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New BSA Summit Betchel Reserve Given As One Reason for Sale of Canadian Canoe Base

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.

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North Eastern Ohio Girl Scouts Camps in Limbo

A letter was recently sent out to the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio’s board. The question: “will the camps go up for sale on the first of December?” The letter was sent by members of the various “Friends” organizations of the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio camps as well as other concerned girl scouts member of GSNEO.  It was sent to the president of the GSNEO board of directors, as well as the rest of the GSNEO board of directors.

The board decided on the 12/1/11 sale date at their October meeting.   Since then opponents to the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio’s camps sale gathered the support of the majority vote of the general assembly including the board members to stop camp sales until any sales are approved by 2/3 of the assembly. This would require a complete, accurate, honest evaluation.   The last known word from the board (which appears on the GSNEO website) only says that the board is considering their next steps.  The board does not meet again until December 7, AFTER the camps are supposed to be on the market! 

For more information visit http://www.trefoilintegrity.org/

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California Ex-Campfire Camp Mokitana Being Renovated

Here is another story of an old camp being restored to benefit today’s youth by Sacramento, California area’s local Rotary clubs. This old Campfire camp is now owned by Sacramento County.

“Phase 1 of the project includes the renovation of the camp’s parking area, the path leading to the river, and the amphitheater. When completed, Camp Mokitana will again be useable by scout groups, church groups, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other youth groups as a camping facility in a rural area within an urban setting.” Read the full article at http://www.valcomnews.com/?p=5436.

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Email Chain Re: Rumors of Michigan’s Boy Scout Camp Sales

When I heard an announcement last week at my BSA District’s Roundtable that camps were going to be definitely sold and it was already decided, I immediately flung my hand up and said it wasn’t true.

It went totally contrary to everything I’ve read and conversations I’ve had in person and via email about the future of Michigan’s camps with Great Lakes Council Board Members and participants in the Area Two Study. Of course as part of the consolidation of Michigan’s nine Boy Scouts of America’s Councils in our lower peninsula, they will be looking at camps sometime in the near future. If Michigan’s Scouts want to be sure none will be sold, then they need to make sure they are regularly using and camping in their camps.

I thought it might be educational to also share one of my email correspondences with the sender’s permission with our readers. John Chandler was part of the Area Two Study which made the Cross Roads Recommendation to consolidate into one Coordinating Council that was then approved by all nine BSA Councils in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

________________________________________

From: John Chandler

Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 11:40 AM

To: Ken Jacobsen;

Subject: RE: New Rumors Publically Blasted Tonight At Ottawa Roundtable

Ken,

You can use my response as you see fit. I think the important thing here is to not get ahead of what is actually happening. Mike Melinn the new Coordinating Council President is just now setting up committees to examine the many things that need to be considered as we move forward. Again, let’s remember that the Crossroads Recommendation was just that a recommendation. There is a group of first class Scouters considering a whole bunch of things as we design this new structure and bring it into existence.

The only thing that we are trying to move backwards is our membership market share. Remember the good old days when we had 15% (1990) of the Total Available Youth (TAY) or 30% of the TAY (1970). Everything else is moving full speed into the 21st Century. Imagine what impact 140,000 Scouts in Michigan would do for our camps, communities and the many the youth experiencing the opportunities presented by Scouting.

Jack Chandler

________________________________________

From: John Chandler

Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 12:55 AM

To: Ken Jacobsen

Subject: RE: New Rumors Publically Blasted Tonight At Ottawa Roundtable

Well as usual, people have read what they want. It’s disappointing that the properties committee is having these discussions as they have much more important things to be discussing.

Here is a fact. The utilization of the 18 council camps that are a part of the Crossroads Recommendation had an occupancy rate of 24% in 2010 and slightly less in 2011. If they were hotels, they would be shut down.

The Crossroads Recommendation recommended that five of these camps be made “Boy Scout” Camps. 12 should be made Cub Scout Camps. We should have at least one Venturing Camp and 1 Training Camp. In other words – we have NO PLANS to dispose of any properties. Even the above numbers are not firm, they are just recommendations on the basis of how far the Outdoor Program Task Force felt people would be willing to drive to get to a camp. Remember, properties were not a part of the Area Project consideration. In fact we have not even done an assessment of the properties that will be owned by the new Coordinating Council. I was at a meeting tonight where I had a private conversation with the Co-Chairs of the Outdoor Program TF about who and how we might conduct such a survey.

The difficult thing is that every one of these camps came into existence as a Boy Scout Camp. Unfortunately, we cannot sustain them in that capacity at this time. Some of these camps will have to be repurposed to something more appropriate to their facilities. Just as a tough decision was made by the GLC Camping Committee about D-A, additional decisions will be made as we move forward with the new Coordinating Council.

Remember – the whole purpose of the Area Project was to figure out how we can bring Cub and Boy Scouting to more boys. Assuming that we are successful, we will need every camp that we own. Disposing of any camps at this time would be foolish on several levels not the least of which is we wouldn’t recognize a reasonable price.

If you really want to be sure every camp is “saved”, fill them up with Scouts. One of the major things that Scouting is known for is the Outdoor Program. We want to be sure that this continues well into our second century!

