Boy Scouts closing Woodstock's Camp Lakota, two in Wisconsin

 
 
Updated 10/9/2015 9:16 PM
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  • The climbing tower at Camp Lakota in Woodstock may be moving to Adventure Camp in Rochelle once Lakota closes at the end of 2017, officials say.

    The climbing tower at Camp Lakota in Woodstock may be moving to Adventure Camp in Rochelle once Lakota closes at the end of 2017, officials say. Courtesy of Carl Laub

  • Camp Lakota in Woodstock is scheduled to close by the end of 2017, as local Boy Scout officials direct their resources to another camp in Rochelle.

    Camp Lakota in Woodstock is scheduled to close by the end of 2017, as local Boy Scout officials direct their resources to another camp in Rochelle. Courtesy of Carl Laub

  • Scouts push a sled through a course at Camp Lakota in Woodstock in 2002. The camp is one of three properties being shuttered due to financial losses and declining attendance.

      Scouts push a sled through a course at Camp Lakota in Woodstock in 2002. The camp is one of three properties being shuttered due to financial losses and declining attendance. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer, January 2002

A Cub Scout camp in Woodstock and two Boy Scout camps in Wisconsin frequented by youth from the suburbs are expected to close under a resolution adopted this week by the Chicago-area Scout council board that oversees the camps.

The decision comes amid declining attendance and ongoing financial losses at the camps.

"Clearly, the Boy Scouts of America has fewer members than it once had in the Chicagoland area, and the camps themselves are utilized less than they once were," said Craig Burkhardt, president of the Pathway to Adventure Council, which operates a total of seven camps in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. "The utilization is just not there to maintain a 500-acre camp when you have fewer than 300 children visiting it."

By the end of 2017, Camp Lakota in Woodstock will cease operations, as local Scout officials plan to commit more resources to Adventure Camp in Rochelle, and develop it "into a well-regarded Cub Scout program site," according to the resolution approved 15-1 Wednesday by the council's volunteer operating board.

The resolution also calls for the closure of Camp Mach-Kin-O-Siew and Camp Shin-Go-Beek this year -- two Boy Scout summer camps primarily attended by youth in the near Western suburbs of Cook County and southeast DuPage County.

Scout troops with reservations next summer at those camps will be encouraged to transfer to three Boy Scout summer camps the council is keeping, officials said.

Camp staff members, who are seasonal employees, will be encouraged to apply for jobs at the council camps that remain, Burkhardt said.

A possible sale of the properties won't take place until next year, he said.

The impending camp closures won't be official until brass from the Boy Scouts of America's Central Region sign off, expected by the end of the month.

The council is the result of an August 2014 consolidation of four formerly separate Boy Scout councils. Its membership of some 26,000 youth spans from the Northwest suburbs to Northwest Indiana, and includes Chicago.

The Woodstock camp, Camp Lakota, was operated for years by what was known as the Northwest Suburban Council, headquartered in Mount Prospect.

An Aug. 24 internal Pathway to Adventure Council report examining the council's camp properties determined Camp Lakota to have ongoing financial losses, primitive campsites without water or electricity, buildings in poor shape, and a lack of variety in programming. A large portion of the land is wetland.

The report noted one positive: a pool constructed five years ago is "very nice."

When Camp Lakota closes in two years, Scout officials hope to relocate the camp's programs that remain -- including its climbing tower -- to Adventure Camp in Rochelle, located 20 miles west of DeKalb. That camp is operated on a 50/50 basis with the Three Fires Council, headquartered in St. Charles, whose membership includes Scouts from DuPage, Kane, Will, Kendall and DeKalb counties.

The Pathway to Adventure Council's adopted resolution calls for staff to negotiate with Three Fires Council officials to obtain operational control or ownership of the camp.

"Lakota, as wonderful a camp as it is, was recommended to us by our volunteers and national engineers and architects (examining the council's properties) as not being sufficient size-wise and because of the character of the wetlands," said Burkhardt, the council president. "It's not capable of being expanded out to do some of the things we want to do."

Burkhardt said a recent Cub Scout recruitment drive resulted in three times as many youth being recruited this year compared to last, and the goal is to build up Adventure Camp to have more camping and weekend events for those new Scouts. Officials also hope the camp can host Boy Scout, Sea Scout, Venturing and Exploring camping and events.

The council's properties report recommends spending $5 million on capital improvements over the next five to seven years at the Rochelle camp.

As for the two Wisconsin camps being closed, the report says there is sufficient capacity in other nearby camping properties for Scouts.

One of those possible destinations is Camp Napowan in Wild Rose, Wisconsin -- a "well-used and liked camping property," the report says.

Some troops may also be drawn to Owasippe Scout Reservation in Twin Lake, Michigan -- a camp that's been considered for closure in the past. The report recommends spending $5.4 million on upgrades to that camp.

Though the council's resolution warns that camps that continue to generate operational losses may be on the chopping block in the future, Burkhardt doesn't foresee any additional camp closures in the immediate future.

"I view the decision that we made this week -- as tough as it was to make -- as a good 10- to 25-year decision," he said.

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