with the young woman in the ward. I did not know anyone in the ward yet. That year we were the first group to camp. When we arrived at this old majestic structure, it still had mounds of snow around it.

I soon learned the history of this grand old building. It had been the meetinghouse for the Church when ever there were Church programs in the canyon. Many of the Presidents of the Church and General Authorities visited this beautiful three-story building.

I continued to go to camp for the next three years. On the third year, my stake leader over the young women came to me and said, “I know how much you love Brighton Girls Camp. Would you like to go again? YES, was my answer, and it was not long before I was back to the camp I loved so much.

Brighton Girls camp had a 99-year lease from the National Forest. My father was the ranger over the land the camp was on. I once road up to camp when he went to visit and hid in the bushes and dreamed of the day I could go back and work on the staff.

My dream came true when I was 17. I returned to work in the kitchen. That winter on January 19, 1963, some skier broke into the camp and set the grand old lodge on fire.

Not only did the camp burn, but the heart of every girl who had gone to camp was broken. I was to have gone to work in the city that year to earn enough money to go to BYU. When the camp burned, I went to my parents and said that I did not care if I went to college; what I wanted to do was go back and help rebuild the camp.

A solution for the camp was reached when the Church rented a big ski lodge in Alta for the next two years while small Swiss Chalets were built in what was known by the girls as Brownie Land . In 1965, we moved back to our sacred place. Girls in the Salt Lake Valley have been coming to the Brighton LDS Girls Camp every since.

I went on to be a counselor for two years, then program director and director for two. Not only was Brighton a special spiritual place to me, it was where I learned much or my outdoor camping and cooking skills that would help me go to write my first book, Roughing it Easy, and to share what I had learned with million of readers and TV viewers. Brighton will always have a very special place for me and thousands and thousands of girls who spent a memorable week at this wonderful camp.

There have been many special people who have helped carry the tradition of this place on. Floss Waltman, who was a counselor in the 60's and loved by every camper that went to camp became the “mother” over Brighton and has been that for over 20 years. With out the love, compassion and hard work of this faithful woman, I do not think this camp would still be in operation. She has been there every minute though numerous challenges. I do not think there is a person who loves Brighton more than Floss.

Her last big project is coming to an end. After getting new beds for the entire camp, she has manage and supervised the construction of a new dinning hall and recreation room. The Lodge also needed a new roof which is now overhead. Several years ago one of the small cabins fell down, and it was replaced by a new building called the Barn named after Robert Barns who donated the money for it.

There are still 1,400 girls that go to this camp every year. This next year the camp will soon be finished and a special invitation is extended to all who have loved her to co and see this new and renew “First Lady of Camping in the Church.”

 

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