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Save Owasippe News

Status And Progress Of The "Save Owasippe" Effort and The Outdoor Education Center, Inc (OOEC), a Michigan 501-C-3 Not-For-Profit Corporation and Charitable Organization. 

United Scouters Assoc For Owasippe

Owasippe not out of the woods
by Jonah Ogles
White Lake Beacon
The Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts will not sell the camp at this time. The council’s lawsuit against the township continues.
The Owasippe Scout Reservation will not be sold. But that does not mean that the camp is out of the woods yet.
The Chicago Area Council (CAC) of Boy Scouts terminated the contract to sell the property to Ben Smith, a Holland banker and developer.
The abandoned deal would have sold the camp to Smith for $19 million, but would only be completed once the zoning of the property was switched back to Forest-Recreation from Forest-Recreation Institutional – a move that effectively prohibited residential development on the land.  “We decided we wanted to control our own destiny,” said Chuck Dobbins, scout executive at the CAC. “This has been going on for a fairly long time.”
But the lawsuit over the zoning will continue, said Dobbins. “They rezoned the property, and we said ‘We’d like our old zoning back,’” Dobbins said on Wednesday evening.
It had been reported last Tuesday that the lawsuit was dismissed, but those reports referred to two lawsuits over attorneys fees and processing charges, according to the CAC’s lawyer Devin Schindler.
“Had we not settled (the smaller lawsuits), it would have cost us both more to go back and battle,” Dobbins said.
The council did take a tone of reconciliation in its press release announcing that the sale was canceled. Dobbins listed three things that the CAC wanted to do with Owasippe - one of which was healing the relationship with the township.  “We’re going to look at what we can do to build a bridge with Blue Lake Township,” said Dobbins.
The other goals for the camp were aimed at updating the infrastructure of the camp and preserving the environment.   “If we determine we have excess property (and decide to sell some of it), the goal is to get it in to conservancy,” Dobbins said. “So the ecosystems are intact.”
Dobbins did say that the property “probably had too large of a footprint,” and that they would be looking at decreasing the size of the camp’s facilities while improving their conditions.   “Some things have fallen into disarray,” Dobbins said. “So the piece that has infrastructure on it will look different (in the future). But several ecologically important parts of the camp -stuff that’s environmentally rare - that won’t look different.”
The audience at the most recent Blue Lake Township meeting commended the board for it’s actions to keep the forest and recreational zoning - effectively prohibiting residential development - on the property.  “It was worth the work,” said Trustee Lyle Monette.
But township officials pointed out that just because the sale was canceled does not mean that the lawsuit is over.
Only two days before the Council announced that it would not be selling Owasippe, it filed a brief in the zoning lawsuit.
And for that reason, Township Supervisor Don Studaven, a former director of Owasippe, was still reserved and concerned.  “They may have gotten out of the deal,” said Studaven. “But I haven’t heard anything about the lawsuit [state appeal]. After all these years, until I hear that the lawsuit is dropped, I have to be wary.”
Copyright © 2008 White Lake Beacon
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Blue Lake calls Owasippe overture good first step
Posted by Lynn Moore
The Muskegon Chronicle
November 13, 2008 05:37AM
BLUE LAKE TOWNSHIP -- The decision to drop a purchase agreement for Owasippe Scout Reservation is a good first step, but more needs to be done before Blue Lake Township officials are willing to embrace the Chicago Boy Scouts plans for the camp property.
That's the sentiment of Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven, who said the decision to terminate the purchase agreement that could have led to the development of hundreds, if not thousands, of homes on the property was "a good move."
But, Studaven said, the Boy Scouts need to stop all court action against the township, including an appeals court challenge of the township's zoning of Owasippe that prohibits residential development.
Contrary to earlier reports that that suit had been dropped, the Boy Scouts dropped only an ancillary case in Circuit Court over rezoning costs.  "They're saying they want to do things the right way, but I don't see a dismissal in the court," Studaven said. "They have challenged the judge's decision and that's where it stands."
Chuck Dobbins, scout executive with the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, said he's hoping to discuss the future of Owasippe with Blue Lake Township citizens and officials. It's all part of a plan to determine what, if any, land should be sold, he said.
"I don't think we can act in a fashion that says, 'It's our property, we can do whatever we want,'" Dobbins said. "It's too big a property in what's a pretty small township."
But Studaven said that's exactly what the Boy Scouts are trying to do in seeking court-ordered rezoning of the land, which the township, in accordance with its master plan, has reserved Owasippe for camp uses only.  "My position is that no one can dictate to us how we should rezone it," he said.
Studaven said he met with Dobbins Tuesday and they discussed getting others involved in discussing the future of Owasippe, including a land-use planning group.  "Until he gets rid of this lawsuit, that's the only hang-up I have with (Dobbins) right now," he said.
Dobbins said he hopes to work with the township to resolve the zoning lawsuit.  We need to sit down with the township and talk about that one," he said.
Boy Scouts officials have said the 4,800-acre reservation, which includes several separate camp areas, is too large for its needs and was draining money from the council. The council board decided in 2003 it needed to sell Owasippe, and in 2005 entered a $19 million purchase agreement with Holland investment group Benny V that was contingent on the property being rezoned for residential use.
Dobbins said the mutual decision between the council and Benny V to terminate the agreement was the result of a number of factors, including new leadership at the Chicago council and the floundering economic climate.
The council board's decision to sell Owasippe contributed to a breakdown in the council, which ultimately resulted in the national Boy Scouts organization appointing Dobbins and a new council board. The council will elect its own board next June, after which any decision on Owasippe's future would be made, Dobbins said.
He said the decision to sell Owasippe had been not been made with "malicious intent" but rather without the input of district Boy Scout representatives who had tuned out of council proceedings and weren't showing up to meetings.  "We didn't have enough people around the table," Dobbins said. "So now we're going to force that there be enough people around the table."
© 2008 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.
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Owasippe owners end deal with developer,
plan to rebuild camp
by Lynn Moore | The Muskegon Chronicle
Friday November 07, 2008, 11:09 AM
[Blue Lake Township, MI]   It's a new day for the Owasippe Scout Reservation, with the property's owners officially scuttling a developer's plans for hundreds of houses and vowing to work with conservationists and others to preserve the property.
An agreement with a Holland development group to purchase the property for $19 million has been terminated, the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts announced Friday. It is unknown what, if anything, the Boy Scouts paid to get out of the agreement.
The council intends to "rebuild" the Boy Scout camping facilities and repair relationships tattered by the purchase agreement and an ensuing lawsuit to rezone the land so the purchase could go through. It appears too that the lawsuit against township officials is over.
The council appears to be extending an olive branch not only to Blue Lake Township residents and officials targeted by the lawsuit but also to Chicago Boy Scouts who have unleashed a torrent of criticism against the council board for its perceived disregard for Owasippe's pristine landscape.
"This agreement provides a positive outcome for everybody involved ... most importantly, the future generations of Chicago boys who will camp under the stars at Owasippe," council President Michael Hughes said in an announcement posted on the council's Web site.
The council continues to pursue a planned downsizing of the sprawling reservation, and a spokesman for the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center said his group, which has expressed interest in buying the property for a camping and convention facility, has been actively talking with Chicago officials.
Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven said he assumes the lawsuit filed by the Boy Scouts against Blue Lake Township to rezone the land -- a contingency of the now-canceled purchase offer from the Benny V development group -- will be withdrawn. Chicago council Scout Executive Chuck Dobbins could not be reached for comment.
Despite the lawsuit, which strained township finances and relations with the Scouts, Studaven said he'd be glad to work again with the Chicago council to plan Owasippe's future.
"There are some grudges that won't go away, but not from me," Studaven said. "I don't understand people who are vindictive. Nothing is solved that way."
Hughes' announcement outlined future plans for Owasippe, which include:
* Working toward a "more positive relationship with Blue Lake Township officials and neighbors."
* Rebuilding a "world-class" camping facility after determining the right size for the 4,800-acre Owasippe reservation.
* Exploring partnerships with conservationists to "ensure the property remains undeveloped."
The change of direction for Owasippe follows a change in leadership at the Chicago council. James Stone, a fixture in Muskegon County court during the lawsuit proceedings, retired this year as executive director of the council. Dobbins was appointed as the council's executive by national Boy Scouts authorities, who entered the scene after receiving complaints from Boy Scouts rank and file about the council's direction. The national authorities also appointed a new council board this summer.
Now that the Benny V purchase agreement has been dissolved, the council could pursue the OOEC's $12 million offer for Owasippe, which is backed by the well-heeled Trust for Public Land national land conservation group. There are other groups too, including nearby Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and Camp Pendalouan, that have expressed interest in purchasing some of the Owasippe property.
With an infusion of cash from the sale of land, the council could focus on improving a portion of Owasippe for Boy Scouts camping. The council previously announced intentions to focus its camping facilities on 1,000 acres on the south side of Big Blue Lake.
Hughes on Friday announced the creation of a group to "determine current and future camping needs" at Owasippe by inviting input from "every constituency."
"Now is the time for the Chicago Area Council Scouters to come together to help develop a future vision for Owasippe Scout Reservation," Hughes said in his announcement.   Hughes also thanked Macatawa Bank Chairman and CEO Benjamin Smith III, who headed Benny V, for "his generous offer of future assistance to Owasippe."
A comment from Smith was included in Hughes' announcement:
"Owasippe is a very special place, and we are pleased that today's agreement will accomplish what we wanted to do all along -- namely, preserve this property for the enjoyment of future generations to come."
© 2008 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.
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[ BREAKING NEWS: Boy Scouts Drop Lawsuit Against Township... 

A Memo To CAC Scouters
FROM: Michael Hughes, Council President
DATE: November 7, 2008
RE: Owasippe Scout Reservation
I want to share some exciting news with you.
The Chicago Area Council and Benny V Partners of Holland, MI have completed an agreement to terminate the sale contract of Owasippe Scout Reservation.
This agreement gives the Chicago Area Council the flexibility to determine the future direction of the Owasippe property and camping programs without the encumbrances of a pending sale. This agreement provides a positive outcome for everybody involved; our Council, Benny V Partners, our neighbors in Blue Lake Township and most importantly, the future generations of Chicago boys who will camp under the stars at Owasippe.
The Council intentions going forward include:
• Seek to redevelop a more positive relationship with Blue Lake Township officials and neighbors.
• Because of the outpouring of support for our camping programs at the Owasippe Scout Reservation from our many constituencies, we will determine the right size for Owasippe Scout Reservation and rebuild a world-class camping facility for our Chicago Scouts.
• Explore our ability to partner with conservancy groups to ensure the property remains undeveloped.
A special team is being appointed to determine our current and future camping needs as well as how a retooled Owasippe might be configured to meet the anticipated needs. I have appointed Tom McDonough as the chair of this group. Tom’s current leadership of the council’s camping committee and his intimate knowledge of all aspects of Scouting outdoor programs make him a logical choice to lead this committee. This committee will be charged with ensuring that every constituency has a way to provide input in this process. Now is the time for the Chicago Area Council Scouters to come together to help develop a future vision for Owasippe Scout Reservation.
We are appreciative of Ben Smith and the partners of Benny V for working with us to get to this point. We would like to especially recognize Ben Smith for his generous offer of future assistance for Owasippe. Ben Smith has stated “Throughout this process, my team and I have been focused on preserving as much of this unique and beautiful piece of property as is possible. Owasippe is a very special place, and we are pleased that today's agreement will accomplish what we wanted to do all along -- namely, preserve this property for the enjoyment of future generations to come."
We look forward to discussing with each of you your ideas for Owasippe’s next 100 years.
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Boy Scouts to appeal Owasippe ruling
Posted by Lynn Moore
The Muskegon Chronicle
March 25, 2008
The lawsuit over zoning of the Owasippe Scout Reservation will continue after the Chicago Boy Scouts council voted to pursue an appeal of its recent loss in Muskegon County circuit court.
The council board voted 15-5 last week to appeal Circuit Judge William C. Marietti's decision that Blue Lake Township is justified in zoning Owasippe property so that it can be used only for camping or conservation.
The appeal will be filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals.
According to one member of the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts, the Boy Scouts have spent $1 million on the dispute over the Owasippe zoning, though an attorney for the council denies the figure.
The Chicago Area Council, which owns the 4,800-acre Owasippe property that's been used for Boy Scout camping for nearly a century, sued the township in 2006 over the restrictive zoning. Attorneys for the Boy Scouts have argued that the zoning unfairly limits the value of the property, while the township argues it protects the township's rural nature and fragile infrastructure.
The Scouts have received a $19 million purchase offer for the wilderness property from Holland businessman Benjamin A. Smith III that is contingent on the land being zoned for residential use. Marietti calculated a potential for 2,400 new homes if the property was rezoned.
Grand Rapids attorney Devin Schindler appeared before the Chicago council's board on Thursday for what he characterized as an "update" on the Owasippe case, though others said he gave a pitch in favor of an appeal.
Board member Frank Kriegseis said he was one of five on the board who voted against the appeal.  "We've lost this case. We cannot get this land rezoned," Kriegseis said. "By going through an appeal, it's only going to upset more people. ... It's going to divide people. That's what we have, we have a huge division in Chicagoland Scouts."
A group called the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has notified the council of its wish to purchase the property for $12.3 million, though OOEC officials said the council has not shown much interest in the offer. The OOEC wants to use the Owasippe property for a camping and educational facility apparently allowed under current zoning.
Kriegseis said some scouts have been raising money for Blue Lake Township's defense fund, and some have called the national Boy Scouts headquarters to complain about the actions of the council.
"It's a huge emotional issue," Kriegseis said.
He said Schindler put the amount of money the council has spent on the Owasippe zoning issue at nearly $1 million -- money Kriegseis said should have been put into improving Owasippe.
"I'm not going to confirm or deny any dollars," Schindler said when asked about the $1 million figure, adding "I'd say that number is wrong."
"It's not anyone's business but the council's," he said.  Schindler, who often is referred to as the spokesman for the council, declined to say anything about the council's vote to pursue an appeal.
Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven said he was disappointed to learn of the council's decision to appeal and spend more of the scouts' money to fight the township. Studaven is a former employee of the council.   "They were ill-advised using the money like that," Studaven said. "That's not what they were formed to do."
National Boy Scouts officials have given the Chicago Area Council a "provisional charter" to operate as a Boy Scouts Council -- a development that has been described as putting the council on probation, according to council members. Kriegseis said he believes that occurred because of issues around the council's election of board members.
In addition, the national Boy Scouts appointed an interim Scout executive to the Chicago council following the announced retirement of current Executive Jim Stone. That appointment, described by several familiar with the Boy Scouts as highly unusual, suspends the board's executive committee's search for a new director.
The township has spent about $250,000 to defend itself in the Owasippe case, and has filed a request with Marietti to order the council to reimburse the township for some of its costs. Once that issue is resolved, the council will have 21 days to file its appeal.
©2008 Muskegon Chronicle
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[Note:  for an added story on this vote and OOEC proposal, go to... ]




Wealthy group backs pursuit of Owasippe
As seen in the Muskegon Chronicle - 3/27/08

Posted by Lynn Moore

An organization hoping to acquire the Owasippe Scout Reservation is partnering with a well-heeled national conservation group that's already expressed an interest in Muskegon County park property.

The Trust for Public Land was identified Tuesday as the national group working with the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center to preserve the embattled wilderness camp area owned by the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts.

TPL, as the Trust of Public Land is known, reported $220 million in revenue for its 2006-07 fiscal year on its 2006 federal tax filing. It is a national nonprofit land conservation organization based in San Francisco that since 1972 has preserved 2 million acres in 47 states valued at $4 billion, according to its Web site. It conserves natural places, parks, community gardens, historic sites, farms and ranches.

The OOEC has been hoping to present to the Chicago Area Council a purchase offer of $12.3 million for the 4,800-acre Owasippe property. The purchase price is based on a recent appraisal of the sprawling property in Blue Lake Township.

