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The Michigan Madness

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  • #16
    Unfortunately, most of the loud noise you hear is from folks concerned about MYYYYYY camp. Close HISSS camp, or THEIRRRRR camp, stay away from MYYYYY camp. Sorry - it was time to look at ALLLLLL camps, and make a decision.

    Yah, hmmmm...

    Now I'm a council fellow, and so I understand and sympathize with da "MY camp" thing. It requires some degree of bravery and kindness to make hard decisions and listen to passionate criticism. It isn't easy. But da Scout Law applies to us as much as those whom we serve, eh? We shouldn't expect it to be easy. Let's not forget that we have been tellin' folks for years that it was in fact THEIR camp when we solicited their money and their time, so it seems a bit unfair to turn around and complain about 'em actually believin' us.

    I reckon if you're hearin' lots of "loud noise" in less than a week it's probably because people are surprised, eh? And perhaps a little miffed that yeh closed camps where they had paid deposits and made reservations, and had set up their troop and family plans relyin' on those dates. That strikes me as more of a lack of planning, communication, and respect for folks by da council staff than of whining by volunteers.

    Perhaps that lack of communication is because da folks makin' and supportin' the decisions have been livin' half their time in Florida instead of Michigan for the past seven years, and have gotten a bit out of touch with da people who are still workin' with kids in the units. Just perhaps.

    I suspect that there's no doubt in anyone's mind that some amount of consolidation in Michigan is necessary given da demographics. Closin' three quarters of da camps seems a bit extreme, though; I know your demographics haven't changed that much.

    I'm also not sure I buy da notion that camps can't be next to each other and do well. Your whole state is pretty geographically similar, eh? Like most of us in da upper midwest. So it's not like a camp that's 150 miles away has different resources because of geography, and none of da drives are more than 3 hours I bet. Camps tend to get sited near each other because that's where the land is cheaper and da taxes/other infrastructure less costly, so if yeh want 'em spread out you'll have higher costs. I expect yeh don't have a camp in da southern FSC for that reason, eh? So to my mind, da issue is more a question of how big a population the camp serves, not where it happens to sit.

    I've also been on visitation teams for camps. I think if yeh are closin' 75% of your camps because you have lost 30% of your membership, then quite a bit of da problem is mismanagement and poor customer service. Yeh haven't spent money re-investing in da camp; yeh haven't done your duty of oversight ensuring that da program was high-quality and your customers well satisfied. Probably yeh spent it on exec salaries instead of program, because that's always easier for a somewhat disengaged board. If yeh want your rank-and-file to be supportive, yeh have to own your own mistakes as a council volunteer first, and resolve to fix 'em, eh? Blaming da rank and file for havin' a selfish attitude is da wrong way to go.

    Beavah
    (This message has been edited by Beavah)

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    • #17
      Yeah, Beav, that is, I think, one of BSA's greatest short comings. When they need money or folks for a work day, they're OUR camps right up until the day the sale is announced. Just like we are "stakeholders" during FOS season but "customers" when someone wants to make substantive program decisions. We're "members" when they need someone for some thankless district job but just part of the red-jacketed rabble when there's an opening on the executive board.

      Generally though, I see this from UCEagle's perspective. I don't know much about the camps in other parts of the country, but my understanding is in some areas there are just too many camps. Seems there was a report a year or two ago from the NE Region related to this which came with a long string of recommendations for minimum camp sizes, endowments, maintenance budgets, etc.

      Around here, most councils seem to have one big summer camp, often outside the council, and another, smaller camp which serves the Cubbies, training, and other functions where tacking a two-hour drive to the event would be a problem. That seems to work well. Through the council's history I think we've had two other camps, both which were sold to buy the two current camps. While I love the history and tradition of old camps, I can only imagine the financial burden if we still had the two old camps. Not to mention that without the capital from their sale, it's unlikely we would have the to great camps we do.

      It's kinda like family homes. You really hate to sell the little intown bungalow where you lived as a young couple, but the extra space, big back and better schools is what your family needs. Seems like a lot of councils are on the back end of that curve -- empty nesters who need to downsize, cut costs and eliminate maintenance.

