Muslim camp backers want lease extension

Prayer Room with mosaic tiles, as envisioned in the initial Muslim Youth Camps of America proposal for a camp at Coralvi
Prayer Room with mosaic tiles, as envisioned in the initial Muslim Youth Camps of America proposal for a camp at Coralville Lake.

The lease for land at Coralville Lake that was to be home to a long-delayed Muslim youth camp has expired, but the project isn’t dead yet.

The five-year lease between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Muslim Youth Camps of America expired Feb. 28.

But Ron Fournier, spokesman for the Corps office in Rock Island, Ill., said Thursday the Corps is reviewing MYCA’s request for an extension.

Also, Jalel Aossey of Cedar Rapids, one of the organizers of the camp, said in an e-mail message that the project is alive, although its scale will be reduced and take a more regional approach for campers and nonprofit activities.

Aossey is travelling overseas and more details were not immediately available.

“There is more to follow on MYCA,” he wrote.

First proposed in 1999, MYCA’s plan for a summer camp for Muslim youth at Coralville Lake was met with environmental, safety and road concerns from neighbors and county officials. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, religion and race also became an issue for a few people, and the controversy surrounding the project attracted national media attention.

Delays ensued, and the project was cut in half over the environmental and safety concerns. The most recent proposal made public called for lodging for 60 campers on a 114-acre site to include a lodge, beach, trails, cabins, tent pods and a bathroom facility.

Fournier said the Corps’ real estate office has been in contact with MYCA over the past six months and currently is talking with them about their plans for developing the property, the resources they have to do so and the chances of them being successful in their efforts.

He also said the Corps is considering MYCA’s request to extend the term of the lease to give them time to implement a scaled-down plan, but MYCA has not definitively indicated what that plan will include.

To date, only minimal work has been done on the site, including clearing vegetation along the roadway, grading the road and ditches and removing structures from when the Girl Scouts used the site, according to the Corps.Aossey said the 2008 flood, which included Coralville Lake topping its emergency spillway, slowed work on the site and led MYCA to rethink its plans.

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