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Will Michigan’s BSA Camps Be Sold? Yes, No or Maybe So

DSC06440.2 300x199 Will Michigan’s BSA Camps Be Sold? Yes, No or Maybe SoLast weekend my Webelos II son and I spent the day with a Troop he is considering transitioning to at Camp Agawam in Lake Orion, Michigan. Agawam is one of the oldest camps in the United States.

“In 1918 the Pontiac Boy Scout Council in Michigan purchased 115 acres of land on W. Clarkston Road on Tommy’s Lake for $30,000,” reads the camp description on Scout “It was named Camp Pontiac.”

“In 1920 Camp Pontiac offered a summer camping program for the first time. In 1925 the camp expanded with construction of 26 buildings for $26, 000. The buildings included a dining hall, administration cottage, cabins and latrines. They were of wood construction and served for many years but proper maintenance became impossible during the Great Depression years of the 1930′s. In 1928 Pontiac Council expanded to become the Oakland (Michigan) Area Council. In 1933 Camp Pontiac was renamed Camp Agawam reflecting the council’s expansion outside of Pontiac. Today Camp Agawam is owned by the Clinton Valley Council and continues to be a Boy Scout camp.”

Agawam is now owned by the Great Lakes Council and soon to be owned by the new BSA Area-wide council which is basically Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. This new mega-council will assume ownership of all the BSA camps in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, have control over all endowments, and be the only Council which is a legal entity in the Lower Peninsula. The new organization will be administered by this new central office and there are to be Five Field Service Councils that are to be focused on growing and maintaining their area’s Packs, Troops, and Crews.

Being at Agawam, the adult conversations naturally gravitated towards the prevalent rumor that Camp Agawam, being smaller and in prime suburban Detroit area, was to be sold. In fact, on several separate occasions during the day I heard all three of the unit’s leaders say that most of Michigan’s camps were to be sold and that we only need 6 to 10 camps statewide. They said that the Area Two study looked at this and recommended selling camps. Of course, I had to correct them. The Area Two Study’s Outdoor Program Task Force’s Report and the resulting Cross Roads Recommendation explicatively says that no camps will be sold. In fact, studying possible sale of camps was expressly excluded from this study and recommendation.

“It is the recommendation of the Area Outdoor Program Task Force that all currently owned Council properties remain “in service” until completion of an Area property/program specific focus evaluation.

All currently operated Council properties and programs are subject to review and re-evaluation in order to create “very best” Cub Scout Day Camps, Cub Scout Resident Camps, Cub Scout Family Camps, Boy Scout Camps, Venture Base, and Training Camp.

Many properties will continue for unit/community weekend usage, while specific properties are enhanced to become our Area very best property for a specific venue/focus.”

Further the reports says:

“The recommended maximum driving distance (miles and times) for specific outdoor programs are:

Cub Scout Day Camps (no overnight) – 25 to 50 miles or 30 minutes to 1 hour

Cub Scout Resident Camps (7-8) (two days) – 50 miles or 1 hour

Webelos Resident Camps (9-10) (three days) – 50 to 100 miles or 1 to 2 hours

Boy Scout Camps (11-14) (six days) – 150 to 200 miles or 3 to 4 hours

Venturing Bases** (14-21) (six days) – 400 to 500 miles or 8 to 10 hours

Training Camps (three days) – 100 to 150 miles or 2 to 3 hours

Training Camps (six days) – 150 to 200 miles or 3 to 4 hours

Family Camps (7-10) (three to six days) – 50 to 100 miles or 1 to 2 hours

Conference Centers (two to six days) 200 miles or 4 hours

Specialty Camps (14-21) (three to six days) – 500 + miles or 10 + hours


Based upon the above, our Area would need: (on BSA owned properties and on non BSA owned):

Eighty eight Cub Scout Day Camps (about one per county)*

Eleven Cub Scout Resident Camps (7-8) (two days)*

Eleven Webelos Resident Camps (9-10) (three days)*

Five Boy Scout Camps (11-14) (six days)

Two Venturing Bases (14-21) (six days)

Five Training Camps (three days)

Three Training Camps (six days) (these are probably in same camps as the five three day camps)

Three Conference Camps (three to six days)

Three High Adventure/Specialty Camps (six day camps)

This sounds to me like we need more camps, not less. One of my biggest concerns with this Area Two Study and Cross Roads Recommendation, which has now been approved, is that so many highly positioned Boy Scout Volunteers are misinformed and still telling everyone they talk to that our camps need to be sold.  I’ve even heard a Council CEO say that “we have to face it, we don’t need all these camps” and a Council Board member then within five minutes of the CEO’s comments say “none of our camps will be sold.”

I want to believe the board member and everything I’m reading, but why are so many people still saying that the camps will be sold. Do they know something no one else is saying. One concern is that this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When discussing if we need to sell the camps with one of the troop leaders this past weekend, he told me that we will need to close the camps because they are expensive and underutilized. We both agreed that the main underlying problem with our camps is that Michigan’s Boy Scout Units don’t use the camps often enough. If they did, then the economics of the camps would make a lot more sense.

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