SE Corner: Camp Upgrades Receive Applause

I have spent the last few weeks traveling through much of Montana and I have been reminded of the beauty – and vastness – of the state we call home.

In my travels, I was able to see the improvements of Melita Island and K-M Scout Ranch and witness first-hand the amazing advances made at these camps.

The financial investment in these properties is substantial and as members of the Montana Council and Team 315, I invite you to take advantage of these improved camps.

As we continue to work to enhance the Scouting experience at these camps, we ask that you talk to those who have attended the camps this year about their experience and I think you will like what they have to say.

To illustrate this point directly, below is a personal note we received from Boy Scout Troop 312, Green River, WY. These are the kinds of comments pouring in from Melita and K-M.

Don Bean
Scout Executive/CEO


Gentlemen,

I wanted to take a few moments to share the experience that Troop 312 of Green River had while attending a Montana Council camp, K-M Scout Ranch, from the 16th – 22 of July.

As you know, 312 travels widely, having been to camps in 8 states and Canada since 2001.

Because of this, I have personal experience with a wide variety of camps in multiple councils, from small, local camps like Camp Buffalo Bill (Greater Wyoming Council), to large “destination” camps like Camp Meriwether (Cascade Pacific Council).

After all of this, I had a remarkable experience at K-M, and I wanted to share it.

While we were there, I spoke to Shon Ostler, the Camp Director, the Council President, who visited one day, as well as kitchen staff, area directors, the Camp Commissioner, and merit badge counselors.

From top to bottom, there was a shared and well-articulated vision that Montana Council camps were seeking excellence, and that this would come, in part, through infrastructure improvements, but would embrace development and retention of high-quality staff, and programming that really tries to meet the needs and interests of Scouts and adult leaders.

The vision was one that shoots for what their camps can become, rather than just surviving in the present.

Here are some elements of this vision that really stuck with me:

  • The camp tore out all of it’s “KYBOs”, replacing them with several concrete shower houses. Each had individual entrances, with a toilet, sink & shower in each space. They were just weeks old, but are contractor-constructed for the long haul. Each shower space features an on-demand water heater. New septic systems and leach fields were part of this development, along with new water lines and electrical service to each campsite. Restrooms were also constructed in the same design, but without showers. They cleaned up easily and were a real asset to the camp.
  • The existing dining hall was still in use, but a new and larger dining lodge is in the works on a site with great views. Even with an undersized dining hall and kitchen, the camp provided good meals and the addition of a tent pavilion outside made seating acceptable, if tight. What made this work was the expansion of dining hours, made possible by re-thinking the merit badge and activity schedules.
  • The camp used a block schedule, in which scouts attend ONE merit badge class or activity all day. They youth were able to sign up for 5 merit badges or activities and to complete most of them in a day. We loved this! The rate of “partials” went way down, and not one of our kids had a partial in any shooting sport (always a problem with multiple hour-long classes). They also had great relationships with their counselors, didn’t have the chance to hang out at the trading post between classes, and actually had more effective class time.
  • Another advantage of the all-day blocks was to allow the camp to expand dining hours, such that even with over 300 campers being fed out of an undersized kitchen, the camp could expand dining hours without impacting instructional / activity time.
    The camp has a very popular ATV program, welding, arts, STEM, and COPE, in addition to regular merit badge offerings. They also have a week-long Mountain Man Experience, which includes 2 days on the Missouri in canoes.
  • All staff had clearly been exposed to discussions and training about the council camp vision. This was very clear in speaking to people at all levels, and the customer orientation was very noticeable across the board.
    The excellent Nature & Shooting Sports supervisors had been with the camp for several years, and CIT staff were NOT charged for the summer, and given a voucher for purchases at council stores.

Boy Scout Troop 312, Green River, WY

I am sharing this not because the Montana Council’s challenges are identical to ours. They are not, and their size, geographic challenges and resources are different.

However, we are facing some real changes, some of which may be challenging. The council president told me that they were on their way to being consolidated with another council, and they now feel that they are on firmer footing.

I truly believe that K-M may be able to expand from it’s current 3-week resident camp schedule as the word gets out. They are also applying many of these changes to Melita Island, already a well-known destination camp. We have some “crown jewel” assets of our own, and I wanted to share how resources and vision can come together to create great results.

Yours in Scouting,
Dennis Freeman
Associate Lodge Adviser, Awaxaawe’ Awachia Lodge, Order of the Arrow
Scoutmaster Emeritus, Boy Scout Troop 312
“Live the Three, Run the Twelve”
Green River, WY