Meet the Owners: The Cole Family

Meet the Owners: The Cole Family

A few years ago, Justin and Courtney Cole set out in search of lakefront property for their family to use for hunting and leisure activities. They came across a former Girl Scout camp for sale and, without even seeing it in person, made an offer.

Their offer wasn’t accepted, but they didn’t stop there. 

The Coles learned the property, Camp Deer Trails, might be sold to a business that would develop it into something new. They knew the camp had tremendous history they wanted to help preserve. They wrote a letter to the seller, promising that if they bought the property, they would keep it 100% intact, preserving the camp.

“Finally seeing the property, we couldn’t believe anyone would want to tear it apart and develop it,” Courtney said. “We saw what it could be and had visions of not only preserving it, but making it into something even better than it was before.”

The seller — and hundreds of former Girl Scouts who have memories from the camp — wanted it preserved. The Coles became the new owners of Camp Deer Trails in late 2020 and soon were renting the cabins to visitors. 

A family affair

The Coles, who live just south of the camp in Clare, run the business with the help of their family. Courtney manages day-to-day logistics, upkeep and event planning, while Justin, a financial planner by day, manages the finances. 

Justin’s father, Mark, has devoted his retirement to the camp. The former restaurant owner is the camp chef, making all of the food for wedding receptions, corporate gatherings and other group events. He also watches over the camp and uses his handyman skills to help with maintenance. Courtney’s mother, Cheryl, helps with lodge and cabin cleaning and wherever else she is needed.

The couple also has four boys ranging in age from 11 to 1— Jayden, Cannon, Jordan and Cruz — who also help out by mowing lawns, taking out the trash and driving tractors (well, at least the older ones do!). 

Since acquiring the camp, the Coles have begun hosting weddings and other gatherings, made many improvements and added two new cabins — Lakefront Lodge and Sunset Shores. 

“We love owning the campground and hosting people from all over the state and beyond,” Courtney said. “We have something for everyone and love to welcome new people into the Camp Deer Trails family.”