As I've noted in the past, Cradle of Liberty is my home council, so I do have a stake in this.
My son's troop was slated to go to TI for summer camp four summers ago (2004), when the first flood hit, and we ended up going to Ockanickon. Council rallied the troops, as it were, over the next year, raised money, and restored the camp in time to open for business the following summer (2005). Then the next flood hit, wiping out all that had been restored. Undaunted, Council repeated the process, raised even more money, and restored the camp again to open the following summer (2006). Unfortunately it's been a struggle ever since, as is detailed in the full camping committee report at http://www.doubleknot.com/openrosters/ShowPage.asp?36313734387L3837323831.
The figures in the report show that COL has lost $280,000 at TI in the last two years -- but what it doesn't show is how much money was spent in 2004-2006 to restore the camp not once but twice. I had a conversation with Bill Dwyer, COL's Executive Director, this past summer, and he told me how much money has gone into that restoration. Sorry not to recount the figure -- I don't have a head for remembering numbers -- but it was astounding.
Part of the reasoning in the camping committee's report is not just the fact that TI is losing money but what alternative is there if TI floods again? -- and the simple realization that pouring all that money into restoring TI has an economic effect on COL's other two camping properties, Musser Scout Reservation and Resica Falls Scout Reservation. How many councils today are operating that many scout properties anyway?
I note that COL has not said they intend to sell TI, nor that the camp will remain permanently closed. At this point, they have only determined that camp will not open in 2009, and they decided to make this decision in plenty of time so individual troops can plan accordingly.
Finally, here is the message sent out to Scouters by Chuck Eaton, COL Field Service Director, announcing the decision. I think it also is a telling statement:
News about Treasure Island
Last night the Council Executive Board ratified the recommendations of the Camping Committee and the executive committee to close Treasure Island for 2009. The evening featured a presentation from Mike Coyne our Camping Chairman along with a lengthy difficult conversation.
You can read the full camping committee report here.
The Executive Board did not come to this decision lightly. The Council has been working diligently to keep the camp open since the two consecutive floods of 2005 and 2006. The cost of the camp, sharp decline in attendance since the floods, and the increasing environmental restrictions forced the board to reluctantly ratify the recommendation 35 to 1.
The Camping Committee will host an ongoing committee to look at the long term future of Treasure Island. Scouters can e-mail email@example.com to express their thoughts and opinions. That committee will report back to the Board in the spring of 2009.
Scout Troops planning to attend summer camp at Treasure Island will clearly be hosted at Resica Falls, or may decide to camp elsewhere for the summer of 2009. Our troops will have first priority at Resica Falls, but we will NOT overcrowd Resica.
For information on the Council's quest to become self sufficient and a review of the August operating statement click here.
After the meeting is over, and everyone kicks the gravel in the parking lot some folks stay around to talk Scouting. Its an addiction. We love it. We all love it no matter what role we play Scoutmasters, Cub Masters, District Chairs, Board Members, merit badge counselors, parents, and staff. The meeting after the meeting is often about the real deal. Its about the things we could be doing better, the things we think someone else should be doing, the things that we never really get to do, the way Scouting used to be, or the way Scouting should be. In the past few years it has felt like everyday we get closer and closer to pulling together in the same direction. It is invigorating, and contagious.
Everyone knew we were experiencing difficult times, and everyone rose to the occasion.
I am personally sorry for this decision. I know how hard everyone has worked to make Scouting successful in our council. I would do anything in my power to avoid this day. I think of myself as a creative guy, I stayed awake night after night trying to come up with some type of creative solution. I am sorry that for my part I let you down.
Mike Coyne poured his heart and soul into this decision. The people involved with Mike on the camping committee are folks that have spent their lifetime volunteering. During this process there were times they didnt agree, but always kept their attention on how this council can and should best serve the Scouts of today and tomorrow. If I feel bad abut it, trust me they are sick about it.
The only way to stomach this day is to think about tomorrow. We are a great council, and this is a difficult decision, but it was unavoidable. It was, and is, the right decision. This decision will allow us to grow. Now each Scouter will make a personal decision
1. How they feel about this, and then
2. What they choose to do with their feelings.
It is my hope that we can put our attention on the Scouts of today and continue to lead and provide great Scouting for them. That is our only mission. Please read the work of the camping committee. Mark Chilutti, Steve Ranjo, Warren Marley, Chuck Tomlin, Dave Sirkin, Mike McGolderick and Mike Coyne camping committee full report
Yours in Service
The simple fact is that the costs of camps, TI in particular, are not the only financial burden COL is carrying. Paying for two headquarters (the Firestone Center in Valley Forge and the Marks Center in Philadelphia) is also a huge financial drain. Face it, between restoring TI twice after two consecutive floods on top of the ongoing situation at the Marks Center has placed COL in a very tough place financially. What is not addressed in the camping report -- because it is an indirect effect and not properly the place of the camping committee to address it anyway -- is that the Marks Center situation is part of the reason for COL's difficulty in fundraising as well as having an indirect effect on Scouting membership within COL boundaries.
It's not an easy situation for anyone, and I recognize that the Council Executive Committee in voting 35-1 to close TI for the 2009 season was making a fiscally responsible decision, even though it is a tremendously wrenching one from an emotional standpoint. Nobody wants TI to close. But as stated in the full camping committee report in what I think are the key passages:
Our lack of a large dedicated funding base, inability to substantially increase attendance, looming large expenses, worsening logistic issues, ever-tightening regulations, potential floods and historically decreasing Scouting registration numbers force us to address whether it is responsible to open TI in the future.
Continuing operation means at best an average program that will use a disproportionate amount of our resources. This will place severe limits on the funding of our other properties, keeping them at that average status. The looming major problems, increasing expense and uncertainty of regulations and the uninsured status that exists due to location and weather patterns force the conclusion that continued operation is an irresponsible use of council funds and efforts.
I salute the camping committee and the executive committee for this difficult decision. The most helpful comments directed to them by email will not be the ones castigating them for making this decision but the ones that offer constructive suggestions for helping them find a way to reopen TI in a way that is fiscally sound and that will minimize losses and risk in the event of future flooding.