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What's going on with Owassippe?

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  • What's going on with Owassippe?

    Hey guys,
    I heard from my family that Owassippe was on the news again, and in danger of being sold? That camp ruled, and is practically the best place for the Chicago area scouts.

  • #2
    Yes, CAC board deceided to sell it.


    • #3
      Ohhh darn...

      Whose it being sold to and such? (This message has been edited by a staff member.)


      • #4
        Well, if Owassippe is sold there's always Napowan. It's a great place run by NWSC [the Northwest 'Burbs]. If you guys are looking for something fresh, come check us out. We probably can't compete with Owassippe, but we're awesome in our own little way...


        • #5
 was sold to a developer but some of it was sold off to Camp Gerber adjacent to their property. Unfortunately, Gerber could not raise the funds to purchase in time... here is the local article -

          Banker to buy Boy Scout land near Whitehall
          Macatawa Bank founder finalizing $19.4 million deal for 4,700 acres

          Staff writer

          The founder and CEO of Macatawa Bank is finalizing a deal with the Chicago Boy Scouts council to purchase 4,700 acres of forest land near Whitehall, about 12 miles northeast of Muskegon.

          Benjamin A. Smith, who also operates Smith & Associates, a Holland investment group, said the deal would be final following Blue Lake Township's approval of zoning changes to allow for a variety of low-density residential uses.

          "This is kind of a special deal," Smith said Wednesday. "I don't consider myself to be a developer at all. It's not my forte. But this property was such an interesting piece ... that I felt it would be something that I would be proud to be associated with."

          The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America approved Smith's offer for the Owasippe Scout Reservation during a Tuesday night meeting, according to David Schindler, an attorney for the Boy Scouts.

          Dennis Chookaszian, a member of the Chicago council, said the 14-12 vote to approve the $19.4 million sale will better serve Chicago youth than retaining property that is a five-hour drive from the metro area.

          "The council's objective is to create a quality scouting experience, not land ownership or land conservancy," Chookaszian said.

          The deal calls for at least 476 acres of the most ecologically sensitive areas to be left undisturbed, though Smith said his goal is to build on the least number of residential parcels needed to make the deal financially feasible. Smith said no specific development plans are in place, but that there will be no commercial or industrial development associated with the project.

          Under a rezoning plan recommended to the township by the Chicago Scouts, the smallest residential parcel available would be 2.5 acres, with other areas available for development on 5- and 10-acre parcels. The land borders the south bank of Big Blue Lake and encompasses Wolverine and Sauger lakes.

          Schindler said the Chicago Boy Scouts began considering the sale of the property, which the council has used since 1911, more than two years ago because of its decreasing revenues and the increasing costs of maintaining the property. He said the camp at its height had a capacity for 16,000 campers during a summer season, but during the last two decades has seen a steady decline in campers. Last year, only 2,700 campers used the reservation.

          Alex Rossman, a spokesman for The Nature Conservancy in Lansing, said the Owasippe camp is one of the largest intact tracts of open private land in the Lower Peninsula. He said The Nature Conservancy has been working with the township and the Boy Scouts to maintain the sensitive ecology of land, and would continue to do so with any new owner.

          "Our stance is that while the ownership of the land is changing, the importance of the conservancy of the land remains just as strong," Rossman said. "One of our approaches, that is really the benchmark of our program, is to understand that conservancy is market driven, and being able to work with the buyers rather than working against them is the most important thing.

          "We're really not a controversial or adversarial organization," he said. "We understand that land is a commodity ... and we try to achieve conservation while still meeting the needs of the owners."


          • #6
            "Dennis Chookaszian, a member of the Chicago council, said the 14-12 vote to approve the $19.4 million sale will better serve Chicago youth than retaining property that is a five-hour drive from the metro area.

            "The council's objective is to create a quality scouting experience, not land ownership or land conservancy," Chookaszian said."

            So basically, Chicago youth no longer have the opportunity to go to Owassippe, and the Chicago council pretty much places their objective of a better scouting experience on their newly acquired $19.4 million, and yet, they still don't have any territory close enough to Chicago to actually invest in. Man, in that little wedge of a place that's the difference between something like Jubilee State Park, and a High Adventure Camp like Philmont, Owassippe was godlike.
            Camp Blackhawk, Go!
            -ES 3:16


            • #7
              Obviously we don't have to like it in order for it to make sense...

              Wonder what the council is going to do with the $19.4 - that's were you should direct your question.

              Get involved with the was a close vote and who knows how your experience could have influenced the outcome...go get em ES


              • #8
                I could only guess they'd try to attain land for scouts that's closer to Chicago.

                I'd like to get involved with it, except I'm out here in Central Illinois, going to college.


                • #9
                  The following is from Owassippe Staff Association web site(

                  Blue Lake Township received huge support of their current zoning as the Muskegon Conservation District passed a formal Resolution to not change the zoning of Owasippe.

