TRAVERSE CITY — Authorities suspended Little Artshram's activities at Historic Barns Park at the Grand Traverse Commons after health officials padlocked a contaminated building amid fears the nonprofit day camp used it as a children's classroom.
And a recreational authority that oversees the park gave Little Artshram until Nov. 1 to correct a litany of "material breaches" to an agreement that allows camp officials to hold programs at the park.
Little Artshram -- which last month ran afoul of state and local authorities for health and licensing violations -- also must make organizational changes to improve oversight and detail its future programming goals, the City of Traverse City and Charter Township of Garfield Recreational Authority said.
"In the event that the board is not satisfied with any of Little Artshram's submittals or it appears that Little Artshram will be unable to provide programming consistent with the goals of the ... recreational authority, the board may take action to terminate the management services agreement," wrote Matt Cowall, authority executive director, in a letter approved by the authority board Sept. 14.
The board also asked for a cost estimate of what it will take to repair fire damage at a converted storage building used by Little Artshram's summer day camp.
The building contains lead paint and asbestos, and Grand Traverse County Health Department officials condemned it as unfit for human habitation.
Little Artshram officials initially denied using the shed as a classroom but later clarified they hadn't used it since the December 2010 fire.
"The padlock is pretty irrelevant to us," said Bonnie Deigh, a Little Artshram board member. "Little Artshram declared the building unfit for human habitation in 2010. The outdoors is the Little Artshram classroom."
The suspension and building condemnation were the latest salvos in a seven-week scuffle between several government agencies and Little Artshram. Concerns about Little Artshram cropped up when state and local officials learned campers used a five-gallon bucket as a toilet, and that human waste was buried in a perennial and tree garden on park grounds.
Health officials said the waste burial violated county health codes; officials also ordered parts of a community vegetable garden destroyed because Little Artshram improperly used horse manure that wasn't adequately composted.
Additionally, Little Artshram failed to obtain a state license for its children's camps.
Health department officials said they believe Little Artshram may have used the now-padlocked building for activities other than storage during this summer's day camp, noting it contained carpet squares believed to have been used as seating.
"The point is, Little Artshram was running a facility that was supposed to be licensed and given that this was a child care facility we wanted it locked up and not used until all the issues are resolved," said Fred Keeslar, Grand Traverse County Health Department director.
Keeslar said the building should not have been used as a classroom without an approved lead abatement program.
Two other nonprofits have used buildings at Barns Park for occasional meeting space, SEEDS and the Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan. Those groups were told they now cannot use the structures for meetings.
Keeslar said Little Artshram's building was padlocked because the group works with children whose bodies are more susceptible to contaminants such as lead.
"If adults meet in an old farm outbuilding with no running water for drinking and hand washing, flush toilets, or possible environmental concerns, the adults have a choice to stay or leave," Keeslar said. "A young child cannot properly assess danger, get in a car and drive away."
The recreational authority will assess Little Artshram's report when it meets Nov. 2, Cowall said, though it may delay taking action until December.