Changes have come with the years; conference center is now part of the 21st Century

HERALD PHOTO: CAROL ROSEN - Dana Shaffer (right) poses with members of The Grove staff.

Canby Grove has been part of the area's recreational scenery for 90 years, but as the years have changed, so has the facility. The original 17-acre plot is now 54 acres, even as owners seek to pay off an additional 20 acres.

While Canby Grove began under the auspices of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church to operate a family camp one or two weeks in the summer, it's now doing business year-round, although it doesn't offer its facilities on Christmas or Thanksgiving.

"We like to give our staff a rest at least at Christmas and Thanksgiving," said Angie Anderson, who owns Canby Grove along with her husband John.

COURTESY PHOTO - Cabins have replaced the tents and tent cabins from the early days.

In the early years, visitors stayed in tents. Later they built tent cabins and as the years passed regular indoor cabins were built. Now there's plenty of rooms in the hotel or the bunkhouse. The facility is equipped to take in groups of 35 or more and can lease it out to larger groups.

The Johnsons took over in 2010 and now are operating as a 501.C3 nonprofit and facilitating guests who come for meetings, company parties and/or other events. It's also no longer strictly for church camps, although they can apply, said Angie Anderson.

COURTESY PHOTO - People today are still floating down the Molalla River, just like they did in the early days. The Grove offers simple pleasures on hot days.

"People from all over the world come here," said Shelly Goeppner who has been with Canby Grove 21 years, "and we welcome all people from all religions and all different sects."

"We've even held meetings for Rabbis, and turned our commercial kitchens to kosher kitchens. There's respect all around and we provide excellent service. We love all our guests. Recently, we had one group that had political ideas different than ours but all of us had a good time," said Anderson.

The camp opens its doors about 15 weeks a year for Multnomah County schools to hold outdoor camp. It's a perfect place with its cabins and natural, but neutral, setting with the Molalla River close by. In the summer there's a pool, families and kids can go tubing down the Molalla River and there are areas for recreation like sports and games and obstacle courses. Clackamas County offers the area across the street for overflow parking as well as the River Park.

COURTESY PHOTO - From the beginning of Canby Grove and when campers gathered, a select few were prepared to be part of the orchestra for services. Their concerts were held in the tabernacle.

Volunteers are always wanted and needed. In fact, people can come to stay and give 20 volunteer hours per week as a trade.

"Our former executive director's family lived here. His 90-year old relative would not stop helping. He weeded, but mostly he painted. People would see him on a ladder painting cabins and tell us that he needed to get off that ladder. We explained we couldn't stop him," said Anderson.

Those living at Canby Grove often have children who get their first jobs there.

"They work hard because they know they are getting paid and won't get paid if they don't work," said Goeppner. Her son grew up there and now is living in LaGrande with his wife and new son.

All in all, Canby Grove has space for about 500 people. The hotel has housekeeping, there's a snack shack and parking places for RVs as well as tents.

Over the years there has been problems from Mother Nature.

"In 1960 there was a great flood that flooded the camp. It washed away the Pavilion that had been an open building. It originally was built for 450 people, but when they rebuilt it, it became the Mount Hood Pavilion that was definitely built for more people as well as closed in so it could be used year-around," said executive director Dana Shaffer.

COURTESY PHOTO - Pictured is The Grove's Mt. Hood Pavilion currently.

There was also a Columbus Day storm that left the area's trees and branches all over the place.

In 1996, there was so much rain that the Pudding River met the Willamette and covered much of the area with six feet of water, but oddly the Molalla River wasn't involved, said Anderson.

"It left about $300,000 worth of damage, and I think it took months to shovel out the mud. We received donations and help," she said.

Goeppner arrived from Seattle shortly after the flood. She handles marketing and several other things but appears to thrive working and loves her job.

Because Canby Grove is a 501.C3, it puts all the money it makes over expenses into amenities, says Shaffer who used to be a movie producer in Los Angeles. The money goes to upgrade facilities, add amenities, increase staff members and improve services. They've put in a new ceiling in the dining hall, added a zip line, a ropes course, a giant swing, pool facilities and trails around the Molalla River Park.

While the Grove didn't have a 90th celebration, some of that is due to their second annual Christmas program which will feature all kinds of goodies, such as a bonfire with s'mores, cookie decorating, free crafts for adults and kids, a scavenger hunt and Warren Dexter playing guitar and singing. It will be fun and it's free, but there is a charge for parking.

All three agreed there would definitely be a Centennial celebration.

"Canby Grove is nostalgic," says Goeppner. "It's still doing the same in a different way, a fun place to be."

Carol Rosen
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