Joe Sener, chairman of the OOEC, said he is hoping to connect with the president of the Chicago Boy Scouts council, even though its board recently voted to continue a lawsuit against the township aimed at completing another $19 million purchase deal for the land.

So far, the Boy Scouts have not expressed interest in the OOEC's offer.

The TPL conceivably could purchase the Owasippe property outright and hold it for a time as it seeks reimbursement from such private and public organizations as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land Trust Fund, said Christopher D. Knopf, director of regional programs for the TPL's central region.

Knopf declined to go into details on how the purchase could be completed, though he said TPL often works with other organizations and conservation groups to get projects done. It also provides loans to groups purchasing property.

"I believe a conservation solution could work well for everyone," Knopf said, adding that he wants to meet the needs of the Chicago Boy Scouts while conserving the land's natural resources and providing such recreational activities as fishing and horseback riding.

"I try to work in a constructive vein," he said.

Financial support for TPL comes from government grants and contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations and landowners it works with. It also raises money through the purchase and sale of land.

TPL already has expressed interest in helping Muskegon County purchase property adjacent to the county's Meinert Park.

Knopf said he's been keeping abreast of developments with the Owasippe property for the past five years, partly because his parents live in Whitehall. Knopf, who grew up in Ohio, had been working for TPL's division in Ohio.

Knopf became the regional director based in St. Paul, Minn. and contacted the OOEC last summer, Sener said.

"(TPL officials) are a real reputable source," Sener said. "They appear to be very interested in making this happen."

OOEC wants to turn the reservation into an education and convention operation, complete with convention center and hotel. It also would continue allowing scouts to camp on the site.

The Chicago Boy Scouts' strategic plan includes a desire to maintain a smaller camping facility at Owasippe -- something Sener said would fit well with OOEC's plans.

"We certainly believe we have something that can help the Chicago Area Council and help preserve Owasippe and make it a fantastic resource," Sener said. "We're in this for the long haul. As long as Scouting is around in Chicaago, there'll be a place for them at Owasippe."

Chicago Boy Scouts officials have claimed they no longer can afford to maintain Owasippe, which has operated as a Boy Scouts camp for nearly a century. They say it is draining money from other programs that could serve inner-city boys.

The Scouts saw an answer to their financial issues with the $19 million offer to purchase Owasippe from Holland businessman Benjamin A. Smith III. However, that offer is contingent on the property being rezoned to allow for residential development.

Blue Lake Township refused to zone the land for anything but camp or conservation use and so the matter ended up in circuit court, where a judge ruled earlier this month in the township's favor. The Boy Scouts voted last week to appeal that decision.

Knopf said he did not want TPL to be publicly identified as the OOEC's partner because of the litigation. Now, he said, he is hoping the parties can "reach common ground."

Another of OOEC's partners, is the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, which hopes to establish a camp on the Owasippe property for inner-city youth. Sener said the Parks Institute has pledged a "substantial financial contribution" to the project.

Its plan is to offer youth from the city opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have to experience nature, Sener said.

"There's a real condition that's been identified recently called nature deficit disorder where kids who grow up at risk in the inner city all they see is manmade, it's all cement and steel ... and they tend to lose contact with a higher presence, a higher being and how they fit in the great order," Sener said.

Owasippe Saved?
by Carrie Weber
(3/10/08) To say that Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) Chairman Joe Sener is happy with the ruling from Muskegon County Circuit Judge William Marietti on the Chicago Area Council’s (CAC) lawsuit against Blue Lake Township, is a great understatement.
That ruling, released Thursday, upholds the township’s zoning denying residential development on Owasippe Boy Scout Reservation property, which may allow the OOEC to present to the CAC a proposal to use the property for camping.
“We’re obviously real pleased with the judge’s opinion,” said Sener, who had just skimmed the 19-page opinion as of Thursday afternoon.
“We’d like to think that the council will now talk to us about our proposal to use it (camp) that way it is.”
Sener said OOEC’s approach all along has been to ensure access to the property and to protect conservation. “This (ruling) came down loud and clear.”
Sener said OOEC and its partners are ready to make a proposal to purchase the camp to the CAC. He said OOEC held off making the proposal until the judge made his ruling.
“We’re ready to go,” he said.
But according to a statement made by attorney for the CAC, Devon Schindler, the council seems to have no intentions of accepting that offer.   “We are disappointed by this ruling,” Schindler said in the statement. “We are not surprised and plan to appeal. Today’s decision is another step in the process of restablishing appropriate zoning for Owasippe. The CAC fully anticipated that this case would eventually land before the Michigan Court of Appeals. This ruling only accelerates that process and allows the case to be heard in a timely manner.”
In 2005, the CAC had accepted an offer of $19.4 million for Camp Owasippe’s 4,748 acres from Holland banker Benjamin A. Smith III that was contingent on the property being rezoned for development.
At the time of Smith’s offer, the land under question was a former forest/recreation (FR) zone that did not allow residences unless associated with the operations of the camps.
The Blue Lake Township Planning Commission conducted a series of public hearings in 1996 that culminated the adoption of a Master Plan, encouraging zoning ordinance changes.
In October of 2002, the CAC announced that it was considering putting that land at Owasippe on the market for sale. By December of that year, Blue Lake Township implemented the revised zoning concepts from 1996 by adopting an ordinance dividing the FR zone into a forest/recreation/institution (FRI) zone for the camps and four different residential zones.
One factor that helped the court to rule in favor of the township was that when the new ordinance was adopted at a public hearing, a CAC employee was present and made no objections to the FRI zone.
At the time, the CAC was discussing with OOEC about purchasing Owasippe.
The CAC then received the offer from Smith to purchase the property contingent upon it being rezoned to allow a residential development that could approach 2,400 separate houses.
The CAC submitted a rezoning proposal, but Blue Lake Township declined to rezone the property after public opposition was present.
Blue Lake Township planners, the Muskegon County Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Blue Lake Township board all denied the Chicago Council’s rezoning application. They contended that a large development would endanger wildlife and over-burden its already fragile infrastructure.
The CAC filed the lawsuit in 2006 in order to overturn the zoning and build 1,278 new homes on the rural site.
Overall, the court has ruled that it is dissatisfied with the CAC’s allegations that the zoning is unconstitutional or destroys the property’s economic value.  “There are specific and well-founded reasons for this zoning scheme involving its consistency with the Master Plan: the character of the Township, harmony with contiguous properties, inadequacy and degradation of the infrastructure and impact on the environment,” the ruling states.
Though the court saw evidence that the property would be worth more if zoned to allow residential development, it ruled that the township is not required to zone for the most profitable use.
Also, though some non-camp related residences were constructed in the FR zone over the years, the portion of the FR zones that are now designated FRI never had residences.
Because the prior FR zone did not allow residences on the property, the FRI ordinance has not changed, and is therefore not arbitrarily excluding the CAC to develop residences.  “Those areas where housing sprung up were better suited for that type of development from an infrastructure perspective,” the ruling states. “The camp areas in FRI do not have the infrastructure to support residential development.”
Blue Lake Township Supervisor Donald Studaven said the trial opinion ultimately means the people of Blue Lake can continue to live how they want to.  “I’m glad it happened like it did,” said about the ruling. “It’s good for us and good for other small townships. We didn’t go through this to make any quick changes. We went through this to protect the township. They moved out there for that type of lifestyle.”
Camp Owasippe is the oldest operating Boy Scout camp in the country and is home to a variety of endangered and threatened species of wildlife, including the Bald Eagle, Karner Blue Butterfly, Eastern Box Turtle and Massasauga Rattlesnake.
“We’ll go on with our life like we’ve always done until someone does something else,” Studaven said.
Copyright © 2008 Shoreline Media, Inc.

Judge blocks housing plan for Scout camp
As seen in the Muskegon Chronicle - 3/6/08

by Lynn Moore

A judge has ruled squarely in favor of Blue Lake Township in its battle against residential development on the Boy Scouts' Owasippe camp property.

The township's zoning ordinance that prohibits residential development at Owasippe and other camps in the township is fair and appropriate, 14th Circuit Judge William C. Marietti ruled in his opinion dated Wednesday.

"There are specific and well-founded reasons for this zoning scheme involving its consistency with the Master Plan, the character of the Township, harmony with contiguous properties, inadequacy and degradation of the infrastructure and impact on the environment," Marietti wrote.

The Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts sued the township over the zoning, which it needed reversed so it could complete a $19 million deal to sell the Owasippe land to Holland area businessman Benjamin A. Smith III. The Scouts have indicated they will appeal Marietti's decision.

An alternate zoning proposal presented to the township by the Scouts would have allowed up to 1,278 new homes on the pristine 4,800 acres. However, Marietti calculated a potential for 2,400 new homes if the property was rezoned for residential development.

Curiously, the Scouts only sought in court to overthrow the current forest recreation-institution zoning and revert back to the previous forest recreation zoning, which also severely restricted residential development. Its argument was that the current zoning severely and unfairly restricts the value and use of the property.

The Scouts' options now are to appeal Marietti's decision, continue using the property for Boy Scout camping as it has for more than 96 years, or sell the property or portions of it for other camps and/or conservation efforts. They also could go back to the township for a different zoning designation.

A strategic plan leaked to the press Wednesday indicates the Chicago Boy Scouts are considering developing a smaller camping facility at Owasippe in 2008 and selling "surplus" Owasippe property.

The Scouts have received an "intent to purchase" document for more than $12 million from a group interested in developing an education and conference facility on the property allowed under current zoning. The leader of that group, Joe Sener, said it is now ready to present an offer to the Chicago Boy Scouts and reveal its major national conservationist partner who will help line up public and private funding.

Sener said the group didn't want to appear to "short-circuit" due process, but now that Marietti has released his opinion, is prepared to "make them an offer that solves their problem."

The Boy Scouts have said they are losing money on Owasippe and can't afford to continue operating it.

Camps adjacent to Owasippe -- including Camp Pendalouan, Camp Gerber and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp -- have expressed interest in purchasing some of the Owasippe property.

Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven said Marietti's decision validates townships' and cities' rights to plan for property as citizens see fit.

"What it ensures is that townships and small cities can plan their communities as their citizens ask them, and big money can't come in and force them to do anything," Studaven said.


Scout camp appraisal: $12.3 million

Friday, August 03, 2007

By Lynn Moore, The Muskegon Chronicle

The Chicago Boy Scouts claim their Owasippe camp property is virtually worthless with its current zoning, but a recent appraisal values it at $12.3 million.

That appraisal is one of the reasons Blue Lake Township is asking a local judge to throw out a lawsuit filed against the township by the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts.

Township Attorney Jim Nelson said the appraisal ordered by the township "really refutes" the council's claims that its 4,780-acre property must be rezoned for it to have any significant value.   The suit [by CAC] claims the township's zoning "destroys (the land's) economic viability and value."

Nelson predicted the council will get its own appraisal of the property, bringing the issue to a battle between experts.

The council, citing continuing losses at Owasippe, is trying to sell its property for $19 million to a Holland investment group. The group's offer is contingent on the property being rezoned from its current forest recreation-institutional zoning, but the council's request for rezoning to allow for 1,278 homes was denied.

The council now is trying to force rezoning with its lawsuit, but the township's motion for summary disposition filed last week with 14th Circuit Judge William C. Marietti cites several reasons the case should be thrown out.

Among them is the fact that several other camps in the township successfully operate under the FR-I designation. Those include Camp Pendalouan, Pioneer Trails, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and Gerber Scout Camp, all of which have expressed interest in purchasing more land to expand their operations, Nelson claims in his motion.

Further, the FR-I zoning actually allows the camps and the four commercial enterprises in the township -- a canoe livery, two commercial campgrounds and a general store -- to be successful by retaining the "large, outdoor recreational environment" of the township, the motion states.

Nelson also cites the need to preserve exotic and endangered species as well as the township's "limited and fragile" infrastructure as reasons to keep in place the township's FR-I zoning classification.

Devin Schindler, the attorney for the Chicago Area Council, declined to comment on the township's motion. He said he will file his response with the court by Aug. 18. A hearing on the motion is scheduled in Marietti's courtroom at 9 a.m. Aug. 24.

A group hoping to buy the Owasippe property for adult and juvenile camping is prepared to seek the $12.3 million cited in the appraisal, said Joe Sener, chairman of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center. The appraisal was conducted by Northwest Quadrant of Cadillac.

The OOEC last spring gave the council a proposal to buy the Owasippe property for an amount to be determined by an appraisal. Sener said on Wednesday that the OOEC would seek a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, which would be based on the Northwest Quadrant appraisal.

Sener has said he is confident he has the right government sources, as well as private matching funds, lined up to secure the trust fund grant.

"We're very pleased that this all came about," Sener said of the appraisal. "The challenge to the council is to set this (lawsuit) aside, sit down and we can work this out."

An open letter to Owasippe supporters penned by the council's president in June expressed a desire to find "conservation buyers" for the wilderness property. If that's a true desire, Sener said, the council should start negotiating with the OOEC.

"We've played nice for a long time now," Sener said. "It's time to get off the pot and do something."

©2007 Muskegon Chronicle
© 2007 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved
# # #
>>> PS:  PLEASE READ through the paragraph on the Blue Lake Township Zoning Ordinance that starts on page 25 of the Motion to Dismiss (see link below).  It's an excellent summary of what township zoning had previously existed for Owasippe (and when) and is a good argument against what the Chicago Area Council has been alleging in its extensive and expensive campaign to rezone Owasippe for sale to Benjamin Smith III.
But, please also study the whole Motion-to-Dismiss.  Granted, the entire presentation is 80+ pages long, but given what is at stake, it is worthy of your time, review, and indulgence...and, hopefully, a FULL CAC-BOARD REVIEW AND OPEN DEBATE.
- R Kulak

The year in review: The top news stories of 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
These are the top news stories [in 2007], as compiled by The Muskegon Chronicle newsroom staff:
#17...Owasippe trial :
The continuing battle over the future of the 4,800-acre Owasippe Scout Reservation headed to court this fall, with the land-owner, the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts, arguing that Blue Lake Township's zoning is illegally preventing the land to be developed for as many as 1,900 homes.
The ruling by Circuit Court Judge William C. Marietti, which may come in early 2008, likely won't end the controversy. The losing party is expected to appeal.
[Note:  The White Lake Beacon serving Whitehall, Montague and Blue Lake Township has graded the Owasippe zoning lawsuit story to be its #1-Top Story of 2007.  To see the entire list of Muskegon Area top stories, go to... ]

(1/6/08)  Attorneys for Chicago Area Council and Blue Lake Township have presented final arguments in writing in the Owasippe Rezoning Trial.  The final day of testimony was December 7th.
Chicago Area Council had filed suit against Blue Lake Township over zoning of the 4,800-acre Owasippe Scout Reservation, which has been used as a Boy Scout camp for 95 years.  CAC requires rezoning of the property from Forest/Recreational to Residential in order to complete a 19 million dollar sale to Holland businessman Ben Smith.
Although the original lawsuit covered a much larger scope, Judge William Marietti dismissed several claims in a summary disposition on October 25th. CAC's lawsuit was left with two issues to debate in trial.
The first issue involved whether or not the Blue Lake zoning ordinance, which required the property to remain zoned as Forest/ Recreational, violated CAC's due process rights.  The second issue involved determining whether or not Blue Lake's zoning ordinance constituted a "taking" of the Owasippe property, thus rendering it valueless.
The final arguments of both sides are posted below without comment.
[Note: As of this date, no decision or judgement has been rendered by Judge William Marietti...and we patiently wait.]

