Scout musician Rich Patenaude plays
"To The Colors" at Camp Blackhawk
a division of Camp Owasippe
photo courtesy of The Scarlet Sassafras
"Owasippe is saved but not yet preserved" was the opening banner in the newest issue of The Scarlet Sassafras the newsletter created to inform readers about the health and well-being of Camp Owasippe. (See Oldest Operating Boy Scout Camp Still Fighting for Its Life)
After a long fight, and victory in the court system, the sale of the oldest operating Boy Scout Camp in the United States was blocked. The Holland developer and prospective purchaser, Ben Smith III, had been planning to appeal the decision of Judge William C. Marietti. (See Bench Trial Continues for Camp Owasippe and Blue Lake Township) The Judge ultimately decided, in March 2008, in favor of Blue Lake Township, Michigan, which had declined to rezone the property so that the sale could proceed. Smith intended to build 1200 homes on the property in a rural township with no water or sewer infrastructure.
Now, Smith has decided to withdraw his offer and no longer pursue the battle in the courts. Scouters across the nation are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The battle has cost not only $1 million dollars for the Chicago Area Council, and as much for rural Blue Lake Township, but many relationships within the Scout organization have been damaged.
"Much work still needs to be done, but at least it seems we're on the right path. A million dollars of scout money was spent on this adventure and incredible hard feelings were created on both sides of Lake Michigan," was the comment of a Chicago resident.
Efforts at rebuilding relationships seem to have begun. As part of the agreement the CAC has said that because of the outpouring of support for camping programs at the Owasippe Scout Reservation from its many constituencies, they will determine the right size for the camp and rebuild a world-class camping facility for the Chicago Scouts. Ben Smith, represented through Benny V Partners, states that what he wanted all along was to preserve some of the unique places on the property and he is happy to know that will be accomplished.
Ron Kulak, editor of The Scarlet Sassafras continued, "All involved should take great pride and solace in YOUR great accomplishment. This was done not only for future generations of Scout campers but also for those who came before us and who could not be here now for this moment of achievement. They gave us strength and inspiration and are with us in spirit."
The celebration will begin with the Owasipalooza Pizza Night at the end of November. Discussion is likely to center on what will now be the future of the 4800-acre camp. The Chicago Area Council has consistently maintained that the camp is in decline, and unprofitable, despite continued and increasing attendance throughout the summer sessions. Resizing of the area managed for the camp is certainly likely.
A non-profit organization, the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, was founded in 2006 in the hopes of purchasing the camp and preserving it intact. The OOEC would continue to provide the Scouts use of the property but also increase use with year-round, family oriented activities and camping. Donations to the OOEC, and the Owasippe Forever Fund are possible at the organization’s web site.
Words from the Owasippe Chant seem an especially appropriate final thought. "Sing out loud and strong with a heart that's brave and free. Let us sing a joyful carefree song. Sons of Owasippe."
See The Scarlet Sassafras
See Owasippe Outdoor Education Center
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