After the Civilian Conservation Corps was dissolved in 1942, and World War II concluded, CCC Camp Black Lake was re-named the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center and re-purposed by the Michigan Department of Conservation (now Department of Natural Resources) as a camping facility for youth and outdoor education groups. The Outdoor Center utilized many of the original CCC camp buildings, including barracks, mess hall and supervisors quarters. The Center was operated under lease agreements with the state; first by Michigan State University Extension for 4-H campers, and later by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), for youth group camps and outdoor education activities.
Over time, use by MUCC groups waned. After several years of inactivity, MUCC notified the DNR of their intention not to renew the Outdoor Center lease when it expired. Not wishing to take over Outdoor Center operations, the DNR planned to demolish the buildings. When these plans became known, local residents and government officials concerned about losing a valuable outdoor experience for area youth, spoke out against demolition and looked for alternatives. With assistance from long-time county resident and MDNR Board member Harry Whiteley, a cooperative effort between the Presque Isle County Board, Tourism Council and Economic Development Commission convinced the DNR to transfer ownership of the Outdoor Center and all extant buildings to Presque Isle County on April 20, 2004. In turn, the County pledged to continue to operate the site as a public group camp and outdoor education facility.
When the County received the property, virtually all the camp furnishings and equipment had been removed. With funding from the County and local donations, the Tourism Council took on the job of building new bunk beds, dining table and benches; cleaning and painting the buildings; and sprucing up the overgrown site. MSU Extension handled camping registrations and camper marketing. The County hired a caretaker to maintain the buildings and grounds. Because of these efforts, the Ocqueoc Outdoor Center continued to offer a reasonably priced group camp experience for area youth and adults, as well as providing a location for family and community events and outdoor education.
In 2007, the Tourism Council ceased operations. A gap in volunteerism and advocacy for the Camp rapidly became apparent. Over the next decade, a loose group of concerned individuals and civic organizations continued to undertake volunteer projects at the camp, to maintain and improve facilities, and bring problems or suggestions for improvement to the attention of the County Board, the new owner of the site. In 2017, the Friends group organized more formally as a Michigan non-profit corporation. On June 29, 2017, the Friends of Ocqueoc Outdoor Center was recognized as a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) charitable organization by the IRS, making donations to the group tax exempt and qualifying the group for additional grant opportunities.
Learn more about the facilities, parks, and structures that are the legacy of CCC Camp Black Lake.
The New Deal Tour of Presque Isle County is an informational guide that will take you directly to the sites where these veterans worked.