Atlanta Area Council Summer Camps
Ed Henderson (biged@SCOUTER.COM)
Mon, 23 Jun 1997 13:09:42 -0500
Recently Jeff Glaze took exception to my comments about the Atlanta Area
Council's Summer Camp Program which I referred to in some positive comments
I made about their exceptional response to dealing with the Internet.
Jeff's letter regarding AAC summer camps certainly deserves a response.
For years, living just south of their council and having spent the past 16
summers on camp staffs around Georgia I have grown deeply concerned about
the two Atlanta Council Summer Camps & the way they are operated. Now that
I am in Kansas City, and given the fact that my own home council camp,
Thunder, is booked solid months in advance, it is not out of a competitive
concern for the Flint River Council's camp but rather a genuine belief that
Atlanta could do so much more with its two camps.
Jeff, here are my concerns:
* Rather that try to build up some continuity and experience with the Camp
& Program Director Positions, Atlanta Area Council plays a kind of musical
chairs, rotating their DE's into the camp positions each year so they can
all get that career experience and advance. New DE's are almost always
given camp duty, a kind of trial by fire. There is a belief that if a DE
can handle camp well, he should be able to handle anything in the district.
Summer Camp is not a training ground for DE's. If a DE has done an
excellent job, they are replaced, if they do a terrible job...there is
always next year. Volunteers never have a shot at the top job because AAC
regards its two camps as a DE training ground. The effect of this effort
is you often have people in the top jobs who do not want to be there.
Sometimes, with the council knowing that camp duty can be unattractive,
they might even use the assignment as a kind of punishment for a DE who
failed to hit FOS or membership goals in their district. Even when you
have a good DE who does not mind the assignment, they have little time to
plan for it given the many responsibilities they also carry. At best they
will occupy their position for only two years before moving on to some
other professional duty. Camp Program therefore lurches along with little
continuity and build up of experience.
* Leaders Guides are late. Some years AAC does not get their camp leader's
guides out until February! Camps are slow to book, and considering the
number of councils and units, it is incredible that Bert Adams struggles to
fill three weeks or Woodruff does not even fill up five or six. The
council needs to get some new ideas to breath some life into camp sign ups.
* AAC is now a Supply Division Only affair. While some might cheer the
National Supply Division and AAC's teaming up to build two new Trading
Posts at your summer camps I am not applauding too much. When Supply Comes
in out goes everything else. No more of Currier's hilarious T-Shirt
Designs that have been featured at past College of Commissioner Sciences,
no more of those necklaces that are designed by that Scoutmaster in your
council over in Covington. It is a fallacy to regard Supply Division +
Chips + Coke as a total solution to a camp Trading Post. Your kids will
have a high priced, limited selection of products, and the camps face the
same threat of no inventory if Supply Divisions systems crash like they did
this past January. Supply Division is an excellent vendor with good credit
terms that understands the market, I believe they should be the largest
supplier of any Boy Scout Camp or Council, but I would never think they
should be the only supplier.
* The staff's at your two camps have little input into the development of
the leader's guide. This is designed by committee, that, in itself is not
a bad thing, but your DE Program Directors are often handed a guide and
told to execute it. Since they are DE's with districts to run, FOS to
raise, a Day Camp going on in the middle of camp, etc. they are happy to
run with a plan that was designed by others and which involves a minimal
time investment on their part. It stifles creativity.
* Atlanta and Griffin go about their summer camp operation completely
differently. The only people at your two camps year round are the Rangers.
The operations of the AAC camps are directed at the scout office, as just
two of many programs. I am of the opinion that neither camp has lived to
its fullest greatness. Woodruff in particular could be an A class camp,
capable of far outdistancing even Thunder, given the facility and its
location. Thunder has a staff of five full time people who's only job and
concern is their camp. They have people ON SITE who are intimately
familiar with camp. When someone calls, or E-Mails Thunder they are
talking to someone who knows their camp. When someone calls AAC to ask
about camp they speak with a Secretary in a high rise Atlanta Office
Building who has never even been to on of their camps. Flint River Council
has taken the view they are in the business of camp excellence. Atlanta
views Summer Camp as one of dozens of program activities they operate. You
run it, close it down, tally the results and move on. The Trading Posts
have been stripped bare after camp because that was the end of that
particular program feature. When some other event comes along they may or
may not operate their own Trading Post. Bert Adams Cub World does has not
even had a Trading Post in easy walking distance.
