Secret Destination Home To Bearkat Camp, Student Getaways

There's more in the Houstonian (Feb. 11) of some of the university's secret destinations, this time University Camp:

The University Camp, located at 2245 FM 980, has a wide range of unique aspects, from zip-lines to rustic log cabins that students can visit per reservation.

There is a Bearkat lodge that is 4,000 square feet and a multipurpose building capable of accommodating more than 200 people and is surrounded by a water view. The camp also includes a challenge course that features three-tower high elements, a zip-line that goes over water, a super swing and a 12-element low-ropes course.

“In the future we are hoping to have our own personal blue lagoon built with aquatic clay and filled with a fresh body of water that is 40-50 feet deep,” [recreational sports director Keith] Jenkins said. “We also plan to have it surrounded by white sand brought in from South Padre. We don’t have the funds for it yet but are hoping to in the near future. When we do get the chance to build Bearkat Lake, we will be the only university in the country that has something like it.”

The University Camp was an idea that was first thought up by Jenkins in 1989 when students wanted to have a place where they could get away. It was not until 1990 that students from 200 student groups signed a petition that started to put the idea into motion.

After 25 years of hard work the camp had its grand opening in August 2014, welcoming a variety of student groups to 345 acres of land and unique opportunities.

An interesting historical fact about the camp is how it got its location in the first place. According to Jenkins, before it was decided to build the camp on the Trinity River it was initially going to be built on the Gibbs property.

It wasn’t until 1990 that a man from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice came to Jenkins and suggested the idea of building the camp in Riverside, where TDCJ had property available.

However, before Jenkins had the land transferred from TDCJ to SHSU, he first had to look into the history behind the land.

“Getting the land was not easy,” Jenkins said. “It was suggested that some of the property that we were hoping to build on was actually a Native American burial ground. We hired an archeologist and worked with the Texas Historical Commission and Texas Antiquities commission that allowed us to do a dig where we found two acres of land that had not bones but Native American artifacts that were federally protected.”

Despite this setback, Jenkins was eventually allowed to break ground.

“Fortunately, the rest of the land was found to not be burial grounds,” Jenkins said. “After visiting with two Native American tribal groups and getting their support to transfer from TDCJ to SHSU, we started the plans to build the camp there.”

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