Owasippe Trial Continues
by Debra Carte
Posted: 10-29-2007
As anticipated, the Owasippe trial that was scheduled to wrap up on Friday is going long with testimony resuming for one afternoon this week, on Tuesday, with additional days yet to be determined.
The trial’s taken place over the last couple weeks in two different courtrooms with 14th Circuit Court Judge William C. Marietti presiding, and on Tuesday it will resume at 2:30 p.m. in a third courtroom on the 5th floor of the Michael E. Kobza Hall of Justice in Muskegon. On Monday, Judge Marietti’s office hadn’t yet determined which 5th floor courtroom to use.
The case pits the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, against the defendant, Blue Lake Township, over the rezoning of the Scout-owned Owasippe Scout Reservation. The council wants the judge to reverse a zoning enacted in 2002 which limits the 4,800-acre property to camping activities. It says the property’s worth little to nothing as currently zoned, and they can only sell it if it’s rezoned for residential development. A Holland banker and his investment group are offering $19.4 million for a rezoned Owasippe.
Testimony last week revolved around how much Owasippe’s worth as currently zoned. Two appraisals, one commissioned by the township and one by the council, were submitted by the township as evidence in the case that the property’s value is from $12-14 million. But the council contends it’s worth much less and put an appraiser on the stand last week who valued it at $2.8 million.
Should the township approve the council’s request for the rezoning that could allow over 1,200 homes on the property, the value would be much greater, up to $18 million, the council’s appraiser testified.
The appraiser for the township, Edward B. Stehouwer, of Quadrant Northwest in Cadillac, was back on the stand when the proceedings ended on Friday. The council’s attorney, Douglas Dozeman, will resume cross-examining him this Tuesday afternoon.
Also to be called to the stand on Tuesday will be James Cordray, member of the township’s planning commission, whose testimony had also been interrupted last week. When the trial resumes again, possible next week, Nelson said he will call to testify the planner with LSL Planning, Inc., hired by the township to assess the impact of residential development on Owasippe.
Last week, a water expert, called to testify for the council shocked the courtroom by testifying the residential development as proposed would have no impact on the property’s environment and would have no affect on the water quality of lakes on the property.
Judge Marietti has not yet decided how he’ll accept closing arguments, whether verbal or written. If verbal, closing arguments could take place next week.
Copyright © 2007 White Lake Beacon
# # #
[Note: As of Tuesday, Oct 30, at the end of hearing #9, the trial was
not yet finished with some witness testimony and final arguements still to be heard.  Today, the township's appraiser was cross examined, and Jim Cordray, a township official took the stand.  Mr Cordray will be called back when the trial resumes along with a firm that assisted the township with its Master Plan.  Judge Marietti continued the trial to Friday, December 7, starting at 1:30pm in his courtroom on the 4th Floor.]

Muskegon County Court Report
by Ron Kulak
Early Friday morning, August 24th, in Judge Marietti's Muskegon County Circuit Court, the motion for dismissal of the CAC lawsuit [ie. against township zoning of FR-I for Owasippe] was entertained and further arguments allowed.  Reportedly, the dialog and exchange in Marietti's courtroom went on for more than two hours.
The only judicial decision made was to release certain individuals of the Blue Lake Township board from any personal liability in the lawsuit which includes Don Studaven and Lyle Monette.  Apparently, only Blue Lake Township and its township board as a governmental unit remain as defendants in the civil lawsuit pushed forward by CAC.
There was much debate and many questions addressed during the court hearing, however Judge Marietti deferred his opinion and judgment on Blue Lake Township's motion to dismiss CAC's lawsuit until he has had more time to review all testimony and arguments and previously filed briefs, interviews, affidavits, and additional evidence.  While no date certain was set for his decision, this could take upwards of a few weeks.  Judge Marietti can opt to render his decision without any further public hearing in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, CAC's original lawsuit against Blue Lake Township still stands for now and is scheduled to be heard in Judge Marietti's courtroom on October 16-19 and again on October 23-26.  That hearing is open to the public.
For a prior story and background on this ongoing legal battle, go to the Chronicle story, "Scout camp appraisal: $12.3 million" from Friday, August 03, 2007, by Lynn Moore...scroll down below.

Muskegon County Court Filings Posted from Township Lawsuit
Go to for the following PDF copies of important filings in the zoning lawsuit filed by CAC against Blue Lake Township and go to OOEC's "News and Updates":
* PDF of the Council's response to the Township's motion,
Posted 8/22/07
* PDFs of Additional Court Filings,  Posted 8/21/07
* PDF of Blue Lake Township's Motion for Summary Disposition,
Posted 8/10/07
A transcribed redacted copy of the Council's purchase agreement has also been received and can be found in "Save Owasippe News" in this website at...

Owasippe trial enters 2nd week, but could go longer
by Debra Carte, Staff Reporter
Posted: 10-22-2007
The Chicago Area Council told the judge last week that Owasippe isn't pristine, not a wilderness and not particularly unique. Left is just a slice of the property - spring-fed Lake Wolverine. You be the judge.
The Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, was, on Friday, in its fourth day of presenting its case against Blue Lake Township over the zoning of the 4,800-acre Owasippe Scout Reservation, giving all indications that the trial will go well beyond the eight days set aside for it.
Testimony begins again this Tuesday before 14th Circuit Court Judge William C. Marietti. Since Marietti’s courtroom is being remodeled, the trial is being conducted in the courtroom of Probate Judge Neil Mullally on the 5th floor of the Michael E. Kobza Hall of Justice in Muskegon.
That’s where the trial will be for the duration of this week. Should the trial go beyond Friday, Marietti will determine a new schedule for resuming it.
Attorneys for Blue Lake Township are hoping to put their case in sometime this week, and they remain confident that it’s a winning one.
“We believe we’ll be successful in the long run, but there’s still many days to go,” said James Nelson, the attorney representing Blue Lake Township against the claims by the Chicago Council that the township has perpetrated a “taking” of Owasippe by zoning it to exclude residential development.
Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven faced a barrage of questions from the Scouts’ attorney regarding their taking claim while on the witness stand Thursday afternoon and on Friday. The township’s chairman of the planning commission, Lyle Monette, had been in the seat for five hours prior to Studaven taking the stand.
As many as nine more witnesses are scheduled to be called by the Scouts. Attorneys for Blue Lake Township plan to call just as many in the days to come.
The trial began on Tuesday with a flurry of motions from attorneys on both sides hoping to direct the course of the trial in the best interest of their clients, though both were unsuccessful.
The council’s attorney, Douglas Dozeman, wanted evidence from the township, such as property appraisals, the master plan, and the hundreds of letters of opposition from area residents, thrown out. But Marietti said no, they bore on the reason the township came up with the zoning.
The township’s attorney wanted the judge to focus on whether the current zoning was consistent with the township’s master plan which he was sure would withstand any constitutional challenge.
He asked the judge to limit testimony from additional appraisers and anyone who might address the issues Marietti had already established as law in the case when he threw five of the council’s claims out of court the previous week.
Nelson questioned why the court would need to hear from more appraisers if the judge had already ruled that as a matter of law the property had substantial value as zoned. And why would they need to hear from zoning experts when the judge had ruled the township’s zoning ordinance advances governmental interest, Nelson asked.
“It should not be permitted,” he said. “It’s already established law in this case.”
But established or not, Marietti decided he would permit more testimony.  “If I have to determine if this ordinance is arbitrary and capricious, I have to find out why this ordinance was enacted,” Marietti said.
The Chicago Council thinks the zoning ordinance that has limited the use of Owasippe’s 4,765 acres to camping uses only since 2002 was enacted as a means to preventing a residential development on the property when the township learned of the council’s intentions to sell the property.  The township claims it rezoned only to align properties in the township with its master plan, which takes into consideration the input of its residents who have overwhelmingly expressed their desires to keep the township rural.
The council has been offered $19.4 million for the property if it can be rezoned for residential development. It says it needs to sell because it’s losing money daily on a camp that, in its current size, they no longer need. Council claims the current zoning has had an adverse impact on it economically and constitutes a “taking” of the property.
Council claims the property, as currently zoned, isn’t worth much, despite several appraisals that have determined the property is worth multimillions. In court Tuesday, Dozeman attempted through the testimony of the Chicago Council’s CEO, James Stone, to portray Owasippe as a piece of land dotted with deteriorating buildings that was far from being “pristine.”
“What you’ve heard over and over is that Owasippe is a pristine wilderness and unique,” Dozeman said in his opening statement. “You will hear the facts about this property. It is not pristine ... it is not a wilderness and it’s not particularly unique.”
The township’s attorney was quick to respond.  “The township is unique and special in its uniqueness,” Nelson said. “Owasippe is a pristine environment. It’s a beautiful environment with its wood, lakes, streams and endangered species ... the zoning only recognizes that which was there and what was there were institutional camps. We didn’t ask them (Chicago Council) to come. They came. They came there because of the special uniqueness that we had.”
Copyright © 2007 White Lake Beacon

Judge throws out most counts, 'two' head to Owasippe trial on Tuesday
White Lake Beacon staff writer
The Owasippe Scout Reservation is extremely valuable, worth many millions. And Blue Lake Township, home to the camp, has every right to zone to preserve its rural character, protect its fragile infrastructure and its natural resources, and take into consideration the desires of its residents who overwhelmingly want to continue the township’s “long and storied association with camping.”
So says the judge presiding over the Owasippe rezoning case who ruled on Thursday to throw out of court the Chicago Area Council’s claims to the contrary.
But 14th Circuit Court Judge William C. Marietti didn’t throw them all out.
“We won half and lost half,” said James Nelson, the attorney for Blue Lake Township who filed nearly two months ago for summary disposition of seven counts brought by the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America in their attempt to get Owasippe’s 4,765 acres rezoned for residential development.
Marietti kicked out three of the counts and left one full count and another partial one for trial this Tuesday. Two others were previously tossed out.  Still in dispute are, according to Marietti, whether the township's ordinance is "reasonable," though he ruled that the ordinance advanced legitimate governmental interest.
He also left open the question concerning the economic impact of current zoning on the Chicago Council’s ability to operate the camp profitably and whether the council’s investment-backed expectations were being interfered with. He'll seek to decide if the zoning ordinance is "arbitrary and capricious."
The trial, which could answer those questions, begins at 9 a.m. in Courtroom A on the 6th floor of the Michael E. Kobza Hall of Justice in Muskegon. On Wednesday, the trial will move to Probate Judge Neil Mullally’s courtroom on the 5th floor. Any further relocating of the trial are to be announced.
A full eight days, from Oct. 16-19 and 23-26, have been set aside for the judge to hear the case.
A local effort is being made to pack the courtrooms with citizens who want to save Owasippe’s forests from the prospect of being rezoned for residential development. But the case has more far-reaching implications, according to some. They believe there’s more than Owasippe at stake in the trial, there’s a local government’s right to zone.
“The final outcome of the Owasippe trial will impact more than just the future zoning of Blue Lake Township,” said Tom Hamilton, local environmental activist, sports fisherman, and member of White River Watershed Partnership.
“This trial will be watched by local governments statewide. At stake is the solvency of local government zoning. Should outside big money developers march in to any statewide township and demand that the local residents give up their rights to zone their townships? Blue Lake Township government's first responsibility is to protect the ‘Public Trust Doctrine,’ and are under no obligation to destroy their land, historical heritage, and quality of life to benefit a few rich class bankers and developers.”
The banker who wants Owasippe’s 4,765 acres to build homes on is Benjamin A. Smith III, CEO of Macatawa Bank Corp in Holland, Michigan. He and his investment group have offered $19.4 million for the property if it can be rezoned for housing.
If money talks, $19 million is a whole lot of conversation, especially to the Chicago Area Council, which claims the oldest Boy Scout camp in the country is a continuing drain on its finances.
Hamilton hopes what will talk louder is the property’s value in rich natural resources and endangered species, and the importance of keeping intact a local governmental unit’s right to zone land within its jurisdiction in the best interest of its residents.
Blue Lake Township officials had rezoned Owasippe and all other camp properties in the township in 2002 from a category which had allowed residential lots of 2.5 acres or more to one which allows only camping activities. The Chicago Council contends the township changed the zoning to the stricter classification when it got wind of its intentions to sell the property. The council claimed in its lawsuit that the township had perpetrated a legal taking of the property and destroyed its economic value, to which Marietti now says they may have a point.
The township responds that it hasn’t taken anything. The township insists it changed the zoning when the master plan was being rewritten according to the wishes of residents who want the township to remain rural and a Michigan Mecca for summer camping. There are five major camps in the township, covering half of its entire acreage.
Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven says area governmental units have done nothing but assist the Scouts during the camp’s nearly 100-year presence in the township.   “When you come to Blue Lake Township, you see a township that grew around camps,” Studaven wrote in a prepared statement. “Owasippe is one of those camps.
Over the years, Owasippe became the dominant camp in Blue Lake Township. However, because of the history of the camp and the persuasion of Chicago’s executives, the township and Muskegon County have provided Chicago tax breaks over the years. These tax breaks in no way devalued their property. What it did was assist them in their mission to provide outdoor training for their Scouts.
“These tax breaks take revenue out of the township, county and schools,” Studaven continued. “They and all the camps in the township get the same tax break. They and all the camps have the same zoning designation.
“What is at issue here is not a taking of property as the Chicago Area Council alleges. What is at issue here is changing the zoning so that that owner can get more money for his or her property. This sets a dangerous precedent for all units of governments. Zoning is developed to satisfy the manner in which the majority of citizens would like to live in a particular community. If that decision is made by a single property owner just because he or she has the funds to keep you in court, we and all units of government will have lost our ability to govern.
“I don’t believe we are elected to go against the will of the majority of our citizens,” Studaven concluded.
Walter Johnson, now of Santa Monica, California, has a cottage at Big Blue Lake, and he’s one of those citizens Studaven’s fighting on behalf of. Johnson began coming to Owasippe and Big Blue in 1961 with his parents. One of his closest friends, 95-year-old Kenneth Adams first started camping at Owasippe in 1925 and became the first African American to be awarded the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout designation.
It’s the 15-minute video Johnson made a few years ago of camper life at Owasippe that is still used by the Chicago Area Council to promote camping.
“I used to poo poo folks who described Big Blue Lake as a unique place,” Johnson said. “But I have looked around at other places. I’ve studied the species inventory that the Nature Conservancy put together a few years ago, and I’ve spent days and hours watching nature’s amazing presence here; so I’m starting to become a believer.”
Johnson will be at the trial for the first two days before returning to California. He’ll be there mainly because he believes the community needs to be involved when important decisions are being made about the place they live, and he’s encouraging all his friends and neighbors to be in the courtroom too. 
Copyright © 2007 White Lake Beacon
# # #
Note:  The court case begins Tuesday, October 16, at 9am (Eastern Time) in the Court of Judge Marietti.  Further room assignments TBA:

Muskegon County Circuit Court
990 Terrace Street
6th Flr - Marietti's courtroom
Muskegon, MI 49442-3395
(Take Apple Ave west of Hwy US31.  It is at the intersection of Apple Ave and Terrace St, about two blocks east of Bus 31, Seaway Drive.)
Related Stories can be found at


'Pathways' trail might lead to Camp Owasippe
Muskegon Chronicle Editorial
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Rosa Parks, the late civil rights icon, blazed a trail that others are still following. Hopefully, one of those trails will lead to Blue Lake Township in Muskegon County.
More specifically, to Camp Owasippe, the Boy Scout property in the center of a dynamic controversy over zoning and land control. Yet, that issue is not immediately part of the possibility that a branch of the Rosa Parks Institute is interested in establishing a presence here, which is good news all around.
The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development made its interest known during a recent visit and an announcement at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Muskegon downtown. There, Mitch Dennison, president of a Grand Haven marketing firm and vice president of the Parks Institute, related the group's intentions.
Structured as a "journey" modeled on the nearly century-long struggle for civil rights between the end of the Civil War and the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the institute's program takes selected youngsters under its wing to teach them life and self-empowerment skills through which they, in their own lives, can model Rosa Parks' legendary work in the human rights field.
This "Pathways to Freedom" project is a core program of the Detroit-based institute, in which this year a dozen students, mostly from Michigan and Ohio, are exploring West Michigan while studying a variety of societal issues. Dennison believes a "Camp Rosa Parks," if established, would be an ideal component of the experience for youngsters embarked on the typical five-year-long "journey."
A key partner for the institute is the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, which is heavily involved in efforts to purchase the camp. It remains to be seen how that will affect the Rosa Parks Institute initiative, but we take the overall interests of both groups in Blue Lake Township as a positive sign.
- Muskegon Chronicle Editor
# # #

