by Ed Henderson
Scouting is Growing,
Why is My Camp Closing?
is growing today. Every year the membership ranks increase and more volunteers are
trained. While this is going on there is still a need for belt tightening. Councils that find themselves in a
cash-strapped circumstance, unable to deliver the quality and caliber of program necessary
will still be targets for merger. While the BSA requires all Councils to be operating
"in the black", the decision to merge a Council is a local one made by the local
board (volunteers) usually, after a through investigation is made and alternatives are
On the Scouts-L Internet Discussion
List volunteers often discuss the selling of a Camp, or a painful decision to close a
local Scout Service Center and merge with a nearby Council. Here at SCOUTER we see these
posts and sympathize with the calls we get from distraught volunteers. We receive Emails
and calls from Scouters to "Pack the Council Executive Board meetings with Chartered
Organization Representatives" to vote against whatever merger plan is being
considered. Some ask us to write stories about how wrong it is to close some Camp or
Council. We ask to consider the following:
get involved early and fully support your Council?
- Where were all of those COR's when the
Council was looking at fundraising options to keep their budget in the black?
(Historically, very few Chartered Organization Representatives ever attend meetings of the
Annual Council Executive Board Meeting.)
- Where was the Unit support for
revitalizing the camp? Did Units abandon it, allowing the camp to fall into disrepair and
ultimately close because the meager attendance was insufficient to keep it operating in
- Did Units support and eagerly welcome
the annual Friends Of Scouting(FOS) presenter?
- Was the Pack or Troop involved with the
- Has the Troop been a glorified weekend
camping group, or have they, through their service and good works drawn positive attention
to the important benefits of Scouting in the community?
Councils never get into tough decisions
overnight and it is wrong to cast a finger blaming a small group of professionals or an
Executive Board for making tough decisions about the future of Scouting in a community.
possibility that a merger of two Councils is indeed a win/win situation.Often two small Councils make for an excellent
partnership. In the past there were many small Councils that, by themselves simply lacked
critical mass of volunteers, youth, and staff to execute even a fraction of the available
Many newly merged Councils programs
have changed from adequate to exceptional. Duplication of services can be eliminated and a
stronger Council presence can make Scouting more visible.
used camps can become specialized, with one camp becoming a Cub World and
the other a first rate Summer Camp with an excellent High Adventure Program. Several
Councils have sold old camps that were surrounded by urban sprawl, and used the funds to
build high quality facilities that will serve Scouting well into the next century.
There are many decision factors in
deciding to close a Camp or change its program emphasis.
- Many Councils are realizing the draw of Cub Camping (which must be done on Boy Scout
property). These Councils are responding to this demand with Cub Worlds that feature
theme-oriented, permanent structures.
- With the national High
Adventure bases so jammed with bookings an increasing number of Venture
Crews and older Scouts are turning to Council operated High Adventure bases. C.O.P.E.
courses and Rappel towers commonly operate at Scout Camps.
Councils are making better use of their Camp's off season. Events like
Winter Camp, fall event weekends, and, for an increasing number of Councils, ev