                  In light of the drastic rezoning that the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America has asked for, this Resolution clearly puts the Council proposal at odds with the nature of Owasippe. The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center proposal preserves the current zoning and includes the ultimate in preservation of nature, a Conservation Easement. A Conservation Easement would assure that the wildlife, flora and water resources of Owasippe would be available for generation after generation."

                  If this stands up, it would effectively stop the sale. Sounds like someone is using thier Citizenship in the Community training :>


                  • #10
                    It's still an issue funding. Owasippe was sold because they could not afford to keep it open, given dwindling attendance. If the sale is blocked by the zoning committee, then the Chicago Council still has the problem of how to fund Owasippe, which is why they sold it in the first place. The problem isn't solved by blocking the sale.


                    • #11
                      Prairie_Scouter - I would look at the potential zoning challange to the sale as an opportunity that buys more time to save this camp for future scouts. I would hope that one or more local scout council in Michigan and/or neighboring states might step up and save this camp.


                      • #12
                        I agree with you. Problem is, those sorts of discussions have reportedly been going on for several years. The Chicago Area Council tried to build a fund to protect the property going forward, but wasn't successful. Maybe the sale and the challenge will get people to think more seriously about it; it'd be a shame to lose something with so much Scout history.


                        • #13
                          Here is the latest...
                          Posted: 4-18-2005
                          Blue Lake Township: Needs county help to rezone Owasippe
                          Blue Lake Township has officially appealed to Muskegon County officials for technical help as it deals with a request from the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts (CAC) to rezone the 4,700-acre Camp Owasippe for development.
                          Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven made the appeal to the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday afternoon. Displaying a color-coded map of Blue Lake Township, Studaven pointed out the camp that encompasses nearly a fifth of the townships total 23,000 acres.

                          I want you to try to understand this from some of the peoples point of view and how so many of us feel in Blue Lake Township (about Owasippe), Studaven told commissioners.

                          Right now we have some real problems and the planning commission has to make a judgment.

                          Its judgment will determine if the oldest operating Boy Scout camp in the country is rezoned from camp only use to that which would allow residential development. CAC applied for the rezoning of Owasippe over a year ago. Just this past February CAC announced it had a buyer for Owasippe, Holland banker and developer Benjamin A. Smith III. Hes offered $19.4 million for the property if Blue Lake Township will rezone it.

                          CACs rezoning proposal asks for quarter acre lots around the south side of Big Blue Lake and lots of 2.5 to 10 acres in other areas of the property. It calls for about 10 percent of the 4,700 acres to be left undeveloped as conservation districts.

                          But all of that creates what Studaven called an an infrastructure nightmare for Blue Lake Township. Studaven and the townships planners are worried about how the possibility of 1,500 new homes around the south side of Big Blue Lake and their water and septic needs could impact the lake, the townships water supply, and already taxed roads, area schools, and fire department. The township has asked CAC for sewage, traffic and safety studies to help planners with their rezoning decision.

                          Attorney Devin Schindler, representing CAC, said in an email response last week that CACs consultant, JJR Smith Group, has met with the Muskegon County Road Commission and Public Works for the information needed to complete the studies. Schindler said hes waiting on the report from JJR to find out whether tying into the countys sewer line, a private sewer line or septic would be the best way to balance CACs environmental values and economics.

                          Schindler expects the reports to be completed soon and that a meeting will be scheduled with the township shortly thereafter.

                          The township has hired its own consultants, Grand Rapids firm Langworthy, Strader & LeBlanc. Studaven said his request for technical assistance from the county will serve as a second opinion to the consultants reports.

                          Im not going to say were not going to rezone it (Owasippe), Studaven told commissioners. People have the right to do what they want with their property, but we cant let them ruin the land.

                          County Administrator Jim Borushko said Studavens request will be referred to the Public Works board, on which eight of the 11 county commissioners sit. Borushko told commissioners last Tuesday that the township isnt that far from the countys 30-inch sewer line. Borushko said now is the time for negotiation between the township, the developer and CAC before any court decides against the township and leaves it holding nothing.

                          There should be financial considerations for insuring that public health issues are addressed up front and not after the fact, Borushko said following last Tuesdays board meeting.

                          The Boy Scouts have paid very little taxes over the years. To walk away with $19 million and not leave a trust behind for that township is unacceptable.

                          Borushko even suggested the township might want to ask the developer to maintain part of the land around Blue Lake as a community park.

                          Schindler said an in email last week CAC is not considering litigation. It hopes the township is open to the compromise solution contained in the rezoning application. Schindler said hes still open to other ideas and constructive criticism.

                          What Blue Lake Township is not open to is dense development on the south side of Big Blue Lake as it already is on the lakes north side.

                          Their plan calls for R-1, or 11,000 square foot lots, there. Well never do that again, not as long as Im here, Studaven said