County adds to Blue Lake Township defense fund
Muskegon Chronicle
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
The Muskegon County Board of Commissioners has added $5,000 to a legal war chest that will help Blue Lake Township defend itself in a
lawsuit over zoning of the Owasippe Scout Reservation property.
County commissioners, meeting Tuesday as the Ways and Means
Committee, approved the contribution by a voice vote after little debate. They are expected to finalize their approval at Thursday's full county board meeting.
Blue Lake Township officials have been sued in local circuit court
and federal court by the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of
America for their refusal to rezone the 4,780-acre Owasippe property
that has been used as a Boy Scout camp for 96 years.
The Chicago Council has sought multiple new zoning classifications
for the property that would allow up to 1,278 homes. A $19 million offer from a Holland-area investment group to purchase the wilderness property is contingent on the residential rezoning.
The Scouts have argued that the Owasippe property's value is severely limited under the current forest recreation-institutional zoning, which limits its use to camping and outdoor use.
Meanwhile, Blue Lake Township has exhausted a $100,000 legal fund
provided through insurance and is counting on donors to help pay the
bills.   Last month, Township Supervisor Don Studaven sent out 2,000 copies of a form letter to local governments, businesses and associations. The goal is to raise about $80,000, and about $30,000 has come in so far, he said.
Besides the county, municipal donors thus far include the cities of
Norton Shores, Muskegon and Montague and the townships of Holton, Muskegon and Whitehall, Studaven said.
© 2007 Muskegon Chronicle

How You Can Help Save Owasippe
Ink-up those pens and grab some paper!
They tell me that an old saying was recently used in Fort Dearborn District by a wise Scouter when responding to the "downsizing of Owasippe..."You should never try to teach a pig to sing, it just wastes your time, and it annoys the pig."   Our future IS Owasippe, intact and unadulterated, and that is what the Scouting community wants...nothing less! 
We're not "singing a tune" we don't like, so let the focus be on
Owasippe and how it can continue to best serve Scouting and outdoor
youth education.  We don't need nor want a substitute camp in any
other location other than where Owasippe has flourished for the last
98+ years...AND we want ALL of Owasippe KEPT INTACT!!!  The CAC Board should quit trying to force a square peg into a round hole and listen to their Scouter constituency! 
Hail the extracation of Ben Smith!  Drop the zoning lawsuits against Blue Lake Township!  Dismiss Devon Schindler and better spend his legal stipend elsewhere!  Reinvest the hoarded insurance proceeds from the Owasippe fires back into program and run-down camp facilities which resulted from poor council stewardship! 
Think Camp...Think Program...Think Outing and Scouting!  What a Concept!  Want to increase Scouting membership, then promote camping and get the units in the outdoors.
Write to CAC President Glenn Emig and make your wishes known to him (Be Scoutlike)...c/o Chicago Area Council BSA at 1218 W Adams, Chicago IL 60607-2802...and copy the new Scout Exec Chuck Dobbins as well.  Be sure to also copy the BSA Central Region Director, Brad Farmer, at 230 W Diehl Rd, Naperville IL 60563. 
Participate in FOS and popcorn sales only to the minimum extent necessary to avoid repercussions with camperships and advancement. You will get the council board's attention through their pocketbook. Alternatively, contribute funds to the Blue Lake Township Legal Fund to assist them in their defense of legal action against them by CAC.  Make donations to the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center in their efforts to preserve Owasippe forever as-is and to provide for camping to Scouts everywhere for as long as there is Scouting with CAC as the key tenant.
Correspond with the Honorable Gerald Van Woerkom, State Senator of Michigan's 34th District: Mason County, Muskegon County, Newaygo County and Oceana County.  Email:  and by letter to his District Office: 1065 Fourth St, Suite A, Muskegon, MI 49440.
Letters To news editors are also an important link between the
community and the public officials and private individuals who will
have a hand in preserving Owasippe.  Without demonstrated “grass
roots” support more “official action” may not be likely.  Please take
the time to put your feelings in print as they can make a difference:
Gunnar Carlson – Editor          Greg Means - Editor
The Muskegon Chronicle        The White Lake Beacon
981 Third Street                       432 Spring Street
PO Box 59                                 PO Box 98
Muskegon MI 49440               Whitehall MI 49461
Fax: 231-722-2552                    Fax: 231-894-2174
Don Wycliff – Public Editor
The Chicago Tribune
435 N Michigan Ave
Chicago IL 60611
fax: 312-222-2598
Chicago Tribune On-Line Letters To The Editor:
Chicago Sun Times email Letters To The Editor:
WRITE - WRITE - WRITE...and let your Scouts and their parents help and correspond as well!   AND...have them include a pic from camp of Scouts having a great time.  Put a face on your story. 
Let us ALL get on the bandwagon together...with NO FEAR! 
Carpe Diem!     Firm-Bound!     All For One!

Owasippe Sales Contract to Ben Smith of Public Record
What follows is a transcribed copy of the CAC sales agreement with Benjamin Smith, aka "Benny V", for the purchase of Owasippe.  This is of public record with the Muskegon County Circuit Court, however it has been severely redacted by the CAC's legal counsel for submission to the court for consideration in the forthcoming lawsuit hearings and as required testimony in Blue Lake Township's motion for dismissal.  It will be up to the CAC board members to get the blanks filled in...via the copy they were promised by Mssrs Hughes and/or Stone.

THIS REAL ESTATE SALES AGREEMENT ("Agreement") has been made as of the Effective Date (defined below), by CHICAGO AREA COUNCIL, INC. BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, an Illinois corporation, of 1218 West Adams, Chicago, Illinois 60607 ("Seller"), and BENNY V, LLC, of 106 East 8th Street Holland, Michigan 49423 ("Buyer").
Seller agrees to sell to buyer, and Buyer agrees to purchase from Seller, on the terms and subject to the conditions set forth in this agreement, that parcel of real estate in Blue Lake Township, Michigan, consisting of approximately four thousand seven hundred sixty-five (4,765) acres commonly know as the Owasippe Scout Reservation and described on Exhibit A attached to this agreement, together with all improvements, fixtures, easements, division rights, hereditaments and appurtenances associated with that real estate ("Property"). The purchase and sale provided for in this Agreement is sometimes referred to as the "Purchase."
    1. Purchase Price. The purchase price for the property shall be....
    2. Deposit. As evidence of good faith and to bind this Agreement,
Buyer shall immediately deposit....
    3. Title; Survey....
    4. Environmental Matters.....
    5. Confidentiality; Indemnity.....
    6. Buyer's Representations and Warranties. Buyer represents and warrants to Seller that (a) Buyer has all necessary power and authority to enter into and perform this Agreement; (b) Buyer has taken all necessary action to approve, execute, deliver, and perform this Agreement, and this Agreement is the valid and binding obligation of Buyer, enforceable against Buyer in accordance with its terms; (c) no judgment is outstanding before and forum, court, or governmental body, department or agency or, to the knowledge of Buyer, threatened, that has the stated purpose or the probable effect of enjoining or preventing the Closing; (d) no insolvency proceeding, including, without limitation, bankruptcy, receivership, reorganization, composition, or arrangement with creditors, voluntary or involuntary, affecting Buyer or any Buyer's assets or properties, is now or on the Closing Date will be pending or, to the knowledge of the Buyer, threatened; and (e) Buyer will have sufficient funds to close the Purchase on the closing date.
    7. Seller's Representations and Warranties.....
    8. Zoning. The obligation of the parties to close the Purchase shall be contingent upon Seller's ability to cause the Property to be re-zoned....
    ....If Seller is unable to obtain re-zoning as required herein, Buyer may elect to waive this contingency and proceed with the Closing.
    9. Constructability Investigation.....
    10. AS IS. Buyer acknowledges that when it closes this transaction that it recognizes and accepts the Property may require repairs or maintenance and Buyer agrees to accept the Property in its present "AS IS, WHERE AS" condition, with no warranties concerning its condition or permitted use.
    11. Closing....
    12. Possession....
    13. Taxes and Assessments....
    14. Default.... ....If Seller defaults in Seller's obligation under this Agreement so that Purchased is not closed, then as Buyer's sole remedy, Buyer may either (i) terminate this Agreement by notice to Seller, in which case the Termination Remedy shall apply, this Agreement shall terminate, and Buyer may claim against Seller for Buyer's actual damages.... and Buyer may require Seller to return any Non-Refundable Fee paid to Seller, or (ii) elect to have specific performance of this agreement.
    15. Condemnation; Fire; Other Casualty.....
    16. Miscellaneous.
        (b) The parties to this agreement acknowledge and agree that; (i) each party and the party's counsel has review and negotiated, or has had the opportunity to review and negotiate, the terms and provisions of this Agreement and have contributed to its review and revision; (ii) any rule of construction to the effect that any ambiguities are resolved against the drafting party shall not be used to interpret this Agreement; and (iii) the terms and provisions of this Agreement shall be construed fairly as to all parties to this Agreement and not in favor of or against any party, regardless of which party was generally responsible for the preparation of this Agreement.
        (c) This Agreement shall bind and benefit Seller and Buyer and their respective successors and assigns. Buyer may not assign this Agreement without the prior written consent of Seller, which consent may be withheld in
Seller's sole discretion, except that Buyer may assign this Agreement, without Seller's consent, to a creditworthy related entity of Buyer which is controlled by Ben Smith.
        (d) .....
        (e) .....
        (f) All notices, requests, consents and other communications under this agreement shall be in writing, shall be addressed to the receiving party's address set forth below or to any other address a party may designate by notice under this Agreement, and shall either (i) delivered by hand, (ii) sent by facsimile or electronic mail, and mailed promptly by certified mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid, or (iii) sent by nationally recognized overnight courier:
If to Seller to:                                 With a Copy to:
Chicago Area Council, Inc.            Warner Norcoss & Judd LLP
Boy Scouts of America                   111 Lyon St, NW, Suite 900
1218 West Adams                          Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2487
Chicago IL 60607                           phone: (616)752-2162
Facsimile:_____________              Facsimile: (616)222-2162
E-mail:_______________               Email:
Attention:_____________              Attn: Devin S. Schindler
If to Buyer to:                                 With copy to:
Benny V, LLC                                                   
106 East 8th Street                                              
Holland, Michigan 49423     
All notices, requests, consents and other communications under this Agreement shall be deemed to have been given either (i) if by hand, at the time of the delivery of the notice to the receiving party, (ii) if by facsimile or electronic mail, at the time of receipt of the facsimile or electronic mail has been acknowledged by electronic confirmation or otherwise, or if no confirmation is received, on the fifth day following the day a hard copy of the transmission is mailed by certified mail. or(iii) if by overnight courier, on the next business day following the day the notice is delivered to the couriers service. Any party, by notice to the other parties to this Agreement, may
designate additional or different addresses for subsequent notices or communications.
        (g) ....
        (h) The terms and provisions of this Agreement may be waived, or consent for the departure from the terms and provisions may be granted, only by written document executed by the parties.
        (i) This Agreement and the rights and obligation of the parties under this
Agreement shall be governed and interpreted by Michigan law, without giving effect to the conflict of law principles of the State of Michigan.
        (j) All representations, warranties and covenants made in this Agreement by any party to this Agreement or in any other agreement, certificate or instrument provided for or contemplated by this Agreement, shall survive (i) the Closing of the transaction contemplated by this Agreement, and (ii) any investigation made by or on behalf of Seller.
No claim shall be made by any party for alleged misrepresentation or breach of warranty by the other party unless notice for the claim shall have been given to the other party in accordance with the notice provisions of this Agreement.
        (k) This Agreement may be executed in one or more counterparts, and by different parties to this Agreement on separate counterparts, each of which shall be deemed an original, but all of which together shall constitute one and the same document.
    Seller and Buyer have signed or caused this Real Estate Sales Agreement to be signed by their duly authorized representatives as of the date(s) set forth opposite their signatures. The date of the last signature shall be the "Effective Date."
Date:  Feb. 22, 2005                CHICAGO AREA COUNCIL, INC.
                                                BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA.
                                                By /s/ LEW Greenblatt
                                                Its  President                                               
Date: Feb. 23, 2005                BENNY V, LLC                       
                                                By /s Ben  Smith III
                                                Its Manager
                                                        EXHIBIT A
                                                [Insert legal description]
The property address and tax parcel number listed below are provided
solely for informational purposes, without warranty as to accuracy or completeness. If the information listed below is inconsistent in any way with the legal description listed above, the legal description listed above shall control.
Property Address: Survey enclosure Tax Parcel No: Various - 4700 acres Approx.
                FOURTH AMENDMENT TO REAL ESTATE SALES AGREEMENT.   THIS FOURTH AMENDMENT TO REAL ESTATE SALES AGREEMENT ("Fourth Amendment") has been made as of Nov. 10 2005, by CHICAGO AREA COUNCIL, INC. BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, an Illinois Corporation, of 1218 West Adams, Chicago, Illinois
60607 ("Seller") and BENNY V, LLC. of 106 East 8th Street, Holland, Michigan 49423 ("Buyer")
    A. Buyer and Seller entered into a Real Estate Sale Agreement dated February 23, 2005 (the "Agreement"), for that parcel of real estate in Blue Lake Township, Michigan, consisting of approximately four thousand seven hundred sixty-five (4,765) acres commonly known as the Owasippe Scout Reservation, together with all improvements, fixtures, easements, division rights, hereditaments and appurtenances associated with that real estate ("Property").
    B. Buyer and Seller executed the First Amendment to Real Estate
Agreement as of March 25, 2005 (the "First Amendment").
    C. Buyer and Seller executed the Second Amendment to Real Estate
Agreement as of March 25, 2005 (the "Second Amendment").
    D. Buyer and Seller executed the Third Amendment to Real Estate
Agreement as of March 25, 2005 (the "Third Amendment").
    E. Buyer and Seller wish to modify the provisions pertaining to the rezoning of the Property.
     NOW, THEREFORE, for good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby mutually acknowledged, the parties agree as follow:
    1.     Paragraph 8 of the Agreement is amended to add the following language at the end of the Paragraph:
        Notwithstanding the foregoing, If Seller shall fail to actively pursue its
currently pending rezoning application of the Property to a final non-appealable decision by the Township Board, in Buyer's reasonable judgment, Buyer shall notify Seller of its failure to do so.  Upon thirty (30) days notice to Seller and furnishing to Seller an estimate of Buyer's reasonable expenses to pursue such rezoning, Buyer may proceed with obtaining this rezoning if Seller has failed to (illegible)  actively pursuing such rezoning within such 30-day period.  Should Buyer thereafter succeed in rezoning the Property in accordance with this Paragraph 8, Buyer may deduct its actual and reasonable costs of the rezoning from the Purchase Price, such costs shall in any case not exceed, the estimate earlier provided to the Seller. However, If Buyer is unsuccessful in obtaining such rezoning. Buyer shall have the options as otherwise set forth in this Agreement.
            2. Except as expressly amended by the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Third Amendment, and this Fourth Amendment, the Agreement is hereby ratified and confirmed as originally executed.

