MAPLE FALLS - There will be no Boy Scouts camp at Camp Black Mountain this summer.
The executive board of the Mount Baker Council of Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday, Jan. 17, to cancel summer camp at its property on Silver Lake near Maple Falls, after a group working to keep the camp going fell short of the board's conditions for doing so.
Grappling with how to end an annual operating loss of about $50,000 in recent years for the summer camp, the board in September considered suspending it but decided to give the Friends of Black Mountain until Dec. 31 to:
Deposit $60,000 into a trust account to cover any potential loss while operating the camp in 2013. The Friends and supporters raised $64,560.
Get at least 300 campers over three weeks - i.e., an average of 100 a week over three weeks - to sign up and commit to attending camp.
The Friends had gotten 251 Scouts to register by Dec. 31, and another 20 after that date.
Friends' donors said they would cover the financial cost if the registration didn't hit 300 prior to summer camp starting, but to no avail, according to Brent Richards, president of the Friends of Black Mountain.
And, he said, fewer than 20 Scouts were signed up for the first week.
"We just didn't make it. All this means is that summer camp is closed," Richards said, noting Camp Black Mountain still was open for other uses, including Scout weekend campouts.
"It just won't have its marquee summer camp program," added Richards, who had camped there as a boy and worked there as summer camp staff.
In September, the Mount Baker Council's executive board also said that keeping camp going this summer depended on being able to hire qualified staff for the short season.
The difficulty of hiring staff for the season - given their employment would be brief - remained a factor in the Thursday decision, according to Duane Rhodes, spokesman for the Mount Baker Council.
Also worrisome was the low number of campers during the first week.
"There isn't any critical mass. You've got more staff members than Scouts running around, so the quality of the experience was a concern," Rhodes said.
The decision was "very tough," he said.
Rhodes said that one board member who had grown up attending the camp and working at it told him after the meeting, "I am just sick."
Meanwhile, developing a long-term plan for the property continues; proposals are due May 31.
The Friends will submit a business plan with two elements - one showing that it can run the camp so that it's not a liability to the council and one with a program that differentiates Camp Black Mountain from the council's Camp Fire Mountain in Skagit County, Richards said.
"We're not done," he said.
The Friends proposal would be among those that the Mount Baker Council's study group looks at to develop a plan for the property.
Richards said the board's decision on Thursday was a disappointment.
"There were a lot of elements where there appeared to be a predisposition to closing the camp," he said, "but it can't be denied they gave us a second chance."
Camp Black Mountain has served Western Washington since 1929.
The Mount Baker Council serves about 7,600 Scouts in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island and San Juan counties.
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