Camp in the woods stays close to the heart

Local couple keeps tradition alive

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It's a rite of passage that every third-grade student in Craig pays a visit to the John J. Sherman Youth Camp near Freeman Reservoir. There, they learn campfire safety, survival tips, and the wonders of the great outdoors.

More than 30 years of visits have developed into a local tradition. Today's teachers now relay to students stories of their own visits to the camp as youngsters.

That local tradition lives on because, in part, of one man who stepped up to make sure the camp would not close. In 2003, the camp fell under financial hard times due to shortfalls in the county budget.

Glen Sherman, son of the camp's namesake and a former Craig police chief, began giving money and talking with local service clubs about ways to keep the camp open.

"The Girl Scouts started drives to keep the camp going," Sherman said. "That's when we started giving money to help out."

The "we" Sherman refers to is himself and partner Diane Zeier. Together, the couple has worked as advocates on behalf of the camp, rallying financial support to keep the tradition alive.

"We came back and went to the service clubs, and they were all disappointed the camp was closing down," Sherman said.

Too much work and too much history had gone into the camp to let it fail, he said.

When a 30-year lease expired in 2003, Moffat County faced financial difficulties that led to the withdrawal of money that kept the camp in operation.

The former police chief had to make a move in time to save the camp.

Out of loyalty to his hometown and the camp, Sherman, despite spending a couple of decades away from Moffat County, never forgot.

Sherman, born in Craig and a graduate of Moffat County High School, joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation and was in the service during the Korean conflict, though he never was sent to battle.

The son of a Marine who fought in France during World War I and the father of a Marine, Glen Sherman was discharged from the Corps in 1952.

After trying his hand at farming for a time, Sherman moved to California in 1953 to follow a dream that included a career in law enforcement.

In May 1954, he was hired by the Los Angeles Police Department, where he would spend the next 26 years and rise to lieutenant of detectives.

In late 1979, the Craig Police Department was in disarray, Sherman said, and they began advertising for a police chief.

Sherman's sister sent him an ad from the local paper, and he applied for the job.

He retired from the LAPD and worked as the Craig chief of police for 14 years.

In 1983, Sherman founded the Substance Abuse Prevention Program in Craig, an organization dedicated to teaching the hazards of alcohol and drugs to the community's youth.

Wanting to assure SAPP's survival after his departure for California in 1999, Sherman donated $20,000 to set up a trust fund for a scholarship program.

A board of trustees, including the Moffat County High School principal, Moffat County sheriff and Craig police chief, oversees the program that distributes $1,000 scholarships each year to high school students in the community.

In 2005, Sherman donated another $20,000 to SAPP.

Even after leaving town, he never lost interest in the camp north of Craig named for his father.

When the camp struggled to find caretakers who would live at the location during summer months, Sherman again stepped up to secure a cabin to replace the aging trailer at the camp.

This year, Sherman donated $10,000 through SAPP to purchase the new caretakers' cabin at the camp.

Zeier also donated $10,000 to the Girl Scouts, earmarking the money for the cabin.

Sherman credits former Moffat County Parks and Recreation Director Steve Grandbouche with much of the work on the caretaker cabin, not even letting retirement get in the way of completing the project.

Today, the camp hosts the annual third-grade trips by the elementary schools, the Girl and Boy Scout visits, and various other programs.

For Sherman, not even the 1,000 miles between his California home and his hometown can stop his participation in Moffat County events.

He is planning the 60th reunion for his Moffat County High School classmates in May.

Perhaps, he said, they can meet up at the camp in the woods, started by his father nearly 40 years ago.

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