CHICAGO AREA COUNCIL                       BENNY V, LLC
BY: /s/ James O. Stone                                    BY: Benny Smith III

Blue Lake asks for help in its court fight
Letter to The Editor
Muskegon Chronicle
June 17, 2007
As you know, Blue Lake Township is in court defending its right to
zone as its citizens desire.
If Blue Lake Township officials rezoned as the suing party wishes,
the owner states it can command a higher price for the land.   Blue Lake Township does not believe it is the township's responsibility to create extra dollars for any property owner.
If Blue Lake Township were to rezone to produce more dollars for this
party, then Blue Lake Township will have lost all future control of
its zoning. Every property owner thereafter could take the township
to court to zone for whatever would bring more dollars.
Before the county developed its Master Plan, Blue Lake Township's
plan was in place. That fact made it relatively easy for Blue Lake
Township to participate in the county's planning.   Since the inception of the Muskegon Area-Wide Plan, at least two cities and two townships are taking hard looks at how and where they can preserve valuable eco-systems.
I am writing this letter because I personally feel that Blue Lake
Township desperately needs the support of every person in the county
and any other group or agency whose purpose is to protect and
preserve the natural environment.
We do believe that the owner has the right to sell his or her
property if they wish. We just do not believe it is prudent to rezone
to build 2,700 homes so the owner can demand more money.
Now, given the assumption that the landowner is attempting to drain
the township of all of its legal funds, I am asking that every unit
of government in Muskegon County, and any other county, file a brief
in court or assist Blue Lake Township in setting up a "legal fund" to
defend Blue Lake Township's right to govern as its citizens have
requested; and in doing so, preserve the last pristine forestry left
in this area of Michigan.
To lose would mean more than cutting down a few trees; to lose would
mean loss of wildlife and endangered species, and an entire area of
forestry. It would mean pollution of our lakes and loss of use by the
majority of citizens, both from Blue Lake and from surrounding areas.
Second, to lose would mean the need for a great increase in
infrastructure where none should be and for which there are no funds.
To lose would set a dangerous precedent not only for Blue Lake
Township, but for all townships.
If you decide to make a contribution please write the check to: Blue
Lake Township Defense Fund (BLTDF) and mail to: 1491 Owasippe Road, Twin Lake, MI 49457
Thanking you in advance for your assistance.
Donald E. Studaven
Blue Lake Township
[NOTE: This is our opportunity for showing the Township our gratitude and support through our pocketbooks.  We're all floating downstream
in the same boat together to the same destination.]

Scouts Offer New Plan For Owasippe
June 10, 2007
by Debra Carte
The White Lake Beacon

[The Scouts want to move camping activities at Owasippe to the
heavily forested south side of Big Blue Lake.]

The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts has penned an open letter
to their neighbors in Blue Lake Township that seeks some dialogue,
while proposing new options for the 4,800-acre Camp Owasippe.  The
letter, signed by the Chicago Council’s new president, Michael F
Hughes, says it hopes to foster “a spirit of cooperation among the
many people who care about Owasippe and want to see it prosper long
into the future.”

He proposes a new plan “to preserve Owasippe and insure its long-term viability,” a plan he hopes will break “the logjam that has so far
prevented us from finding common ground with our neighbors.”

The Chicago Council’s new offer will place all Scouting activities on
1,000 acres on Big Blue Lake to keep any residential development away from the lake. The council will offer the remaining property, about 3,800 acres, to one or more conservation buyers, but only after
reaching an agreement with Blue Lake Township on rezoning thepproperty.

Hughes specifically names the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, the group which has a letter of intent into the Chicago Council to
purchase Owasippe for preservation and recreational purposes.

Should the Scouts be unsuccessful in selling to a conservation buyer,
a portion of the property would be made available for housing, the letter states, in order to raise the funds to maintain the Scout camp on Big Blue Lake.

“We are prepared to take all reasonable steps to insure that any such
development not interfere with the operations of the other camps in the area, access to Wolverine Lake and the overall ‘rural’ quality of the area,” Hughes wrote. “We do not want to operate a camp in an area that is no longer rural. Uncontrolled development is contrary to our own interest in maintaining Owasippe.”

The letter comes just two months before a circuit court trial, set for August 8-10 and 14-17, to decide whether the Scouts can rezone the oldest, continually operating Boy Scout camp in the country for residential housing. The Chicago Council has an offer of $19.4 million for Owasippe that’s contingent on it being rezoned.

Up until now, the Chicago Council had proposed lots from a quarter
acre in size on the south side of Big Blue Lake to 2.5, 5 and 10 acre lots throughout the remainder of the 4,780 acres. That rezoning application is still on file with the township.

Local opposition to the rezoning plan has been fierce, and Scouts around the country have voiced strong opposition to the rezoning of
the camp that’s been in existence since 1911. The rezoning plan has
shocked environmentalists who oppose any housing on the heavily
forested property that is home to over 1,000 species of flora and
fauna, with 19 of them considered endangered or threatened. Blue Lake Township has rejected the rezoning on all fronts, which led to the
Chicago Council’s lawsuit last year.

But does Hughes’ extended olive branch now mean the Chicago Council is ready to drop its lawsuit?  Not yet.

In an email response, the Chicago Council said last week that prospect will depend on the community.  “The Council would very much like to put the litigation behind us.  Hopefully, the community will respond favorably to our plan, making this possible.”

In his letter, Hughes alluded to wanting to end the litigation.  “The
truth of the matter is that both the Scouts and the Township are
spending lots of money on lawyers that could be better spent planning
a future for the Township that includes Owasippe,” Hughes wrote.  
“Money from our taxes and donations is being spent on litigation that
could stretch on for years.”

In its email, the council said it is still in regular communication
with Benjamin A. Smith III, the Holland banker who has an offer of
$19.4 million for Owasippe. “Mr. Smith has made clear from the
beginning, he shares our interest in preservation,” the email stated.

The council also said it has had a preliminary discussion with the
Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) and is looking forward to further discussions. The OOEC can’t be more pleased that the Chicago Council and Mike Hughes, in particular, now seem to be the willing
sellers they were waiting for.  “We see this as a real offer and a real opportunity to come together to resolve the issues around the operation of Owasippe,” said Joe Sener, chairman of the OOEC’s board of directors.

The OOEC submitted a letter of intent in March to purchase Owasippe for its fair market value. OOEC’s plans are to manage Owasippe and
create an outdoor university offering year-round recreation and
educational programs, all without the need to rezone the property.

The group has compiled a list of donors to provide financial backing
and will need to apply for a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to buy the property that is expected to be worth
between $12 million and $14 million. Sener said there’s a number of
conservation groups around the country ready to step in with a bridge
loan until the state money comes through.

The Chicago Council waited three years to get its full $18 million on
the sale, in 2003, of Camp Hoover, 408 acres near Yorkville, IL. That
property was sold to conservation interests. Sener believes the
Chicago Council will also be patient in the case of Owasippe.

Council’s proposal to move its camping activities to the area of Big
Blue Lake is a whole other challenging aspect of the new plan for the
Owasippe property. The majority of the Scouts’ camping facilities are
not near Big Blue Lake as Hughes suggests in his letter. Only one
building is now located near Big Blue Lake. All other facilities,
including a 19-cabin staff village, the kitchen, the hospital, maintenance building and four swimming pools, are all located on the southern end of the property, more near Lake Wolverine.

Last week, the Chicago Council agreed that those facilities would be
expensive to move and, therefore, council needs to generate enough
income to recreate the infrastructure near Big Blue Lake and to endow the Reservation in perpetuity.

“We invite our neighbors to share with us their thoughts, ideas and
hopes regarding this property,” Hughes wrote in concluding his open
letter to the public.  The Chicago Area Council president, Mike
Hughes, can be contacted by email at
Copyright © 2007 White Lake Beacon

# # #

For more information on the above story, go to the following links:

CAC President Michael Hughes' letter:

Owasippe Outdoor Education Center: News and Updates

"Scouts seeking compromise in Owasippe fight" by Lynn Moore of the Muskegon Chronicle, 06/07/07:


Letter from Don Studaven - Blue Lake Township Supervisor

Posted 5/29/07 -

Dear interested party,

As you know, Blue Lake Township is in court defending its right to zone as its citizens desire.

If Blue Lake Township Officials rezoned as the suing party wishes, that owner states it can command a higher price for the land.

Blue Lake Township does not believe it is the Township’s responsibility to create extra dollars for any property owner.

If Blue Lake Township were to rezone to produce more dollars for this party, then Blue Lake Township will have lost all future control of its zoning. Every property owner thereafter could take the Township to court to zone for whatever would bring more dollars.

Before the County developed its Master Plan, Blue Lake Township’s plan was in place. That fact made it relatively easy for Blue Lake Township to participate in the County’s planning.

Since the inception of the Muskegon Area-Wide Plan, at least two cities and two Townships are taking hard looks at how and where they can preserve valuable eco-systems.

I am writing this letter to you because I personally feel that Blue Lake Township desperately needs the support of every person in the County and any other group or agency whose purpose is to protect and preserve the natural environment.

We do believe that the owner has the right to sell his or her property if they wish. We just do not believe it is prudent to rezone to build 2,700 homes so the owner can demand more money.

Now, given the assumption that the landowner is attempting to drain the Township of all of its legal funds, I am asking that every unit of government in Muskegon County and any other County file a brief in court and/or assist Blue Lake Township in setting up a “Legal Fund” to defend Blue Lake Township’s right to govern as its citizens have requested; and in doing so, preserve the last pristine forestry left in Midwest Michigan.

To lose would mean more than cutting down a few trees, to lose would mean loss of wildlife and endangered species, and entire areas of forestry. It would mean pollution of our lakes and loss of use by the majority of citizens, both from Blue Lake and from surrounding areas.

Secondly, to lose would mean the need for a great increase in infrastructure where none should be and for which there are no funds.

To lose would set a dangerous precedent not only for Blue Lake Township, but for all Townships.

If you decide to make a contribution, please write a check to:
Blue Lake Township Defense Fund (BLTDF) and mail to:
1491 Owasippe Road
Twin Lake, MI 49457

Thanking you in advance for your assistance.
Donald E. Studaven
Blue Lake Township

Judge: Court will decide Owasippe issue
Sunday, May 20, 2007
By Lynn Moore
Muskegon Chronicle Reporter

A public hearing on the Boy Scouts' redevelopment plans for the
Owasippe camp property won't be held after all.
The hearing, scheduled for May 22 and then rescheduled for May 29,
was to be before the Blue Lake Township Zoning Board of Appeals.
However, the judge hearing a lawsuit brought by Owasippe's owner, the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, canceled the hearing, ruling that the zoning board of appeals no longer has the authority to issue certain zoning variances. As a result, the decision on
whether to allow homes on the wilderness property will be decided in
the courts, with a circuit court trial scheduled for August.
The hearing's purpose had been to gather public input on the Boy
Scouts' request for variances -- or exceptions to the zoning rules --
that would have allowed construction of up to 1,278 homes on the
Owasippe Scout Reservation property. The property is zoned forest
recreation-institutional, which allows for camps and their related
facilities -- such as horse stables, dining halls and lodges -- but
not residential homes.
The Boy Scouts have sued the township in an attempt to force rezoning of the property for residential use, which is a condition of a sale of the property to a Holland-area development group.
Muskegon County Circuit Judge William C. Marietti ruled in December that the Boy Scouts council needed to exhaust administrative remedies through the township's zoning board of appeals before seeking damages in court.  However, a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling prompted Marietti to rule on the side of the Boy Scouts, who had argued that the zoning board of appeals didn't have jurisdiction in the case.
According to Township Attorney Jim Nelson, the complicated issue
involves 2006 legislation that limited townships' abilities to issue "use" variances to zoning ordinances. The legislation said townships can't issue use variances -- which allow a property to be used for a purpose that isn't allowed under its zoning -- unless they had an existing ordinance specifically allowing them to, or had previously issued use variances.
The township had argued it had issued a use variance previously, but
the court of appeals ruled in March that that variance actually was
a "dimensional" variance. Dimensional variances provide exceptions to such zoning rules as lot sizes or setbacks.
"We are obviously disappointed," Nelson said. "We think the township should have the right to consider these issues and address them, as opposed to the court having to do it."
The hearing would have been the second on the Boy Scouts' plans.
About 500 people showed up at a township planning commission hearing on the matter in January 2006, with all but one of the 70 citizens who addressed the commission speaking against the Boy Scouts' plans for the property. The commission and township board subsequently turned down the Scouts' request for zoning changes.
The Owasippe lawsuit is scheduled for trial in Marietti's court Aug.
8-10 and Aug. 14-17.
©2007 Muskegon Chronicle
# # #
[ NOTE:  To see the entire 10-page Blue Lake Township ZBA resolution, go to this OSA website link to a pdf.file: ]

Defense Fund set up for Owasippe
Sunday, 05/21/2007
White Lake Beacon
By Debra Carte
Blue Lake Township says it needs more money to continue fighting the legal battle with the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts which wants to rezone Camp Owasippe for development.
The money may be gone, but Blue Lake Township’s resolve to defend the Owasippe Camp Reservation sure isn’t.
Last Monday night, the township board voted to establish the Blue
Lake Township Defense Fund (BLTDF) for the donations they now need to cover the costs of litigation against the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Chicago Council sued the township last year in a bid to get Owasippe’s 4,748 forested acres rezoned for
residential development.
“This battle’s not over, folks,” said Blue Lake Township Supervisor
Don Studaven to a full house at Monday night’s board meeting. “They
(Chicago Council) are playing this game to run us out of money . . .
They’re going to lose in circuit court and they’re going to take us
to the Court of Appeals. They know they don’t have a winning game and they’re trying to wear us out.”
The township, said Studaven, now needs the public’s help.  “We need more money. I have a stack of letters ready to go out. We will tap the market that has pounded us the most. Do you know what that is? Illinois.”
There is a strong contingent of Scouts among the Chicago Council who
adamantly oppose the sale of Owasippe or its rezoning for development, and the township is counting on them now to back the
moral support they’ve been offering with some hard cash. Just over a
year ago, some 400 people, many of them Scouts from troops in the
Chicago area, voiced their opposition to the rezoning of Owasippe at
a public hearing before the township’s planning commission.
Local opposition is also strong and has resulted in the “Save Owasippe” campaign. Those signs can be seen in lawns throughout the
county.   A recent circuit court decision canceled an earlier court order for the Chicago Council to make a variance request of the township’s
zoning board of appeals. That public hearing was to take place on May
The Chicago Council’s legal offensive is taking two tracks, one
through 14th Circuit Court in Muskegon and one through federal court.
A bench trial in circuit court is set for Aug. 8-10 and 14-17 before
the Honorable William C. Marietti. The federal case has been stayed
until the case plays out in circuit court.
Studaven is confident that the township will prevail in keeping Owasippe a camp and that the public will now step up to help. The
Owasippe Scout Reservation will celebrate its 96th birthday this
summer, making it the oldest, continually operating Scout camp in the
nation. It’s home to over 1,000 species of flora and fauna, with 19 of them considered endangered or threatened.
The property is currently zoned for camp-use only. The Chicago
Council wants to rezone the property residential. It has an offer of
$19.4 million for the land if it can be rezoned. The township planning commission, the township board and Muskegon County planners
have all turned down the Chicago Council’s request for the rezoning,
based on the lack of infrastructure in Blue Lake Township to support
such a large-scale housing development.
Donations, earmarked for the Blue Lake Township Defense Fund, can be mailed to the Blue Lake Township Hall, 1491 Owasippe Rd., Twin Lake, MI, 49457.
Copyright-White Lake Beacon
# # #