Jack Chandler

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New MI Council Says Currently No Plan of Selling Any Camps

7.31.2011.DSC04837 300x168 New MI Council Says Currently No Plan of Selling Any CampsThe Chairman for the Transitional Board of the new Michigan Coordinating Council made an announcement last week to try to stifle false rumors revolving around impending sale of Michigan’s Boy Scout camps. In summary, he said there is currently no plan or even any discussion of selling any property. Read the statement below.

 

From: Michael Melinn, Chairman, Transitional Board – Michigan Coordinating Council

Date: 11/11/11

Subject: Properties

We have been made aware that there is a growing, false rumor pertaining to the imminent sale of properties within the new council. While I generally ignore this unsubstantiated gossip type stuff, it seems prudent to address this one early.

Please pass along that there has been zero dialog regarding any specific properties.

There are no pre-defined outcomes.

There is no hidden agenda.

NO DETERMINATION ON ANY PROPERTY has been made to date and there is currently no plan or even any discussion of selling any property.

The 2012 camping season is planned to proceed as scheduled and operated by each council as it is today. Our most important priority is getting the new organization established and the 75 new Unit Serving Executives (USEs) up and running by June of 2012. Making a difference for our youth is on what we need to be focused.

Consistent with the area project, I have appointed a Properties/Outdoor Program/Camping Committee which will begin to develop a process by which we understand how all of these great assets can be used to support an exceptional outdoor program which kids want to be part of.

As an entity, consistent with our fiduciary responsibilities and due diligence, at some point in the near future we will need to do an assessment to understand all of the properties as part of a responsible plan to manage these assets.

Any process or plan will be reviewed by the Transitional Board which is represented by the Presidents and Commissioners of all nine councils participating in the “Crossroads Recommendation”

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Boy Scouts of America Wants Feedback

In the November – December 2011 issue of Scouting magazine on page 10 under the headline “Raise Your Voice,” there is an article about a new BSA program called Voice of the Scout. This “program will allow Scouts age 14 and older, parents, volunteers, and chartered organizations to share their insights, which will help shape the BSA program, managerial, and operational decisions going forward.”

The program is to start in 2012 and go nation-wide in 2013. The article closes with: “I firmly believe that by listening to our various customer groups, we can dramatically enhance the Scouting program,” says David Weekley, Southern Region president. “This will lead to better programming and, this, retention, increased membership, and impact on our communities. It will help us positively impact the lives and characters of millions of youth.”

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Rhode Island Land Trusts to Buy Girl Scout and YMCA Camps

If you are going to sell your camp, here is an example in Rhode Island of what I would call a social and ecological responsible method of selling your camp. A former Girl Scout camp and YMCA summer camp are to be bought by the Westerly Land Trust and the Charlestown Land Trust.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management grants include a $134,000 open space award for the purchase for the 72-area The Girl Scouts of Rhode Island’s Camp Wahaneeta property in Westerly and a $367,000 award toward the purchase of a 27.5-acre former YMCA camp on Watchaug Pond in Charlestown. The Girl Scouts of Rhode Island had closed Camp Wahaneeta several years ago.

Although I highlight this as a responsible way to sell a camp because it keeps in in public use and maintains it’s open space and ecological values, please note in the linked article that the YMCA had first tried to sell this property at a much higher price to residential developers. This fell through because it required rezoning from open space to residential and the town rejected the rezoning request thus killing the deal with the developer. Read the full Article.

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Former NY Girl Scout Camp Reopens after Five Years

Here is a hopefully story published October 30th, 2011 about former Girl Scout Camp Tapawingo reopening to campers after five years of being closed. When the consolidation of the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York occurred and the organization’s base of operations moved out of the local area, friction between the new council and the Turner Board over permits and operating expenses resulted in the closing of the camp.

“When the councils merged down in Albany, it became more of a formal relationship,” Lemza said, explaining that in a litigious society the vastly expanded council needed to assure liability and other coverage in a more contractual way than the board was used to. “The two groups just weren’t able to come to terms,” she said. “We just realized that was silly, and it’s not benefiting the cause that Mr. Turner donated the property for.”

Thankfully now it looks like the camp is reopening. “We’re closer than we’ve ever been to getting it reopened,” said Colleen Lemza, a former Girl Scout, Tapawingo camper and member of the board of the Ernest Turner Memorial Fund Inc., which has owned the property since 1954 when it was donated by Turner for use by the Girl Scouts. – Read the full article in the Press-Republican.

Camp Tapawingo is a 4.90-acre promontory with 1,175 feet of Lake Champlain. “It’s such a beautiful, prime piece of property, and there’s so much history there, and Girl Scouts for years have used it and loved it,” said Valerie Trudeau, chief development and brand officer of the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York and the last CEO of the North Country Girl Scout Council in a related article published in the Press-Republican in November 2008 about the original closure.