      From working at National Camp School, I know a lot of folks on the regional camping committee. When you can cut them away from the heard, they'll tell you there are some councils which don't have any business running camps. The don't have the program staff or maintenance budgets. Consequently, they'll run two weeks of camp at 40% capacity and do a half-assed job of that. I'll grant you the solution there should be to kick some butts, not sell the camps, but after years and years of kicking, it may be time for a new strategy.

      And I'm not discounting the fact that some councils have been mismanaged and run into the ground financially and the sale of property is the quick or easy way out of the hole. (See paragraph 1, above.)

      Comment


      • #18
        (This message has been edited by BadenP)

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        • #19
          My first thought when I saw this announcement was to go thank our Council exec board for keeping us out of the madness in the face of some pretty intense pressure from above to join in.

          My second thought was how patronizing the announcement was. There's no real explanation or justification given for any of the changes; just a pat on the head and a cheery voiced "trust us" for what someone else described as the red-jacketed rabble.

          I'm willing to believe that some consolidation of camps was inevitable given all the challenges faced, but where is the information. Which of these camps was at 40%? Which of these camps had infrastructure deficiencies that simply couldn't be met?

          The lack of transparency in our organization confounds me, it reminds me of the worst aspects of when I worked for Fortune 500 behemoths. We in the rabble can actually handle full disclosure. We're used to making and understanding both difficult and complex decisions, and more importantly we are the cornerstone that makes the organization possible. We provide the volunteers, the money, and frankly even the youth being served. Scouts, scouters, and families have invested Time, Talent, and Treasure in these camps for years and even decades; they deserve a full explanation of why these decisions are being made.

          If an organization can't provide complete and honest information, including the unpleasant parts, about the decisions being made, then it's probably the decision that's the problem not the people it's being explained to.

          Comment


          • #20
            You forget.......Volunteers are a renewable resource.....The piss us off we leave they sucker in the next crew who hang around for 10-15 years then they piss them off and they leave.

            I was taken advantage of by district level and blindly donated to council thru the united way and FOS.


            I encourage volunteers to stop doing this.....Keep your money at the unit level.

            Comment


            • #21

              Can anyone say "Chicago Area Council"?

              I say follow the money.

              The problem is NEVER too many camps. It is always too few campers. If one works at it, there are always other appropriate uses and therefore sources of income: ecology study centers, school nature centers (our public schools require a 3 night camp for fourth graders), local rec departments (our council does this with some county rec departments), "other" summer camps (computer, athletics), Outdoor Leadership School, BSA training center (wilderness first aid, IOLS, Philmont shakedown), church retreat center, etc., college bio courses, astronomy camp. Camps can often be used to form "green" easements, which have tax advantages. Someone needs to be tasked with the promotion and arrangements.

              Query: BSA is a not for profit (officially) organization, right? If the camp is owned by BSA (or it's franchisee), does the camp get appraised and taxed like a Locheed-Martin factory?
              What is the real motivation to sell? Who gets the sales commission?

              I was once on the board of a local AYH council. A fellow got himself elected to the board, and was soon promoting the idea of selling off the local hostel, which was the only one owned outright by the council (we had several in our area). His argument was that the hostel would be better managed in private hands, as all the others were privately owned. It was located in a downtown area and was worth a good sum as a possible "real" hotel, but had been a low cost hostel for a long time. It was run by a full time manager, who reported to the board, and lots of volunteer help. It always was in the black, We had had no past problems with it, but our new member insisted that with his experience in real estate, it would be wiser to sell it. Our answer was, and do what with the money? What was our purpose, if not to run a low cost accomodation? The majority of the board held it's ground and the new member eventually moved back to Colorado, from whence he had come.
              We later found out that the corp that had asked about the purchase was "owned" by our new member.