Zoning board: No homes on 'camp' land
Friday, April 20, 2007
By Lynn Moore
It was unanimous: Camp property -- such as the embattled Owasippe
Scout Reservation -- in Blue Lake Township should not be allowed to
have residential homes.
Speakers who addressed the definition of the zoning category forest
recreation-institutional, or FR-I, at a public hearing Thursday agreed it should be restricted to facilities related to adult, youth or music camps. The township's zoning board of appeals unanimously voted to uphold the definition of FR-I that had been reached earlier this year by the township board and the planning commission.
The definition states that FR-I uses permitted without a variance include camps and their related facilities -- such as horse stables,
kitchens, dining halls and maintenance facilities. It also allows for
lodges, conference centers and auditoriums. Any homes on the
properties are restricted to use by campers or camp staff.
The hearing at Blue Lake Township Hall attended by about two dozen
people was in preparation for the zoning board's upcoming
consideration of a zoning variance request for the Owasippe property
submitted by its owner, the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts. That
variance request will be the subject of a hearing May 22.
While Boys Scouts attorney Devin Schindler provided a statement at
the hearing, it didn't directly relate to the issue at hand. Rather
than discuss the definition of FR-I, Schindler commented that he didn't believe the ZBA had the authority to grant zoning variances.
ZBA Chairman Brian Skogler said after the hearing he believed
Schindler's comment was more pertinent to the May hearing than
The Chicago Area Council has sued the township over its refusal to
rezone the property from FR-I to allow the camp property to be
redeveloped for up to 1,278 homes.
Muskegon County Circuit Judge William C. Marietti ruled that the Boy Scouts council needs to go back to the township's zoning board of
appeals to pursue a zoning variance -- in other words, to exhaust
administrative remedies -- before proceeding with court claims.  
Township officials have said property owners essentially have two
methods of pursuing use of their property in ways for which it's not
zoned: secure a change in zoning from the township board, or receive
a zoning variance from the zoning board of appeals.
The council claimed in its lawsuit that the FR-I zoning unconstitutionally restricts the use of the property and equates
to "inverse condemnation." The lawsuit states that the zoning restricts the property to camps, which "is not economically viable."   The Boy Scouts have a $19.4 million offer to buy the pristine 4,780-acre camp property from a Holland-area investment group that is contingent on the property being rezoned for residential development.
Frank Bednarek, former Muskegon County administrator, spoke on behalf of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, which has offered to buy the Owasippe property from the Boy Scouts. The group hopes to develop a year-round education and camp facility that would include a
conference center and 200-room hotel. "It is our opinion that our
property use would conform to the existing (FR-I) zoning," Bednarek
Heather Rubley, an attorney representing the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp that operates in the township, said the camp has "thrived" under the FR-I zoning.
The Boy Scouts' proposal has received widespread criticism from
residents, scouts [familes and leaders], and others who want the property left virtually untouched.
Matt VanderSys addressed the ZBA as owner of Endurance Sports, 1888 Holton. He said his company is sponsoring a third annual triathlon on the Owasippe property this year that is expected to attract athletes
from around the world who use area lodging and restaurants.  "It's a
great use of the land," VanderSys said. "We'd like it to stay the way
it is because we have more events we'd like to organize and host on
this land."
Resident Nancy Frye, a former Muskegon County commissioner, said the issue of property zoning in the Owasippe case comes down to local control.  "I think one of the most important things we need to remember is that local control is what government is all about," Frye said. "We need to say 'This is what has been decided and this is the
direction we need to go."'
©2007 Muskegon Chronicle
NOTE:  For a script and video clip of the WZZM-TV13 news broadcast of this story from Grand Rapids, go to this link:

NOTE:  To see the entire 10-page Blue Lake Township ZBA resolution, go to this OSA website link to a pdf.file:

Owasippe mediation ends in stalemate
by Debra Carte, March 25, 2007
White Lake Beacon
A second mediation on Tuesday between representatives of Blue Lake Township and the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts over the
rezoning of the 4,800-acre Camp Owasippe has resulted in another
The private meeting, facilitated by a Muskegon attorney, was the
continuation of a mediation process that began on Feb. 7. Circuit
Court Judge William C. Marietti had ordered mediation between the two parties in advance of a bench trial scheduled for August 8-10 and
August 14-17.
The Chicago Council sued Blue Lake Township in May of 2005 to reverse a zoning which prohibits residential development on several
properties in the township, including the Owasippe Scout Reservation’s 4,765 acres. The Scouts want to sell the property to a group of investors, headed by Benjamin A. Smith III, founder of the Macatawa Bank Corp. in Holland, Michigan. He and his investors have offered $19.4 million for the property if it can be rezoned to allow residential development.
The Chicago Council has submitted a rezoning application to the
township that would place lots ranging in size of a quarter acre to
10 acres throughout the property. The lots could bring as many as
1,200 new homes to the township which is without municipal water or
sewer. Camp Owasippe’s forests, lakes and streams have been used
solely for the camping of Boy Scouts since 1911.
The Blue Lake Township planning commission and board have voted down the Chicago Council’s rezoning application. It is now in the hands of the township’s zoning board of appeals.  Last Wednesday, the attorney representing the township, Jim Nelson, said, in consultation with the Chicago Council’s attorney, Devin Schindler, that Tuesday’s mediation had not been able to resolve the matter.  “But, we’re open to continuing discussions with each other to see if we can do it, but we haven’t been able to achieve a resolution,” Nelson said.
Confidentiality agreements are preventing those who participated in
the mediations from talking publicly about what was discussed during
them, including whether the plans of a second potential buyer for
Owasippe were on the table.
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) submitted in January a letter of intent to the Chicago Area Council to purchase Camp Owasippe for its appraised fair market value. The conservation group wants to retain the property for camp use and offer year-round
recreational and educational programs there. There would be no need
to rezone the property.
OOEC plans to use private and public donations and a grant from the
Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to buy the property. In
February the Chicago Council responded to the letter asking for more
information. Last week, Joe Sener, chairman of OOEC’s board of
directors, said a dialogue is continuing with the Chicago Council.
Copyright © 2007 White Lake Beacon
# # #

A second mediation to be held on Owasippe
by Debra Carte of The White Lake Beacon
The two opposing parties in the rezoning of the Owasippe Camp
Reservation aren’t talking about the private mediation that took place last week in an attempt to reach a compromise, but they did agree on one thing - they will be meeting again.
Blue Lake Township officials and representatives from the Chicago
Area Council of the Boy Scouts will continue on March 20 the private
mediation process that began last Wednesday. An attorney in Muskegon, J. Thomas Johnson, is facilitating the mediations. Confidentiality agreements are keeping any of the participants from divulging what took place during the meeting.
The mediation was ordered by 14th Circuit Court Judge William C.
Marietti, but any resolution reached during the mediation process is
not binding on the court. A bench trial is set in circuit court for
Aug. 8-10 and Aug. 14-17.
The Blue Lake Township supervisor, Don Studaven; the township clerk, Melonie Arbogast; and two members of the township’s planning
commission sat down last Wednesday with members of the Chicago
Council’s executive committee in an attempt to reach a compromise
over the Scouts’ request to rezone Owasippe’s 4,765 acres for
residential development. The Scouts applied for the rezoning three years ago. Township planners turned down the request last year. So
did Muskegon County planners and the township board.
The Scouts [CAC] filed a lawsuit against Blue Lake Township last May claiming the township’s rezoning of Camp Owasippe in 2002 to a
category which precludes development was an illegal taking of their
property. A lawsuit in federal court has been stayed until a decision is reached in circuit court. Judge Marietti recently ordered the Scouts to return to the administrative process at the township and file an appeal with the township’s zoning board of appeals. Marietti wants the ZBA to hear the Scouts’ appeal before May 1.
The Scouts’ rezoning application asks the township to divide up Owasippe’s forests into lots ranging in size from a quarter acre to 10 acres. They have an offer of $19.4 million for the property from a Holland banker if the property can be rezoned.
The Scouts have stated publicly they want to retain a camp on the
site, but the rezoning application doesn’t depict that. The Chicago
Council has operated a Boy Scout camp at Owasippe for nearly 96 years. Blue Lake Township has received over 2,000 letters and signatures on petitions from people who do not want to see the camp rezoned for housing. The township says it doesn’t have adequate infrastructure to support a large development and that the Scouts didn’t address, in the application, how providing municipal water and sewer and more fire protection would be paid for. 
Copyright © 2007 White Lake Beacon

<< The Scouts are sitting down with township officials on Wednesday
[Feb 7] in the hopes the two parties can now “amicably” decide what
should be rezoned and what should remain a camp.  But can there be a
compromise on the last oak-savanna forest in West Michigan? >>
By: Deb Carte – White Lake Beacon Staff Writer
February 4, 2007
Blue Lake Township officials and members of the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts are sitting down for a powwow this week in a court ordered mediation in the hopes of reaching a compromise over the Scout’s request to rezone the 4,700-acre Owasippe Scout Reservation for residential development.
The private mediation will take place Wednesday in Muskegon with
attorney J. Thomas Johnson acting as the facilitator between the two
parties.  The Chicago Council will be represented at the mediation by
four members of its interim executive committee, John “Jack” Jadel,
Mike Hughes, Glenn Emig and Jim Stone, as well as the Chicago
Council’s attorney, Devin Schindler.
In the township’s corner will be its supervisor, Don Studaven;
township treasurer Melonie Arbogast; and two from the township’s
planning commission, Brian Skogler and Norm Swier.  The township
plans to have its planning consultant there, Steven VanSteenhuyser,
of LSL Planning, Inc., and two of its attorneys, James R. Nelson and
Doug Hughes.
The Chicago Council sued the township last May; two years after it
submitted its request to Blue Lake Township to rezone Camp Owasippe’s 4,765 acres into quarter-acre to 10-acre residential lots and two months after the township’s planning commission denied the request.   The Chicago Council’s lawsuit claims that the camp’s current zoning, and the inability to get it rezoned, is discriminatory and
unconstitutional and constitutes an illegal taking of the property. 
The Scouts have an offer of $19.4-million for the property if the
township will rezone it.
The township is contending that a large development would endanger
protected wildlife on the property and overburden the township’s
already fragile infrastructure, currently devoid of any municipal
sewer or water systems.  It also says that it has the backing of its residents and people and environmentalists from across the country who want to see the pristine wilderness that is home to several endangered and threatened species stay a camp.  The Owasippe Scout Reservation celebrated its 95th birthday last summer and is the oldest, continually operating Boy Scout camp in the country.
A bench trial in the 14th Circuit Court has been set for Aug. 8-10
and 14-17. In the meantime, the Chicago Council has been ordered by
circuit court to complete the administrative process at the township
by appealing to its zoning board of appeals.  Judge William C
Marietti, has ordered the township’s ZBA to consider the Scout’s
rezoning request my May 1. Last Wednesday, he ordered the Scouts to pay the township $25,000 of the $48,000 it was asking to be placed in
an escrow account to cover legal fees and further environmental
studies the ZBA will need to reach a decision.  That money had to be
handed over by February 9.
Should the mediation on Wednesday result in a compromise, any further litigation may be unnecessary.   “The Boy Scouts have been interested for some time to sit down with the township to see if we can amicably resolve this matter,” said Nelson.  “The township is made up of reasonable people and they will be willing to listen to reasonable solutions, if one can be reached.”
A dialogue with the township is exactly what the Chicago Council has
been waiting for, according to its attorney, Devin Schindler.  “I’ve
been saying it for three years – it’s time to sit down,” he said.
According to Schindler, the Chicago Council would “love to keep a
camp out there.” Just how large of a camp will depend how much of the
property the township allows the Scouts to rezone, he said.  “If it
could be a combination of a camp and conservation area and limited
development, then, hopefully, we’d have enough money for what we want to do, and that is to run a camp,” Schindler said.  He hopes both
sides can agree in mediation where the camp should go on the property.
The Chicago Council’s current nominee for council president, Mike
Hughes, announced in an online video placed on “You Tube” last week
that the Scouts plan to celebrate Camp Owasippe’s 100th birthday in
2011.  He said the committee had informed the buyers of the property
that it now wants to “retain a good portion of the camp” and use the
money from the sale of some of the land for rebuilding areas of the
95-year-old camp.
That may be what the Chicago Council now has in mind, but the
township’s attorney contends that what the township can consider is
what the Chicago Council has placed on paper.  The Chicago Council’s
rezoning application gives no indication of any of the property being
reserved for a camp.  It asks that all but 10% of it be rezoned for
residential development, with the 10% being set aside as conservation
areas where endangered and threatened species are known to have
habitats.  Dozeman, the Chicago Council’s lead attorney in its lawsuit against Blue Lake Township, said the rezoning application was a “proposal for rezoning” and not a site plan.
“It was an attempt to put a plan out there to start a dialogue,” he
said.  “It is not a final plan.”
The township’s attorney, Jim Nelson, said if it’s not the final plan,
they need to submit another one.”
“All we can do is deal with what they submitted,” he said.  “We have
to follow certain procedures, as we do with any applicant.”
# # #  (c) White Lake Beacon
[Note: It is known that such mediation hearings only provide
recommendations for resolutions to conflict and are not considered
binding in a court of law.]

Owasippe case heads back to township

December 09, 2006
By Lynn Moore

The Chicago Boy Scouts need to go back to Blue Lake Township to pursue use of Owasippe Scout Reservation property for residential development before proceeding with court claims, a Muskegon County judge has ruled.

Muskegon County Circuit Judge William C. Marietti ruled that the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America needs to exhaust administrative remedies through the township's zoning board of appeals before seeking damages in court.

Marietti's ruling doesn't affect the Boy Scout council's lawsuit claiming the zoning of its property is unconstitutional, which has been scheduled for an August 2007 trial. Originally, the trial had been set for March.

The lawsuit was filed in May after the township planning commission recommended the township board reject the Boy Scouts' request to rezone the property to allow construction of up to 1,278 homes. The board did reject the rezoning in June.

A $19.4 million offer to buy the pristine property submitted by Holland businessman Benjamin A. Smith III is contingent on the property being rezoned.

The lawsuit filed in Muskegon County Circuit Court requests that the court rule the property's current zoning -- forest recreation-institution -- unconstitutional because it essentially denies the Boy Scouts use of the property for anything other than a camp. It also seeks damages from the township for its inability to fully realize the value of its property.

The council has claimed it loses $5,000 a day on the camp in "out-of-pocket and lost opportunity costs."

To pursue its damage claims against the township in court, the Boy Scout council first must seek a zoning variance from the township's zoning board of appeals, Marietti ruled.

Property owners essentially have two methods of pursuing use of their property in ways for which it's not zoned: secure a change in zoning from the township board, or receive a zoning variance from the ZBA.

Attorneys for the Boy Scouts argued in written court briefs that seeking a variance would be "futile" because two of three ZBA members already have expressed opposition to the plan to rezone the 4,780-acre camp property.

Two ZBA members are Lyle Monette, chairman of the planning commission and member of the township board who is a defendant in the Boy Scout lawsuit, and Scott Haan, president of the Big Blue Lake Association, who testified against the rezoning at a planning commission hearing and turned in petitions opposed to it bearing 1,900 signatures. The third member is Marilyn Belmer, who has not spoken publicly about the issue.

Two of three members would have to vote in favor of a zoning variance for it to take effect.

Devin Schindler, an attorney representing the Boy Scouts, said a variance request had been prepared for the ZBA a year ago, but township officials had indicated it wasn't necessary. But in court briefs, township attorneys argued it was.

"We don't see this as a setback," Schindler said of Marietti's ruling. "It's an annoyance. It's disappointing the township changed gears in an apparent effort to delay the case. In terms of the overall issues, this is a nonissue."

The Boy Scouts have asked Marietti to set a deadline for the ZBA to consider the request. Marietti is scheduled to consider that request Thursday.

Attorney James Nelson, who represents the township, said there was a "breakdown in communication" over the year-old variance request, not a purposeful attempt to delay the court proceeding. He said township officials believed they had come to an understanding with the Boy Scouts that the variance would be considered once the rezoning request had been decided.

He denied that ZBA members essentially have their minds made up.

"We don't look at it superficially at all," Nelson said. "We'll take a very serious look at it."

Members of the planning commission and township board said they rejected the rezoning because it doesn't fit into the township's master plan and would strain existing infrastructure.

The 95-year-old Owasippe Scout Reservation includes several Boy Scout camps that operate during summers. A largely natural area, the reservation is home to three lakes, a trout stream, rare oak-pine savannas and more than 1,000 species of animals and insects, including several threatened and endangered species.

Marietti has scheduled a bench trial in the Boy Scouts' lawsuit for Aug. 8-10 and Aug. 14-17. It previously had been scheduled for late March.

A similar Boy Scouts lawsuit against the township filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids is on hold until the council exhausts its claims in the state court system.

©2006 Muskegon Chronicle

OOEC Update... $5,000 Grant Received
Posted 12/19/06

The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has received a $5,000.00 grant from the Shaw and Betty Walker Foundation of North Muskegon.

The grant will enable the Outdoor Education Center in 2007 to do outreach into the West Michigan community.  That outreach is intended to demonstrate the plan for and value of preserving the Owasippe Scout Reservation property as an important environmental, educational and recreational natural resource.

