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Viral Email Spark Camp Sale Concerns in Detroit Area

2.13.2011.DSC00972 300x199 Viral Email Spark Camp Sale Concerns in Detroit Area

D-Bar-A Scout Reservation, February 2011

A couple weeks ago I got an email forwarded to me about the possible sale of Great Lakes Council’s (GLC) Camp Agawam. For those who don’t know me well yet, this is my area and my son and his friends in our Cub Scout Pack have camped at Agawam and attend day programs there. This hit really close to home, but was not unexpected because rumors of possible sale of a couple our camps have been circulating since the GLC was formed several years ago by the merger of the Detroit Area Council and Clinton Valley Council.

If you read my profile, you’ll find that my passion for preservation of scout and other wilderness youth camps stems from the experience of the Detroit Area Council’s sale of Charles Howell Scout Reservation, one of the camps I frequented as a youth. The camp was sold for high end residential development. I was told years later that the Council was surprised after the sale by the fact that they couldn’t receive any funds from the real estate sale, because it all had to go back to the original donors according to the arrangements of the original donation of the property, although I’m not sure if this is true.

Being older and more experienced in these matters now, I’ve been talking to people at GLC since the merger about my concerns with possible sale of our camps and help start the blog site www.savecamps.org which is why this email was forwarded to me.

The email referred to information circulating “regarding the future plans, maintenance and/or disposal of properties which primarily includes Camp Agawam, but also effects Cole, D-A and Lost Lake.” And it also urged readers to “In an effort to foster open communication and learn about the property committee’s and council’s plans for your camps you should attend this meeting. It is your opportunity to hear first-hand the committee’s vision and plans for the camps’ future in light of our economic climate and need for financial solvency of the council as a whole.”

What I didn’t know was that this email was intended for committee members only and then went viral. When I received it I quickly realized that I was actually going to be a D-Bar-A camping with the Pack for which I’m Cub Master the day of the meeting. We were at D-Bar-A instead of some other location because I told our Pack Committee that we needed to support our GLC camps by camping in them or they’ll be sold because no one is using them. That weekend, we had to rent two cabins to accommodate our group. I felt I could sneak away for a few hours to attend this meeting.

These committee meetings aren’t open to the public, but they agreed to meet with the 19 concerned scouters that showed up in a special session. The first thing they said was that this rumor isn’t true. There are no current plans to sell any of GLC’s four camps. However, there were several matters concerning the camp’s future that were reported:

1. It was reported that there are 28 camps in the state of Michigan and in the speaker’s opinion there are only 5 to 6 camps needed. There were no further details on this but I’ve now heard this from several senior scouters. Could this be tremors of what’s to come?

2. It was reported to the group of concerned scouters that an Area Two Study is being conducted of all the Councils in Michigan and the Toledo area to look at possible additional mergers and other ways to increase efficiencies. It was stated that camps were being looked at as part of this study and it will be interesting to see what recommendations the study team makes about what camps should be closed/sold. However, I have looked at this study and the sale or retention of camps is not within the scope of this study. It states that those types of decisions are to be made by the individual councils owning the camps.

3. Although of camps as a whole broken even financially last year, only Cole is profitable which generated enough income to support the other three camps.

During the question and answers someone asked what can be done to save the camps. There were three main things that can be done to save camps. First, our local units need to camp in our camps. The camps will only be saved if people are using them. Second, units need to sell popcorn. There are units in our area that don’t sell popcorn which means they aren’t supporting our local council financially through their sales. Third, urge people to donate to Friends of Scouting.

Even before this meeting, I had been brainstorming with Agawam’s Camp Director on some ways to increase utilization of Camp Agawam by Cub Scout Packs. I also recently attended the GLC’s Annual Meeting this week. Although I’ve heard at three different official meetings that there are no current plans to sell any of GLC’s camps and that they are all “open for business”, I still remember that I’ve heard several leaders state that we don’t need 28 camps in Michigan. Consequently, I’m going to work to see what I can do to build awareness in Michigan and urge Boy Scout units to use of our camps before we lose them.

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