Now there is nothing very special about Camp Thunder's location. Unlike
the legendary Camp Daniel Boone of Asheville's Council they are not on a
major whitewater rafting river like the Nantahalia. The Flint River water
level is low unless folks in Atlanta are flushing toilets a lot that week,
Thunder had a 60+ year old facility with an old infrastructure that has had
to replace and modernize just to compete. Flint River Council is a very
small little size 53 council with the largest city numbering only 40,000
residents and no major fortune 500 headquarters firms. Once, about 20
years ago the camp was among the most insignificant in the Southeast
Region. Running an unremarkable 200 or so campers each summer in a run
down camp. Two back to back wonderful Scout Executives and a determined
Camping Committee and cadre of volunteers changed all of that.
Atlanta's Premier Camp, Woodruff, on the other hand is less than 20 years
old, in an awesome & spectacular setting. Your camp was laid out with the
best minds at BSA Engineering Services, you had the capital we lacked to
build large first rate facilities at the very beginning (and thank goodness
added a nice Dining Hall). Why is Woodruff not blowing the doors off
Thunder and every other camp in Georgia?
Sadly, it is not in the Camp Director / DE's interest to push and promote
Atlanta camps that way! If they do, it is that many more weeks away from
home, day camp, the district, other responsibilities, etc. All the DE must
do is have a good year, get past the assignment and move on. There is no
need to forge a bond with the camp staff so a veteran nucleus of college
age staffers with years of experience under their belts returns year after
year because next year someone else will be at the helm. It will be there
professional assignment. Training also falls short with AAC never sending
their Chaplains to National Camp School and rarely sending Scoutcraft
Directors off to a week of training.
Jeff I have seen your council's Scouters vote with their feet and
checkbooks defecting in droves fleeing to other council camp operations.
Since Atlanta is such a huge council total success in its camp operations
is not as important to the bottom line. The view is if camp is not a
disaster, if it does not take a loss, if there were few complaints, and
everyone seemed kind of happy then it must be going alright. It was good
I have seen the energy level of your corps of volunteer Scouters. I know
there are excellent DE's and staff members in your council. I only wish
you guys could make it happen with your summer camps. You asked that I
give your council the benefit of the doubt about camp. Even if 1997 is a
great year, and I hope it is, corporately your system is set up to erase
those gains as your lab experiment in using camps as a DE summer training
ground dictates that all of the key people will be rotated to some other
new assignment next year. 1998 will be another start from scratch.
Jeff, I realize I am looking at this from the outside, I don't have all the
facts. Many of my impressions have been made by talking with disaffected
leaders from your council who do no longer attend your council camps. I am
sure if I spent a summer with your leaders who strongly believe in and
support your two camps I might have a different impression of summer camp
operations in the AAC. It is just after so many years a pattern has
clearly developed. Why is one of the largest Scout Councils in the nation
unable to even partially fill up their flagship camp when much smaller,
less capitalized councils are doing circles around AAC.
You guys have some of the finest things in the country like a JLT course
second to none, with a strong commitment to training by sending a whole van
load of your instructors to Philmont for training for the just completed
course. Your Scout Show is said to be one of the best and largest in the
nation. I try to go every year myself. The College of Commissioner
Science is representative of the kind of attention that AAC is capable of
attracting from around the Southeast. I have known some of your staff
members for years. There are none finer than Field Director Pete
Alexander. I got my Eagle in Griffin the same time Pete did and have
followed his career with great satisfaction.
When I made my original comment on Scouts-L I felt it represented my fair
assessment of the situation in your council. You guys are doing a great
job in the area of Internet Scouting but are lacking in the area of summer
camping. I have no problem with Michael Kauffman's Web Site about your
camps, just the camps themselves. I yearn for the day the camps are as up
to speed as the AAC's progressive Internet policy and Michael's wonderful
Jeff, my old camp, Thunder is stretched to absolute maximum. They turned
away over 30 troops who were on the waiting list plus countless others who
were told that everything was full. They run 10 weeks every site at Camp
Thunder and the Lawhorn Canoe Base. Nearly every weekend something is
going on from the filming of ESPN's television game show Radical Outdoor
Challenge to 1,000+ Cub weekends in the Spring & Fall.
Obviously those units Thunder turned away had to go somewhere else. There
is a great need for other excellent camps in Georgia to serve the needs of
Scouting. Columbus will soon bring such a camp on line as work is
completed on their new high powered facility of West Point Lake. Northeast
Georgia's Camp Rainy Mountain is already doing a great job but is also near
its capacity limits. Even little Northwest Georgia Council's Camp Sidney
Dew is growing every year and charting a path in much the same way Flint
River Council did two decades ago. Atlanta can and should live to its
greatness at its camps but everyone from your Scout Executive on down must
reconsider the manner in which you conduct your camp operation.
These are my own personal opinions, not those of my employer, Flint River
Council, or anyone else. We all speak only for ourselves on the Internet.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City