“The Outdoor Education Center is in a situation where the need for additional financial resources is critical.  We are so thankful for this unexpected grant from the Shaw and Betty Walker Foundation.” Chairman Joe Sener of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center commented.  “The fruits of our continuing efforts to preserve the Owasippe property are at hand.  We are completing the work necessary to present a plan for the property that everyone can be comfortable with.  We need help getting to the finish line, and this grant is a nice boost.”

For more than four years, there has been an effort to preserve Owasippe, currently owned by the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.  At the same time, the Chicago Scout Council has  sought expedited action of a rezoning request to allow residential development across the entire property.

“The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center is in a race with the due process that should take place when an institutional property owner is willing to sacrifice irreplaceable natural resources in a drive to cash out of the community,” said Sener.  “It hasn’t been easy knowing that solutions to this type of issue have taken years to resolve, to everyone’s benefit, in the past.  It’s also surprising that for almost 100 years the Chicago Scouts have operated what is now the oldest Scout Camp in the United States and virtually nobody in West Michigan knew it existed or knew what the property included.”

Commenting further about the process the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has used, Sener said, “Our initial effort to boldly step into this community and try and do a fundraising of more than $10 million was rightfully a disappointment for us.  We knew the Owasippe property was unique and valuable as a natural resource.  We knew that through a reasonable redirection of its mission, Owasippe could become another economic engine in West Michigan as well as a legacy of nature.  As always, it’s what we didn’t know that stymied us for a while.”

“What we learned was that the community needed to learn about what is important about the Owasippe property.  Also, that the community was willing to listen if someone took the time to present the facts.”  Sener concluded, “We’ve experienced all of the emotions from disappointment through satisfaction over the past few years while working on this.  We now can add rejuvenated to the feelings – rejuvenated by the Shaw and Betty Walker Foundation selecting us as an effort they support.”

For further information contact...

Jim Schlichting
Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, Inc.
PO Box 212, Whitehall MI  49461

PS:  Donations to the OOEC are welcomed and encouraged...and tax deductible within the letter of the law (ie. 501-c-3 charity).

Judge orders Scouts back to Zoning Board of Appeals
As seen in The White Lake Beacon - 11/19/06
Beacon staff writer
The trial that could decide the fate of the 4,700-acre Camp Owasippe
is being pushed to next August as the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts now has to go back and complete the step it skipped in its rush to get the property rezoned for development.  
Blue Lake Township has won a decision from a Muskegon County judge to have the trial that may decide the fate of the 4,700-acre Camp
Owasippe rescheduled from next March to next August. The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts sued the township in May over zoning issues at Owasippe, the oldest, continually operating Boy Scout camp in the country. They want to undo a zoning which limits the property to camp use only and rezone it for residential development.
The trial was originally scheduled to take place next March. It’s now
scheduled for Aug. 8, 9, 10, and 14-17 of next year before 14th Circuit Judge William C. Marietti [in Muskegon].
The Chicago Council fought the scheduling change, saying in a
response to a motion by Blue Lake Township, that the township was
continuing to “stonewall” the process. 
The Chicago Council’s legal offensive is taking three tracks - one in
federal court and two in circuit court. The first track, a lawsuit in
federal court, has been stayed until there’s an outcome in circuit court.   The second track, which asked for damages from the township, has been dismissed by Marietti. He has essentially said the Chicago Council missed a step by not completing the administrative process at the township. In other words, they should have gone to the township’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA) to request a variance before coming to court.
James R. Nelson, the attorney representing Blue Lake Township, from the law firm of Nelson, Kreuger & Schrotenboer in Hudsonville, said last week the Chicago Council has submitted an application to the ZBA which will begin now to process it. In its sidestep of the ZBA, Nelson said in court documents that the Chicago Council had ignored Michigan law in its “rush to the courthouse.”
It’s the third track of the Chicago Council’s legal action that will be tried in court in August. The council is claiming the township’s rezoning in 2002 of Owasippe and other properties to FRI, or Forest - Recreational - Institutional, is discriminatory and unconstitutional.   The FRI zoning limits use of the property to camping activity and
precludes residential development.
The heavily forested Camp Owasippe, which opened in 1911,  celebrated its 95th year of operation this past summer. The camp’s oak-savanna forest is the last of its kind in West Michigan.  It’s home to a variety of endangered and threatened species of wildlife, including the Bald Eagle, Karner Blue Butterfly, Eastern Box Turtle and Massasauga Rattlesnake.
The Chicago Council is claiming the rezoning constitutes an illegal
taking of its property. The council needs to overturn the FRI zoning
because it has an offer of $19.4 million for Owasippe’s 4,748 acres if the property can be rezoned for residential development. The offer was made in February of last year by Benjamin A. Smith III, chairman and CEO of Macatawa Bank Corp [Holland, Mich].
The Chicago Council submitted an application to rezone Owasippe in
2004.  It wants to divide the property up into lots ranging in size
from a quarter acre around the south side of Big Blue Lake, to 10-
acre lots elsewhere on the property [for residential development].
A public hearing was held this past January where around 400 people,
including Scouters opposed to the Chicago Council’s attempt to sell
Owasippe, turned out opposing the rezoning. The Blue Lake Township
planning commission and the township board have both turned down the council’s rezoning request. They say their rural township’s fragile
infrastructure couldn’t support a residential development which could
bring as many as 1,500 homes to the property.
[ Note: To see the frontpage with photo and caption, click here... ]
# # #
[ Note: CAC has retained two additional litigators, Douglas Dozeman
and Scott Carvo, from the same law firm that Devon Schindler hails
from in Grand Rapids to continue to pursue the zoning lawsuit against
the Blue Lake Township Community.  ]

August 7, 2006
The Chicago Boy Scouts [CAC] did not exhaust the local appeals of the Blue Lake Township vote.  They have avoided an appeal to the Township Zoning Board of Appeals.  Instead, the Chicago Scouts have decided to go forth in Circuit Court [Muskegon County] and Federal Court with separate complaints against the Township.  As a matter of fact, the Chicago Boy Scouts filed their court complaints BEFORE THE TOWNSHIP VOTE WAS EVEN TAKEN. 
West Michigan residents and local authorities have felt that the
Chicago Boy Scouts have been planning for a court fight for a long
time, since the very beginning of their attempt to create residential
zoning on the entire Owasippe property.  In the very first formal
communications with the Township, the Chicago Boy Scouts began
their “saber rattling” about bringing the matter to a judge if the
Scouts were denied their request.
The OOEC observes that the current proposed sale by the Chicago Boy Scouts is a continuation of a long-established Boy Scout policy of
selling real assets in order to fund their current program operations.  In the recent past (about 16 years ago), the Chicago Boy Scouts sold more than 8,000 acres of Owasippe property for residential development.  The Chicago Boy Scouts have sold all of their other camp real estate holdings [Hoover, Crete, Valley View, Kiwanis, Dearborn, Harrison, et al ].
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center is now even more steadfast in working towards a resolution of the Owasippe property issue.  WE
The OOEC has developed a business plan and assembled partners that make the creation of that facility possible. This facility would continue to offer a location for a Boy Scout summer camp program as well as make the facility available to many other youth organizations of West Michigan and beyond.   

Michigan vote snags Scouts' sale of old camp
By Joseph Sjostrom
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
Tuesday,  June 13, 2006

Cheers erupted Monday night after a township board in Michigan voted unanimously against rezoning the Owasippe Scout Reservation for housing, dealing a setback to Boy Scouts in Chicago who wanted to
sell the 7-square-mile summer camp.

The vote by the Blue Lake Township Board near Whitehall, Mich., came before a standing-room-only crowd who shared the officials' concerns about what a housing development might mean for the area's roads, schools and other services.   "People move out here for the peace and quiet and just don't want to see the kind of population increase that this would bring," said board member Lyle Monette.

"We have eagles out here and a rare species of turtle and butterflies
that are found nowhere else in Michigan. Most people just want it to
stay that way."

The Boy Scouts of America, Chicago Area Council, has agreed to sell
the land, where campers have gone since 1911, for $19.4 million to a
Holland, Mich., property development partnership with the contingency that parts be rezoned residential.

The property was zoned residential until 2002 when the township board
changed it to a category that permits only camping uses.

The Scout council has filed suit in federal and Muskegon County
courts in Michigan to overturn that rezoning.

Scouts attorney Devin Schindler of Grand Rapids, Mich., said the vote
was not unexpected, but disappointing because the board refused to
talk to the developer about the plans.

The sale was approved in February 2005 by the council's board of
directors, who said the proceeds would be used to buy camp facilities
closer to Chicago.

The Owasippe property is about 200 miles from Chicago. In the 1960s,
13,000 campers camped there each summer but in recent years the
number has been less than 3,000, half who are from Chicago and half
from other areas.

Supporters defended the sale because the land is only used in the
summer and the number of campers. But opponents of the sale in
Chicago Scouting say Owasippe is an integral part of the Scouts
legacy and has an irreplaceable forest ecology. Plus, they say, the
Chicago council should make stronger attempts to create year-round
uses for the campground.

The opposition in Blue Lake Township and the surrounding areas of
Muskegon County has been strong against a rezoning change even though the developer never offered specifics about how much housing would be built.

After the Scouts applied to the township for rezoning last year, the
township's Plan Commission voted 5-0 against rezoning.

# # #

NOTE:  For a related story in The Muskegon Chronicle, go to...
Township board unanimous: No Owasippe change
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
By Eric Gaertner

The "Save Owasippe" supporters got what they wanted Monday from leaders in the Scout reservation's township, but nobody's taking down yard signs urging the pristine property be left in its natural state.

©2006 Muskegon Chronicle

NOTE:  For the story in its entirety, please go to the MLive website:

Scouts to mark 95th year of Owasippe, but will there be a 96th year?
July 9, 2006
by Debra Carte
White Lake Beacon
The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts is planning to celebrate
next week the 95th anniversary of the Owasippe Scout Reservation, the oldest and continuously operating Boy Scout camp in the U.S.

But the irony of celebrating 4,700 acres of pristine property the
Scouts are working hard to sell for residential development isn't
lost on residents here. Now that the Chicago Council has accepted an
offer of $19.4 million for the property from Benjamin A. Smith III,
founder of the Macatawa Bank Corp., many wonder if Owasippe will see a 96th year in operation.

"Save Owasippe" supporters, some 3,000 plus strong, are hoping a
recent shake up of the Chicago Council's executive committee by the
National Council of the Boy Scouts will benefit their cause to save
the camp. The National Council has charged the new executive
committee to review the pending sale of Owasippe, but what that
review means precisely and whether the sale of Owasippe can be
stopped, are questions still unanswered.

The Chicago Council's request to rezone Owasippe for residential
development was denied by Blue Lake Township officials who now find
themselves named in a lawsuit brought by the council in May. The
Chicago Council says it can't sell Owasippe to Smith unless the
township rezones the property from a camp-use only designation to
residential designations.

The Chicago Council claims the township's zoning of Owasippe has
perpetrated an illegal taking of the property. A bench trial to
decide the matter has been scheduled for March 20-23 and March 27-30 of 2007.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Council is inviting the public to celebrate
95 years of Scouting at Owasippe. The celebration is scheduled for
this Wednesday, July 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the administration center, located at Russell and Silver Creek roads in Blue Lake Township. Boy Scouts and adult leaders are to be on hand to demonstrate scouting skills, like cooking, Native American games, pioneering, first aid and orienteering.

Executive Scout leaders from the Chicago Area Council are planning
to attend the celebration and will be available for questions from
the press and the public. Local elected officials are to also be in
attendance. A short program is scheduled for noon on Wednesday.

# # #

[Note:  Owasippe has already begun to entertain reservations for
2007 section camp sites and family camp cabins from units already at
camp this summer.  Early attendance projections prior to the opening
of camp pointed toward an increase in campers for this summer over
2005.  The reality of that is dependent on the willingness of leaders to promote Owasippe and to maximize their Scout participation.  You can't fit too much more above 4,000 into Camps Blackhawk and Wolverine over six periods.  So, we are faced with a moment of decision over whether Camp Carlen should open and for how many periods... or to maintain the status-quo.   The last time Owasippe had over 4,500 campers is when Camp Carlen was open to Scouts for four periods and to Webelos and Junior Leaders Training for the other two weeks. - RK ]


National Scouts order review of Owasippe
July 3, 2006
by Debra Carte
The White Lake Beacon
"Save Owasippe" supporters are wondering if a sale of the 4,800-acre
Owasippe Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township can be stopped now that the Boy Scouts of America National Council has stepped in to
restructure the contentious executive committee of the Chicago Area
Council of the Boy Scouts and has asked a new committee to review the pending sale of Owasippe.
The Boy Scouts of America National Council has decided it’s had
enough of the infighting between its Scouters in the Chicago Area
Council and has stepped in to install a new executive committee
there - one that has now been charged with reviewing the pending sale
of Owasippe.
What a review of the sale means is still unclear. But the possibility
that the new executive committee could kill the deal made by its
predecessors to sell Camp Owasippe’s 4,748 acres for $19.4 million to
a Holland banker is a huge ray of hope for Scouters and “Save
Owasippe” supporters.
While anything is possible, the Chicago Council’s attorney, Devin
Schindler, said Friday, “it’s unlikely” the new committee will take
steps to prevent the sale of Owasippe.  “National (Boy Scout Council)
understands we have a binding contract, but that doesn’t mean 100% of Owasippe needs to be developed. There are a lot of options,” he said.
While Schindler wouldn’t divulge details of the contract the Chicago
Council has with Benjamin A. Smith III, founder of the Macatawa Bank Corp, the contract is contingent on the rezoning of Owasippe for
residential development.   The Chicago’s Council is 0-3 in its effort to gain approval for its rezoning application that would divide Owasippe’s pristine oak-savanna forest into quarter-acre to 10-acre lots. The camp is the oldest, operating Boy Scout camp in the country and is home to a variety of endangered and threatened species of wildlife, including
the Bald Eagle, Karner Blue Butterfly, Eastern Box Turtle and
Massasauga Rattlesnake.
Blue Lake Township planners, the Muskegon County Metropolitan
Planning Commission and the Blue Lake Township board have all denied the Chicago Council’s rezoning application. They contend that a large development would endanger wildlife and over-burden its already fragile infrastructure.
The Chicago Council sued Blue Lake Township in May before the
township board’s vote on the rezoning took place. The council is
alleging that the township’s zoning of the property to a designation
restricting its use to camp activities only constitutes an illegal
taking of the property.
Last Monday, 14th Circuit Court Judge William Marietti set the dates
for mediation and trial. Three mediators, appointed by the court,
will review the case on Feb. 9 of next year and will forward a
recommendation to Marietti. A bench trial is set for March 20-23 and
27-30 of 2007, beginning at 9 a.m. Judge Marietti’s courtroom is on
the 4th floor of the Michael E. Kobza Hall of Justice in Muskegon.
In another courtroom in Chicago on Friday, lawsuits that pitted
Scouters against the Chicago Council for violations of council bylaws
and the Illinois Not-for-Profit Corporation Act were to be dropped in
exchange for a settlement arrangement initiated by the Boy Scouts
National Council.   National gave the Chicago Council two options:
either accept the plan of reorganization or lose its charter and all
of its assets, including Camp Owasippe.
Chicago decided the second option wasn’t an option. The council’s
executive committee was dissolved and a new interim one was set in
place to handle the council’s affairs until its next annual meeting
in January. In the fallout, six Scouters have gone into “sabbatical,”
according to Jim Stone, chief executive officer of the Chicago Area
Council. Those six include the executive committee’s controversial
president, Lewis Greenblatt, whom a Chicago judge ruled had violated
the council’s bylaws and Illinois law as alleged by the Scouter 11.
Robert Bork, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America National
Council, said the six Scouters were “lightning rods” who were asked
to step down. In addition to Greenblatt, two others from the former
executive council were asked to resign - Dennis Chookazian and Brian
Kasal.   Three from the Scouter 11 didn’t escape National’s ax,
either. They include Joe Sener, Larry Strickling and Rita Egan.
According to Bork, any of the six could be renominated to the
committee in the future.
Bork said National’s purpose in intervening in the Chicago Council
was to “turn the mess around,” and not to interfere in its business
decisions and the review of the pending sale of Owasippe.
Don Studaven, Blue Lake Township supervisor, isn’t anticipating the
Chicago Council will drop any lawsuits his township is involved in
anytime soon.  “They haven’t put the sale on hold and they haven’t
stopped their attorneys,” he said. “As far as Blue Lake Township is
concerned, we’re being sued and we’re proceeding in the same manner.”
But Jim Schlichting, assistant development director for the Owasippe
Outdoor Education Center (OOEC), believes a review of the sale of
Owasippe by the new committee is a ray of hope his organization can
bask in [].   “A whole lot of things have come together,” he said. “A zoning decision by the township board is something that has come up at the same time as the executive board is being changed. We wonder, at this time, if the executive board has addressed whether to go ahead or stop (the sale). There’s a real possibility it could go either way.”
OOEC wants to put its own offer on the new committee’s table. Its
plan is to keep Owasippe as a camp that would include a year-around
learning and conference center. There would be no need for a zoning
change for that.  “One of our goals is to be invited to sit down at a
table and present our plan. It’s a way to put a lot of the past past
us,” Schlichting said.
Copyright © 2006 White Lake Beacon

