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The Haven hosts its first event

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STAR LAKE — The Haven at Star Lake, on the grounds of the former satellite campus of Houghton College, has opened for some events and hopes to have its permits in place by next summer for a Christian camp.

The Haven at Star Lake is a waterfront getaway that can be used as a retreat or recreational center or for events such as weddings.

“Right now, we can operate the lodge,” said Thomas M. Buckingham, executive and finance director. “We can sleep 50.”

Mr. Buckingham, Severna, Md., and a group of family members with ties to the area purchased the one-time education campus in the town of Fine earlier this year. They formed a limited-liability corporation, Star Lake Harbor LLC, to buy the 40-acre property from the Willard J. Houghton Foundation, Houghton, for $350,000.

That foundation purchased the campus for $425,000 in 2001 from Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services, a private corporation that supports programs at SUNY Potsdam.

Houghton is a Christian school in Allegany County that later decided to cut back on the amount of real estate it had.

Mr. Buckingham and his family established a separate nonprofit, the Haven at Star Lake, to operate the property. Star Lake Harbor will pay property taxes.

“I think that helps us with the community,” Mr. Buckingham said.

Prices will be in keeping with what the area can bear.

“We want to be affordable knowing the economic conditions up there,” Mr. Buckingham said.

Information about the retreat is available on Facebook, www.facebook.com/HavenAtStarLake, and at the website www.havensl.com.

The organization also wants to network with Fort Drum to make the center available to military members who might appreciate a quiet place to regroup, said Mr. Buckingham, who retired from the Navy.

The Haven at Star Lake had its first event in September, a banquet for Clifton-Fine Hospital.

“We largely did it ourselves,” Mr. Buckingham said. “As we fill up our schedule, that will determine our staffing.”

The Haven at Star Lake will shut down for the winter, but is thinking about its future in broader terms.

“We’ve already had interest from snowmobile clubs,” Mr. Buckingham said. “We’re keeping all our options open.”

The Haven at Star Lake is working with the state Department of Health on a permit for the summer camp.

“I think we will be open this summer,” Mr. Buckingham said. “We’ve got a plan together.”

For its first year, the camp might be open four or five weeks with a total enrollment of about 250 children, incorporating what lessons it learns into future years.

It would hire counselors on a 10:1 ratio of children to staff, along with kitchen help and two lifeguards. Counselors must be at least 18 years old, so college students returning home for the summer are likely candidates.

“We’re going to look real hard to hire local,” Mr. Buckingham said.

He said he is meeting with local leaders for their ideas on how the property might be used.

“People have been very proactive,” he said. “There isn’t much like it around.”

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