Today it was officially announced that 9 of the 11 councils in the Boy Scouts of America’s Area Two which includes all of Michigan and Toledo voted to merge into several larger councils throughout the region and to form a “Coordinating Council” for the overall area that would handle administrative tasks and management of all area camps. The idea behind this action is to increase operational efficiencies and put more staff in the field working with the local units. Sounds good in theory, but the proof will be in the results. I’m sure this is a pilot for how other Areas will be changing in the future.
One official position announced during this Area 2 Study is that no camps are to be sold; although I’ve constantly heard BSA leaders say the opposite verbally and even contradicting each other during the same speech. Instead the plan is for camps to be specialized in certain areas. For example in the Great Lakes Council, they recently announced that D-Bar-A Scout Ranch’s Boy Scout summer camps programs will be discontinued and the camp will instead focus on Cub Scout and Webelos camp programs. Two other Great Lakes Council camps, Lost Lake and Cole Canoe Base, will be hosting the Council’s Boy Scout Camps and Camp Agawam is being discussed as being made into a regional Scout Training Center. Of course all the camps would still be open to day use and weekend campouts by Scout Units. The Great Lakes Council itself was created through the merger of the Detroit Area Council and the Clinton Valley Council and is a pilot itself for how other Councils will be merged.
I will be adding more info about these developments over the next few weeks and months to come. One thing I really hope is that under the new management structure, the Charter Organization’s Representatives still have a direct communications and a vote in things done at the “Coordinating Council” level. I also hope this plan works well and that this won’t be used as an excuse to sell camps to cash in on real estate assets instead of fixing broken business practices. I also hope BSA and their Councils are watching what has happened and is happening to the Girl Scouts of the USA as they went through a similar set of mergers which have led to the sale of so many beloved camps. I’ve seen many emails from GSUSA leaders that say they are discouraged by the trend and disbanding their Girl Scout Troops. Their memberships have to be declining.
We don’t need fewer camps, but more camps (yes I said they should be buying not selling camps) with better programs that will bring more youth to our camps. In Michigan many of the camps are several hour drives from where the local units are based. Wouldn’t it be great to have some camps closer to urban centers where Cub Scouts and Webelos can shoot bb guns, practice archery, play games, and work on their rank activity, belt loops, and activity pins? I know the Great Lakes Council, most of the day camps are held though out our area at various public and private facilities. I know it’s a radical idea, but don’t forget real estate is a buyer’s market right now, not seller’s market.
Many camp sale advocates say that camping is declining and that we need fewer camps, but according to Peg Smith CEO of American Camp Association camp overall attendance isn’t declining. “We are also seeing those camps that can articulate value proposition are doing well,” Smith explains in an email to Savecamps.org. “To date, regardless of what we are observing, we are not seeing a significant decline in the number of children and youth who are attending camp.”
By pooling resources across the region and doing some regional planning, the potential is to improve Michigan’s Boy Scout camping programs. There is some really interesting information on the Area Two website about what makes effective camps which I’ll write about in a future post. Let’s hope that Michigan’s BSA leadership is up to the challenge and can make improving BSA camping throughout the state, instead of turning this into another Scouting organization deciding to cash in on their camps real estate value.
I’d be happy to help with new efforts to promote Michigan’s BSA camps, but I doubt I’d be asked for involvement in the new “Coordinating Council”. I’ve also previously offered to let Great Lakes Council leaders to read posts related to the Area Two recommendations like this post before I post them to be sure they’re accurate, but never heard back from them. That’s one of the problems with editing a blog like this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m involved at the local level but skeptical that I’s be invited to contribute on the regional level with camps.
Anyway, in case you wanted to read the official announcement here it is below:
November 1, 2011 will be remembered as a significant date in the history of the BSA. That was the day that nine councils in the lower peninsula of Michigan voted to take a courageous leap into the second hundred years of Scouting.
Volunteer Scouters have been watching our units and our membership decline over the past twenty years. The last five years have been even more severe as we have witnessed the outmigration of Michigan workers. Recognizing this negative membership trend, a group of over 100 volunteer Scout leaders and select professionals from Area 2 of the Central Region set out to find a better method of delivering the Scouting program to the youth of Michigan and Ohio. The result of their efforts was the Crossroads Recommendation. Last night, the voting members in nine of the eleven councils in Area 2 passed this forward looking recommendation by a significant margin. This will result in the formation of a new “Coordinating Council” that will lead the Scouting program in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. We acknowledge the efforts of everyone who worked toward this recommendation. Your commitment to Scouting is the force that has driven this program for the past century.
The first executive board meeting of the new council will be held on Friday, November 4, 2011. This will become the stepping off point of an exciting new opportunity to design and deliver the program that will insure that more of our young people are Prepared. For Life.
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