‘It’s a treasure that we sure don’t want to lose:’ Apopka leaders consider buying Camp Wewa to save from development

Developer interested in purchasing YMCA facility to build homes, mayor says

Camp Wewa in Apopka is up for sale and the Mayor of Apopka worries it could end up in the hands of a developer.

The City of Apopka is exploring the possibility of buying Camp Wewa after city leaders said the YMCA of Central Florida is selling the property due to financial constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Bryan Nelson said the city is working around the clock doing what it can to save Camp Wewa.

“It’s such a treasure that we sure don’t want to lose,” Nelson said.

The YMCA of Central Florida has owned the 70-acre facility since 1947. According to Camp Wewa’s website, it provides “a safe and exciting experience for thousands of campers 8-17 years old to grow in spirit, mind, and body through the Y’s nurturing approach to teaching athletic, camping, artistic, and leadership skills.”

Nelson said there are several amenities on the property that sits on two lakes, including a chapel, a ropes course, a climbing wall, an archery range, and a swimming pool.

“The massive oak trees out there are incredible, just a gorgeous piece of property,” he said.

Nelson said officials with the YMCA of Central Florida contacted him earlier this month to let him know they were going to sell the property. Nelson said the YMCA is facing financial hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic and they can’t afford to keep the property anymore.

The mayor said a developer is interested in buying the land to build homes.

“And I go, ‘Oh no.’ I said, ‘Listen, can we at least take a real look at trying to figure out how to buy that instead of selling to a developer?’” Nelson said.

Nelson said the YMCA of Central Florida values the property at $5 million.

The city is now crunching the numbers to come up with the money to buy the facility, including selling a piece of city owned property on Harmon Road and using $800,000 from recreational impact fees.

“We’re trying to figure out how we move forward. We’d love to be able to sell the property on Harmon and use those proceeds along with the impact fees to get to that number,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the city is also applying for a $1 million grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which could help cover purchasing and operating costs.

“We’re working really hard every day and we should know something in the next couple of weeks how our application looks with the DEP,” he said.

The city is also waiting for an appraisal for both the Camp Wewa and Harmon Road properties.

Nelson said the city sent a survey on Friday to get the community’s thoughts on the potential purchase. Several people wrote on social media saying they want the city to save the camp. Many people wrote they went to Camp Wewa as children and have fond memories, including Nelson.

“It’s a special piece of property that we need to figure out a way to preserve it, for sure,” he said.

Click or tap here to take the city’s Camp Wewa Survey.

The Apopka City Commission is holding a special public meeting on Wednesday, February 3 to discuss the proposed acquisition of Camp Wewa.

News 6 reached out to the YMCA for a statement regarding Camp Wewa, read their message below.

About the Author:

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!