Thank you Chris Hildebrand, Communications Coordinator Friends of Eagle Island, Inc. for bringing this success story to our attention. Camp Eagle Island was a Girl Scout camp from 1938-2008 and is located on an island in Upper Saranac Lake, New York. Unfortunately, Chris’s email came with the disheartening news that the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey that own Eagle Island have still refused to sit down and negotiate with the Friends of Eagle Island, Inc.  “As far as we know, we have the only offer on the table to buy the island, but not for their price of $3.75 Million,” wrote Chris.  “We have the support of the Graves Family, who gave the island and the National Historic Landmark buildings to the scouts so there would always be a camp and children playing there.  Unfortunately, the current merged council has no interest in keeping the camp or honoring the spirit of the gift.  They now have only one sleep-away camp, for a council of 25,000 girls.”

Lets hope and pray Friends of Eagle Island see a similar success as Camp Tapawingo.

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All Involved in BSA Should Read Cross Road’s Recommendation

There is some interesting stuff in the Cross Roads Recommendation: Unit Focused Scouting. I’d recommend everyone involved in BSA read it, because this is described by our Area Leaders as a pilot of changes to come to the rest of the Boy Scouts of America.

The recommendation was the result of The Area Two Study and involved 110 volunteers and professional staffers over a nine month period. The recommendation is to merge all the 11 Council’s in Michigan (However, Toledo and the UP opted out.) into a new Mega-Council (my name, not their’s) and establish Five Regional Field Councils that are focused on the local units. The Recommendation, which recently passed, calls for many Unit Serving Executive (USEs) to be hired as the “sales force” of Scouting.

The Recommendation says” “Scouting needs more sales personnel than it needs managers. Instead of an up or out model of professional development, it is recommended that we develop professionals who see themselves in the long term as primarily the face of Scouting in a community where they live and work. A professional’s expected tenure in a community should increase to several years rather than months of service, and compensation should be performance based. Over time, a good salesperson of Scouting will develop community relationships that will enable him or her to recruit and retain the right mix of volunteers to assure success in both program and fundraising.”

The Regional Field Councils will be administratively supported by the new mega-council who handle the business operations of scouting, managing camps and supervise funding efforts. “We will bring more youth to Scouting and more Scouting to youth,” concludes the Executive Summary.

The Outdoor Task Force Section of The Recommendation states its Mission as “…develop the optimal Outdoor Program model and delivery network for Scouting in the coming century. We will focus our efforts on the youth that we serve. We will create a model that will attract, enrich and retain youth by centering the highest quality program delivered in a variety of accessible venues within a financially sustainable framework.” The recommendation also says “The Area Outdoor Program Task Force does not currently recommend the sale of any Council operated outdoor program property.”

In the pro-forma financials of the new consolidated Michigan Mega-Council it also says that “Camping expense ($9.1 M) includes a net loss of approximately $300k-$600k overall, but this is inexact because of the variety of accounting practices now used.” At a 3% to 6% loss, they would be really close to being financially sustainable with the existing camps and this doesn’t reflect the increased revenues from increased usage expected through the centralized coordination of camps and outdoor programs or the decreased expenses from increased operating efficiencies.

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Should Scout Camps Be Managed Like McDonalds?

I read and hear many people refer to BSA as a corporation and it seems to imply that BSA must function like McDonalds opening new locations and closing or selling others based on maximizing shareholder’s value.

However, BSA is more accurately described as a Not For Profit Corporation. “The National Council is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is funded from private donations, membership dues, corporate sponsors, and special events.[43] In 2005, the BSA ranked as the twelfth-largest non-profit organization in the U.S., with total revenues of $665.9 million.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America

On BSA’s own website it also says that “It is a not-for-profit private corporation.” http://usscouts.org/aboutbsa/bsaorg.asp  A nonprofit is by definition “not established for the purpose of making a profit; not entered into for money: a nonprofit institution.” Dictionary.com. Yes the Executive Board needs to be fiscally responsibly, but they should look at the non-financial considerations when looking at these “real estate assets”. They were often donated and purchased with funds given to BSA Councils for the specific use of the property by Scouts. Unfortunately, some Executive Boards aren’t “Trustworthy” and try to ignore these facts. Read about what’s happening with Camp Easton at http://www.savecamps.org/?p=335.

The Boy Scouts of America were incorporated on February 8, 1910, and chartered by Congress in 1916. One interesting thing written into the Charter is “Limitations on Exercising Certain Powers. – (1) The corporation may execute mortgages and liens on the property of the corporation only if approved by a two-thirds vote of the entire executive board at a meeting called for that purpose. (2) The corporation may dispose in any manner of the whole property of the corporation only with the written consent and affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the corporation.

I wonder how and if this affects local Councils? I’m going to write a lawyer involved in the save Camp Easton effort to see what he says.

I’ve sat on the board of a good size, statewide NFP before and was the Treasurer. I had to explain to board members that you have to either cut expenses or increase revenues. One of them even said to me “But Ken, that’s why we have an endowment.” And I said, “We won’t have one for long unless we balance the budget.” So I understand being fiscally responsible, but councils also have to set priorities and I believe that maintaining, improving and retaining BSA’s camps should be a top priority. It drives membership. Council’s should take the lead from National who just opened the Summit Betchel Reserve.

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