Commission settles with Camp Gaea
The Leavenworth County Commission and representatives from Camp Gaea have reached an agreement, allowing the controversial retreat center to reopen.
Leavenworth County officials and Camp Gaea representatives said this week that the agreement would allow the retreat center, 10 miles north of Tonganoxie at 25110 235th St., to start operating again.
"It's a settlement of issues," Leavenworth County Commissioner Joe Daniels said.
An independent mediator designed the settlement agreement, which has not been made public as of press time, county officials said.
However, Camp Gaea representatives said the agreement stated the retreat center would abide by noise regulations, pay a road impact fee and would pay for chemical treatment for parts of 235th Street.
Camp Gaea caretaker Wanda Roths, who has lived at the retreat center for the past four years, said she was relieved an agreement had been reached between the two sides.
"We were worried because you never know what could happen," she said.
The settlement agreement means a lawsuit filed by Earth Rising Inc., the company that operates Camp Gaea, against Leavenworth County will be dismissed, county officials said.
In October, the Leavenworth County Commission denied the retreat center renewal of its special-use permit after hearing complaints from several county residents.
The Leavenworth County Planning Commission had also denied the special-use permit before the commissioners' decision.
Those opposed to the retreat center cited traffic problems near the campground and moral objections as reasons for opposing Camp Gaea.
In the past, the camp has hosted such groups as the Midwest Male Naturist Gathering, a gathering of male nudists, and the Heartland Pagan Festival.
"They don't have to approve, but we have a right to exist," Roths said.
Following the commissioner's decision, Camp Gaea representatives filed a lawsuit in Leavenworth County District Court, seeking a reversal of the county commissioners' decision.
The lawsuit named the commissioners, the county planning commission and the county as defendants in the case.
The non-profit organization also sought $50,000 to cover attorney fees and other expenses in the lawsuit.
Camp Gaea representatives said no money was exchanged as part of the settlement agreement although a significant amount of business was lost while the camp was without the special-use permit.
For now, it appears the retreat center will operate as before, with such events as the Heartland Spiritual Alliance Festival scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.
"It's a beautiful place to come and get back in touch with Mother Earth," Roths said.