It never occurred to me that the opening of Boy Scouts of America’s new Summit Bethchel Reserve would be given as one of the factors in closing a local council’s own camp. However, The Summit was given by the council as one of the contributing factors in the Greater Cleveland Council’s decision to sell the 10-acre Tinnerman Wilderness Canoe Base on the French River in Ontario, Canada.
“Additionally, Summit Bechtel Reserve, the Boy Scouts of America’s newest national high adventure base, will open in West Virginia in 2013 and will host the B.S.A. National Jamboree,” explains the announcement on the Greater Cleveland Council’s website. “With its close proximity to northeast Ohio, the Summit will provide Greater Cleveland Council Scouts opportunities for a world-class high adventure experience.”
Of course, reading the information about the closure of this camp, The Summit doesn’t appear to be the main reason to close the camp – that would be attendance. In 2002, Tinnerman attendance was 364 youth. By 2010, this attendance had dropped to 114 youth. This is a 69% drop in attendance. During the same time period, BSA attendance at its Philmont, Sea Base, and Northern Tier high adventure camps rose slightly from 35,625 to 36,601.
At the same time attendance was declining, a major investment was needed because the Canadian Government gave notice that the wilderness canoe base couldn’t be reopened until a new septic system was installed. “A new septic system, estimated to cost approximately $200,000, was one of many issues that led to the decision to close the base,” explains the website.
“Ultimately, the executive board decided that a $200,000 capital investment in a facility that served a limited number of participants (particularly from Greater Cleveland Council,) was not a prudent use of council resources. Declining attendance was the predominant factor for closing the base.”
There has also been some very interesting email correspondence about this sale. One writer named Sarah wrote: “In my opinion, spending $200,000 on fixing up a camp is not out of reach. It may take some creative financing, and some cobbling together of sources of revenue, but it also does not have to be earned in one year, nor does the $200,000 need to be spent in one year. But what needs to be gotten out of all of this need to fix up camps is that a plan on maintenance needs to be established and funds need to be set aside for emergency repairs and continued maintenance.”
Cindy replied: “…$200,000 in the overall scheme of things is not a large sum of money. however, it is not money that GCC was prepared to allocate in the manner, and time frame, needed to appease OPP. don’t get me wrong here, GCC had an opportunity to fix this situation long before it became so extreme, yet did nothing. now that it’s this far gone, the board, without volunteer input (reminiscent of anything?) issued its decision last month, without allowing the volunteers to institute a grassroots effort, ala FOCH.
yes, it’s sad generations after us won’t have these opportunities- am i dismayed, definitely. does tinnerman still hold possibilities? certainly. are volunteers now banding to try to save/salvage tinnerman? yes.
camps as a whole are not perceived as valuable any longer because the understanding of what a camp provides a youth is not perceived as valuable either. those with short sight only see a camp that needs fixed up (and yes, regular maintenance schedules and funding allocation would be quite obviously the best way to effect this); those of us who love our camps see a place of wonderment, enchantment and contentment. Bean counters see a financial drain.”
Several writers say this decision was made rather suddenly without any input. However, on Greater Cleveland Council’s website it says: “Actually the declining attendance at Tinnerman has been reviewed and discussed for several years. Three different volunteer task forces have studied the many issues facing Tinnerman since 2003 and action plans to reverse declining attendance at the base were implemented. This decision was made after years of thought, study and research by Scouting volunteers.”
This story just goes to reinforce the fact that scouts need to use their camps or they’ll lose them.