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Camp Challenges Summer 2021

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So I saw a story in my feed about a (non-Scout) summer camp in New Hampshire that ended its season near the end of the first week...

The ‘Fyre Fest’ of overnight camps closed after 6 days



Everyone can agree that Camp Quinebarge did not go as planned.

The rustic overnight camp abruptly shut down earlier this month after just six days. Camp directors informed parents, who had shelled out $3,400 for two weeks, that they needed to pick up their children the next morning, following a “summer of challenges” capped off by delays from the camp’s food supplier that made continuing untenable.

The decision to close the 85-year-old camp in Moultonborough, N.H., in the middle of the summer left campers bereft, counselors stewing, and some parents furious. Soon, stories began to circulate of problems that went much deeper than late deliveries: [...]

Maybe it's just a badly-run private camp, but my own son's Council-run Scout Camp could have had to shut down like that mid-season this summer (although the price for two weeks at the camp in the story is ten times the cost of a week at the Council camp).

Barely a couple weeks before camp, Council sent out e-mail looking for staffers... a list of 15 or 20 positions across four camps, still unfilled.

My son's troop showed up, and there was still no head cook. My sons' scoutmaster volunteered to fill that role unpaid, and took an extended vacation from his day-job to stay on a few more weeks.

Scouts taking the Leatherwork merit badge had to share kits among multiple youth; likewise scouts taking Space Exploration had to share rockets.

Are Scout camps elsewhere having trouble with food deliveries, illness, poorly trained staff, or simple understaffing this summer? If so, is there a common root cause: COVID, the bankruptcy, both together, something else?

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Camp we went to had staffing and food issues as well. I have been told by those who have been there it previously that the food was not up to what it has been in the past ( it was the worse camp food I had ever had, and that is saying something. We had folks get sick because of the expired milk). And they were short staffed. Other than that, Scouts had fun, even the one who told me midweek "I never want to come back." He wants to go back in a two years.

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Nothing specific to scouts but staff and, in particular, lifeguards have been lacking. A number of camps/swim clubs/recreational parks haven't been able to open their pools/beaches or have had limited hours. There are also a number of surprising shortages. Most people know about institutional foods, largely because of missing ingredients, but some resident camps that needed mattresses and linens weren't able to get them. A lot of mattress/linen manufacturers converted over to making masks and are still getting back online.  Camps that rely on busing can't get buses fixed because parts are unavailable, etc.  It's been a tough summer for many. 


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Camp will never to able to compete pay rates with private camps or even public systems. $200 per camper verse $600 plus

This should not have come as any surprise. This was a topic on one of the nation round tables.

Finding any camp staff that requires a certifation  is going to be more costly. The local camp will need to compete with a n increasing private sector demand and even against other councils camps and nation or regional scout camps. 

If the camp wants the programs

  • offer more training
  • offer better pay
  • offer better working conditions
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I will make this brief, for informational purposes..

1.  At the beginning of COVID, c. early 2020, I did a ton of internet research on summer camps.  My rough calculation is that Scouting camps about 10% of all youth attending a summer camp.  Surprise to me.  Now, some of those "camps" are music and sport camps and not in the same class of outdoor summer camping conducted by BSA.

2. Camp Gold Arrow in California charges $4,225 for two weeks. That is 650% (6.5 times) more than my council's camp charges for a week. That is not to say that Camp Gold Arrow is expensive or a bargain.  It could be either, depending on the quality of program delivered.

3.  My local camp has dropped from 1,300 campers to 550 campers in the last 4 years and reduced summer camp offerings by a couple of weeks.  It is a large, full-service camp..

4.   Recruiting summer camp staff has been a huge issue lately as prospective staff can't accept a 5 or 6 week staff salary as they can't also find other summer work to fill in the work week gaps before camp and after camp. So, prospective staff take summer jobs that pay them for a full summer..

5.  Notwithstanding all the other issues, camps need to recruit staff that are knowledgeable about the merit badges they are to teach, and have teaching skills.  This seems to be a huge challenge.  My council has struggled with this.  It has an INFANT program to engage knowledgeable adults with summer camp staff during staff week to help train them, both in knowledge and teaching skills. We call them 'Wilderness Counselors."

6.  At an Area level conference, just pre-Covid, a national staffer commented in a session that I attended, that were all the scouts currently registered in the BSA (early Spring, 2020) to attend a week's summer camp, council camps had the capacity to accommodate all of them in just 2 weeks.  "We have a lot of over-capacity."

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