              Comment


              • #22
                What I don't understand is that the Scout Executive for President Ford Council told us during this year's summer camp that the 2 camps in our council were the only 2 in Michigan that had both an increase in kids and were both profitable. So why not keep both open to Boy Scout Summer camp? Instead, they only make the northern camp a Cub Camp (while keeping the other southern Cub Camp open) which I doubt will see an increase in youth and profit without the Boy Scouts using it next year.

                The issue with driving longer distances is that we had numerous troops that rotated leadership during camp week due to work schedules. This is going to be more difficult with longer drive times.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Our SE is making noise about shutting down the summer camp business. We can't make our FOS goals. I want to see how he replaces the $20K we make in 2-1/2 weeks running camp.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    The best thing about this is that nothing like this is happening around here.

                    I suspect that the large majority of councils are not doing this. If you looked at the last census bureau map, it appeared that a state's population grew in proportion to the distance from Michigan. Seriously, Michigan was the only state to lose population, and all of the states with 15%+ population growth form a concentric arc from Idaho to NC. You had to be at least four states away from Michigan to grow that fast.

                    Anyway, just wanted to report, things aren't like that here, as far as I know.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Nice attitude Oak.....

                      If this SE and the cronies associated with him make it work.....He could end up bein your SE..

                      The SE that sold my boyhood camp, Camp Avery Hand in Lexington Ohio, Became SE in the Cleveland area council where he closed Tinnermand Canoe base and sold it off too.....

                      Don't think your protected.....

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        I heard from my buddy in MI. He left scouting. Wow! I didn't see THAT coming. It isn't related to this topic but rather some local disagreement. This happened a while back so the sale of the camps is off his radar screen.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          If this SE and the cronies associated with him make it work.....He could end up bein your SE..

                          Yes, I realize that. We're lucky to have the SE that we have.

                          It doesn't sound like this new system is working all that well, though.

                          Don't think your protected.....

                          I realize that there are many factors that influence whether or not we are successful, and many factors that influence whether a council sells a camp. I don't think we are "protected", but I do think there is a low likelihood that the camps around here that we use are going to be sold off.

                          The reasons I view it as unlikely are:
                          - the camps are pretty full during the summer
                          - there are substantial capital investments going into the camps
                          - the camps are in relatively rural settings so the land prices are not high

                          That said, if a camp did get sold off, we'd just go look for another camp.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Lake Orions Camp Agawam, a Boy Scout camp since 1918, is one of three Michigan Scout camps that will not operate in 2013. It will likely be sold.

                            A letter posted over the signatures of Scout executives Jack Chandler and Richard Fisher states that, An extensive nine-month review was conducted for each camps program strengths that evaluated facility conditions, location to population centers, attendance and financial sustainability. As a result, a recommendation was presented to the MCC (Michigan Crossroads Council) Executive Committee and approved on September 10, 2012.

                            http://oaklandtownship.patch.com/articles/boy-scouts-closing-camp-agawam

                            Supposedly there is a notice regarding the closing on the Great Lakes Council website http://glcscouting.org/ or is it now another Michigan council? Anyway, I could not find it. What a mess.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              "review was conducted for each camps program strengths that evaluated facility conditions, location to population centers, attendance and financial sustainability."

                              This is a new addition to the National Camp Accreditation Program. I received the new standards and they came with an email trail that suggests the camp visitation will evaluate program, facilities, attendance and finance. It is suggesting that the Area/Region level people can effectively shut down a summer camp program. The next step is a suggestion to sell the property.

                              There seems to be a thinly disguised effort by "those above" to reduce properties and increase cash in the bank. Not sure why they are heading this way since we know that they aren't going to make more land.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                "From working at National Camp School, I know a lot of folks on the regional camping committee. When you can cut them away from the heard, they'll tell you there are some councils which don't have any business running camps. The don't have the program staff or maintenance budgets. Consequently, they'll run two weeks of camp at 40% capacity and do a half-assed job of that. I'll grant you the solution there should be to kick some butts, not sell the camps, but after years and years of kicking, it may be time for a new strategy."

                                Perhaps the "new strategy" would be to hire SE's that can get the job done. For hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, they dog gone well OUGHT to be able to run a program. If not, can them and find someone who will.

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