The fifth in a series designed to help Scout families, Scouts and those new to Scouting better understand what Scouting is, how it works, and how to get the most out of the experience. For past articles, see back issues of The Guide. Written by Paul Shrode, Bay-Lakes Council Family Friends of Scouting Chair, Member of the Board of Directors and Gathering Waters District Chair. Contact Paul at shrode@fvtc.edu.

Camping! Perhaps the single most significant feature that distinguishes Scouting from other youth serving organizations. As the weather warms, thoughts turn to pitching tents or sleeping under the stars, building fires, hiking through the woods and fields, and soaking in the sights and sounds of nature. The outdoor setting provides a natural classroom for skill building, leadership development, and of course FUN! <Continued>

Our Bay Lakes Council provides and maintains five camp properties. Camp Rokilio focuses on Cub Scouting and provides a rich program of summer activities in themed cabins. It is also home to the Bay Lakes Council museum and an unusual natural bog. Gardner Dam Scout Camp straddling the banks of the Wolf River, provides an outstanding program for Webelos. It is also home to an active kayaking and river rafting program. A new multipurpose building is nearing completion on the property and will serve as a dining hall and meeting space for generations to come. Camp Hiawatha in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula provides summer programming for Cub Scouts, Webelos and Scouts BSA units. It is also home to the Council’s National Youth Leadership Training program (NYLT) and serves as a jumping off point for high adventure opportunities in the Upper Peninsula. Bear Paw Scout Camp offers a strong summer program for Scouts BSA units. New facilities at Bear Paw include a renovated boat house, ecology/conservation building, shower and restroom facility near the waterfront, staff cabins, and most notably a new STEM building that houses the maple sugar shack and other STEM programming. One lesser known facility is Jax Camp, located just north of Sturgeon Bay, offering wilderness camping and access to Door County.

While our camps are most known for summer camp programming, Council camp facilities are available to units throughout the year and many units utilize the camps for weekend programming. Campsites, cabins, equipment and other facilities can be reserved for pack, troop and crew activity. Family camping facilities are also available in several locations and open camp properties to the whole family.

Each of our camps provide facilities for shooting sports, waterfront and boating activities, nature and conservation, science, cooking and other scouting skills, advancement, cope and climbing, and high adventure. The Council also provides mountain biking and cycling, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, ATVs and other special programming in some of our camp locations. The Council strives to make camp accessible to all scout families and provides financial assistance to those in need through camperships. Units work collaboratively with the Council to make sure that every scout can enjoy the benefits of the camp program.

Scout families may not be aware that summer programs are available to individual scouts! If your unit does not plan to attend summer camp or if your scout just wants more, each camp provides opportunities for individual scouts to register and attend camp. Older scouts may also apply to serve on summer camp staff. A Counselor in Training (CIT) program allows Scouts to volunteer to serve on a staff for a couple of weeks to try out the staff experience. Scouts can also apply to serve as paid staff for the duration of the summer program. Staff are provided with lodging and meals, and the experience of a lifetime!

During this pandemic, the Council has worked to implement measures to assure as much COVID safety as possible. Scouts are asked to abide by PPE expectations, wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer, work within defined groups and maintain social distance. Food service adheres to strict guidelines. Our Council operated camps successfully last summer without transmission or outbreaks due largely to our careful planning and safety procedures. We anticipate another great and safe summer in 2021.

Camping introduces scouts to the great outdoors and helps our youth to appreciate and understand stewardship of our natural resources. Many scouts take their love of camping and outdoor recreation well into adulthood and continue to enjoy the forest, lakes and rivers with their families and friends outside of Scouting. Hopefully you will help your scout get to camp this summer and enjoy the full measure of the camping experience.

Paul Shrode