Shield Ranch Celebrates Grand Opening of New Sustainably Designed Campsite

By September 21, 2022October 20th, 2022Featured
Credit: Hill & Wilkinson

Shield Ranch opens its new 14-acre Campsite on Sept. 24. This artfully designed and sustainably built facility, carefully sited within a 131-acre ecologically diverse sanctuary located just 22 miles from downtown Austin, will serve as the new home for Camp El Ranchito and will provide year-round nature-immersion experiences for people of all ages.

The Campsite at Shield Ranch is located at 10417 Crumley Ranch Road. It features an open-air pavilion, 11 screened shelters, an ADA-compliant trail. The shelters can sleep up to 74 guests on cots and provide storage for camp gear. A flexible, open-air pavilion seats 96 guests within a large gathering space (with fans and screens for the summer months and a fireplace and a wood-burning stove for winter months), a commercial kitchen, restrooms and office space. Both the shelters and pavilion offer moveable panels that can be closed during storms or cooler weather.

“The Campsite demonstrates our commitment to share more broadly with our community in ways that serve groups while protecting the land for future generations,” says Andrea Mellard, executive director of the Shield Ranch Foundation. “In a rapidly urbanizing region, it’s increasingly important to provide outdoor experiences to promote health, connection, and moments of wonder.”

Designed by Andersson / Wise and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, and constructed by Hill & Wilkinson General Contractors, the Campsite is SITES Gold certified under the Sustainable SITES Initiative rating system and is 100% off-grid. Other highlights include the first Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)-approved public water system that relies entirely on rainwater to serve its guests; the first onsite septic facility permitted by Travis County and TCEQ in the state of Texas to use evaporative toilets; and energy generated exclusively from solar panels.

It is projected to welcome 3,500 guests annually; and much like its sustainable design, careful consideration has been given to its light-on-the-land usage. Camp El Ranchito will extend its programming for campers and their families who may not otherwise have access to these outdoor experiences. And nonprofit partners, the diverse communities they serve, as well as mission-aligned business entities will have a place to gather, work and enjoy the outdoors. Overnight and day use by community groups will focus on experiential environmental education, community wellness and mindfulness programs, spiritual, contemplative and artistic retreats, and strategic planning.

The Campsite, a nonprofit Shield Ranch Foundation project, broke ground in May 2021 and is funded by many generous individual, corporate and foundation donors. The Abiding Campaign for the Campsite has raised $11.6 million to date to support design, construction, programming and operations including an initial land gift of 131 acres from Patricia Shield Ayres.