Scouts who sued get birthday salute
Friday, July 07, 2006
By John S. Hausman
It's not every day that controversy arises over a seemingly benign
proclamation recognizing a Boy Scout council's 95 years of service.
But it happened Thursday at a Muskegon County Board of Commissioners committee meeting.
Commissioner Nancy Waters asked fellow commissioners to approve a resolution recognizing the pending 95th birthday of the Chicago Area
Council of Boy Scouts of America, owners of the Owasippe Scout
Reservation in Muskegon County's Blue Lake Township.
A letter from the council requesting such a resolution had gone to
all county commissioners and other local government officials in
Muskegon County.   But, the deceptively routine request came at a time of intense controversy over the council's wish to sell the beloved, beautiful, undeveloped property to residential developers.  Many area residents and the township's government oppose the plan, and the Scout council has sued the township seeking to force a rezoning of the property to allow its controlled development.
Most commissioners sought to separate the "happy birthday" resolution from the camp development dispute. "We're supporting the Boy Scouts," said Commissioner Louis A. McMurray.
But Commissioner Chuck Buzzell, whose 2nd District includes the
Owasippe area, disagreed.  "How do you separate it?" he said. "The
council is suing Blue Lake Township. Many, many people in my district are violently opposed (to the council's plans)."
Yet the township's supervisor, Don Studaven, spoke from the audience
in support of the resolution.  "My first reaction (on reading the
council's letter) was, 'The heck with it -- they're suing us,' "
Studaven said. "The first thing I said was, (they've) got a heck of a
lot of nerve.   "Then I said, 'That's class. ... Our township will do a resolution.  I think it's a class act."   The resolution then passed on a voice vote, with only Buzzell audibly voting "no."
©2006 Muskegon Chronicle

Keeping camps green - and in the green
July 22, 2006
Chicago Tribune
Letters To The Editor
This is regarding "Greetings from Camp Not-gonna-open-again; As summer camps in the Chicago region dwindle, the ones remaining debate whether to stay open or sell out to real estate developers" (Page 1, July 9). The article accurately described the pressures that have increasingly caused camps to vanish under developers’ bulldozers.
A lasting solution that could serve as a model for communities around
the nation is being explored right here in the Chicago region.
The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation is working with a number
of Chicago-area partners to demonstrate practical choices beyond keep
the camp and keep losing money running it, or retire our debts with a
big check from a developer.  The ongoing loss of camp lands to development both reflects and reinforces unwelcome trends: "mouse-potato" childhoods, which create the conditions for obesity and other health issues; open space being lost; and respected non-profit organizations such as the Girl Scouts
of America finding it harder to serve urban and suburban communities.
It also represents lost opportunities to preserve natural areas:  Summer camps typically involve intensive use of only a small fraction of the total camp acreage, and the buffer or light-use areas often include examples of rare natural communities, such as wetlands, oak savanna or prairie.
Several key reasons for this unfortunate trend were described in the article, including sprawling development pressure driving up land prices; competition from today’s subject-specific camps (music, sports, etc.); and changes in parents’ willingness to send their children to overnight summer camp. Working with conservation groups such as the Conservation Foundation and CorLands, and discussing the issue with non-profit camp owners, we’ve identified two additional challenges: 
> Lack of understanding of the options. Camp owners have not been aware of the full range of choices available to them as landowners.
> A need to update camp activities with strong nature programs that can
help today’s parents see new educational value in the outdoor camp
On the first point we are now working to get the word out to camp owners that land ownership is not an all-or-nothing matter. For example, in Illinois and most other Midwestern states, landowners can voluntarily "dedicate" land as nature preserves monitored by the state. A different option, one not involving any governmental entity, is to grant a conservation easement, which can be tailored to uses of the specific land in question.
The volunteer directors of non-profit camp owners take their fiduciary duties deeply to heart, and quite properly aren’t interested in allowing their organizations to bleed to death operating camps that run chronic deficits. Anxiety about that outcome can overwhelm concern about broader responsibilities, such as developing in young folk an appreciation for natural systems in a world waking up to inconvenient truths, saving the few remaining
large parcels of open space for the public good and preserving safe havens for native plants and animals.
Fortunately better choices exist.
Judith Stockdale
Executive director
Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Chicago

Owasippe owners sue over sale delay
Saturday, May 27, 2006
By Lynn Moore
The Chicago Boy Scouts council has taken Blue Lake Township officials back to court over rezoning of the Owasippe property, this time claiming the officials have violated the state and U.S. constitutions by illegally blocking development of the property and denying the Scouts their civil rights.
The lawsuits filed in Muskegon County Circuit Court and in the Western District U.S. District Court last week claim the township has purposely delayed acting on the Boy Scouts' request for a zoning change that would allow residential development on their 94-year-old Owasippe Scout Reservation.
As a result, the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts requests that the courts rule the property's current zoning unconstitutional and provide the council compensation for money it has lost from not being able to sell its property. The lawsuits claim the Boy Scouts are losing $5,000 a day on the camp in "out of pocket and lost opportunity costs."
The council has a year-old $19.4 million offer to purchase the property from Holland businessman Benjamin A. Smith III that is contingent on the 4,780-acre property being rezoned to allow for residential development.
The lawsuit names Blue Lake Township, township Supervisor Donald Studaven and township planning commission Chairman Lyle Monette as defendants.
The township planning commission has recommended the township board reject the rezoning request that would allow construction of 1,278 new homes, and the board is expected to vote on it June 12.   "This last act has to be a bully act," Studaven said. "We haven't made our final decision and all of a sudden (Boy Scout attorney Devin Schindler) throws those two lawsuits at us. I don't know if he thought I was supposed to jump or something."
Schindler was unavailable for comment, but issued a prepared statement. The statement discusses the township's move in December 2002 to rezone Owasippe, and about 4,200 acres of other property, from forestry recreation to forest recreation-institution. That rezoning occurred shortly after the Boy Scout council voted to explore selling the land.
The Boy Scouts claim the earlier zoning would have permitted up to 1,900 homes on its property, though township officials dispute that. If the Boy Scouts win in court, the zoning of the land presumably would revert back to forestry recreation.    "Throughout this process, we have tried to be patient and understanding.  We recognize that change is difficult and that many area residents and former Scouters feel strongly about this property," Schindler said in the statement.
 "However, the township's actions to rezone our property and destroy its economic value were wrong. Its continued unwillingness to discuss the issue with us has left the (Boy Scouts) no choice but to ask the courts to intervene."
The lawsuits claim the township has "purposefully delayed" a final vote on the rezoning "in the hope that the Council will ultimately withdraw the request."
The Chicago Area Boy Scouts Council in July 2004 requested the zoning be changed from the current forest recreation-institution to various residential and conservation areas. In September 2005, the council filed a lawsuit in circuit court seeking an order forcing the township to hold a hearing on the rezoning request, which the court did order.
Hundreds showed up for the hearing in January, the overwhelming majority of whom opposed to the rezoning, after which the township was required to accept written comments for 30 days.
The township planning commission reviewed the hearing transcripts and written comments and then voted in March to recommend the township board rejected the rezoning request. The matter next went to the Muskegon County Metropolitan Planning Commission, which voted in support of the township planners in April.
Studaven said the matter has been scheduled to be considered at the township board's June 12 meeting for some time. He said he was waiting for minor revisions to the township's master plan to be accepted by the planning commission before bringing the Boy Scouts' rezoning request to the board.
Monette said he believes the lawsuits are premature.    "It's strictly up in the air," Monette said of the rezoning request. "Why he chose to have a lawsuit to get some action, I can't figure that out."
Monette and other township planning commissioners said they recommended against the rezoning because it doesn't fit into the township's master plan and would strain existing infrastructure. Meanwhile, Boy Scout officials say the current zoning represents illegal "taking" of the property because it denies nearly every "legitimate land use" and deprives the land of its value.
The lawsuits claim Owasippe's zoning of forest recreation-institution is different from that of surrounding property and represents discrimination. They also claim the township's actions have denied the Boy Scouts their due process.
"Defendant's FR-I classification, as applied to the Council's Property, is not reasonably related to public health, safety, welfare, or morals or any other legitimate government interest," reads the federal lawsuit.
Among the reasons given for the planning commission's rejection of the rezoning proposals were the potential housing development's strain on roads, fire service and other infrastructure; the threat to endangered species; overwhelming opposition by the public; and its contradiction to the township's master plan.
County road officials have said roads in the area would have to be improved if the proposed housing developments occur. In addition, the county health department has said septic systems would not be suitable for homes built on Big Blue Lake, meaning municipal wastewater would have to be extended into the township or a self-contained sewage treatment system would have to be built.
"I don't think (planning commissioners) violated anybody's constitutional rights," Studaven said. "They're just defending the township's integrity."
©2006 Muskegon Chronicle
[ NOTE:  News video clip follows from WZZM-TV13, Grand Rapids, Mich:
... For another news story from The White Lake Beacon on May 21: ]

Another board says no to Owasippe development project
Thursday, April 20, 2006
By Lynn Moore
A plan to turn much of Owasippe Scout Reservation into residential developments received its second thumbs-down Wednesday -- this time from the Muskegon County Metropolitan Planning Commission.   The controversial rezoning plan that would allow up to 1,278 homes on the scenic Owasippe Scout Reservation also was spurned by the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission in March, which recommended the township board of trustees reject the rezoning request.
The township planning commission's recommendation essentially was seconded by the county body, whose motion read that it was in support of the decision of township planners.
The Chicago Area Boy Scouts Council, which owns the 4,780-acre pristine camp, has requested the zoning be changed from the current forest recreation-institution to various residential and conservation areas. Sale of the property to a Holland developer for $19.4 million is contingent on the rezoning.
"The impact it would have, I personally think would be devastating," said county planning Commissioner Norman Ullman, who called the township a "crown jewel."   Ullman said the rezoning plan is representative of too much "sprawl" across the state.  "We've got to get a handle on it," he said. "That's frustrating."  
A final vote on the rezoning by the township board of trustees has not been scheduled.   With township residents firmly opposed to the plan, township board members likely would be committing political suicide if they approve the rezoning request. Most observers believe the issue will end up in court.
Township planning commissioners said they recommended against the rezoning because it doesn't fit into the township's master land-use plan and would strain existing infrastructure. Meanwhile, Boy Scouts officials say the current zoning virtually strips the land of its value and denies nearly every "legitimate use" of it.   The Boy Scouts' plan would, in part, allow 663 additional homes on Big Blue Lake and 281 homes on Lake Wolverine, a dam-created lake with only campsites on its shores.
Devin Schindler, an attorney for the Boy Scouts, complained to county planners Wednesday that he has wanted to discuss a "compromise" with township officials, but couldn't get a meeting with them. Among the topics he wants to discuss, Schindler said, is sharing the cost of upgrading roads and expanding sewer service to the area and adding "thousands of acres" of conservation land.  "They won't talk to me," he said. "There's a compromise to be had."
Township Planning Commission Secretary Brian Skogler responded that Schindler and other Boy Scout representatives have been welcome to attend his commission's public meetings, but haven't done so.   The Boy Scout council's plans have sparked intense protests. About 500 people turned out at a hearing in January on the zoning request, and all but two of the roughly 70 speakers spoke against the plan.

The township planning commission received more than 2,600 petitions opposing the rezoning and about 170 letters, only two of which support the Boy Scout plan.   Metropolitan Planning Commission Chairman Duane Buckner said it was residents' opposition to the rezoning that most influenced him.   The residents speak, and we are there to represent the residents within the townships," Buckner said. "When 99 percent of residents speak like that, you do listen."
Critics have said the proposed development would overwhelm the rural township with thousands of new residents and vehicle traffic, put an end to the nation's oldest Boy Scout camp and devastate one of the region's most spectacular natural areas.
The Boy Scouts claim they have been losing money on the 94-year-old camp and can no longer afford to operate it.   Lagging interest in camping is another reason the Scouts give for wanting to sell the property.  [see footnote] 
A group of current and former Boy Scouts and Muskegon-area residents has been trying to raise funds to buy the property and run it as a year-round camp, convention and education facility that would be called the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center. But the Boy Scouts have been unwilling to discuss selling the property to the group, OOEC officials have said.
A survey by the Nature Conservancy found that the property hosts 19 species that are considered endangered, threatened or of special concern in Michigan, including the threatened bald eagle, the endangered Karner Blue butterfly, the eastern Massasauga rattlesnake and rare turtles, as well as coyote, river otters and loons.
The Boy Scouts are proposing scattered conservation areas totaling 408 acres, including areas along the Cleveland Creek and Lake Wolverine watershed that probably couldn't be built on anyway. The rezoning request also proposes a 41-acre Karner Blue butterfly conservation area.
Clearly the most valuable parts of the land are on Big Blue Lake, which already has homes along its northern and eastern shores. The rezoning request asks that it be rezoned to allow for up to 663 homes on quarter-acre lots. Also very valuable to developers would be property around pristine Lake Wolverine that, under the zoning request, could have up to 281 homes on 2.5-acre lots.
The request proposes another possible 66 homes on 10-acre lots west of Russell Road between Silver Creek and Holton-Whitehall roads and 268 homes on 5-acre lots west of Russell Road north of Silver Creek Road.
County road officials have said roads in the area would have to be improved if the proposed housing developments occur. In addition, the county health department has said septic systems would not be suitable for homes built on Big Blue Lake, meaning municipal sewer lines would have to be extended into the township or a self-contained sewage treatment system would have to be built.
©2006 Muskegon Chronicle
© 2006 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.
[Note: Owasippe has had increasing attendance for the last 5-6 summers.  The camp is as popular as ever with Scout units from Chicago and other areas of the Midwest.]
PS: For more information on this issue, go to

Appreciation to Owasippe-Hearing Community
White Lake Beacon, Letter to The Editor
On January 14, 2006, the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission conducted a public hearing addressing the rezoning of the Owasippe Scout Properties.
Being a small, rural township, we haven’t had past experience conducting a hearing of this magnitude and emotional response and were unsure of what to expect. We were very grateful that it went so smoothly, but it would not have without the support and help of many individuals.
We appreciate all those who took the time to come and speak, as well as those who have since written letters. Your input was well thought out, informative and has been very helpful.
Our lasting gratitude goes to the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp for allowing us to have this meeting at Marek Dining Hall. They provided the seating arrangement, the P.A. system, and employees to direct traffic, set up equipment, as well as building a raised platform. Our gratitude extends to Andy Dagen and his crew for all the help.
We utilized a stop light timer for speakers which was operated by Peter Hunt. Tim Cassidy operated the microphones and the Fine Arts Camp took care of the taping of the hearing. These jobs are extremely important to a meeting of this size, and we really appreciate their help.
Since we anticipated a long meeting with over 400 people and have no restaurant in the area, the Blue Lake Township Fire Department volunteered to provide a lunch. Our appreciation extends to them for feeding a large crowd in a short time and they in turn are grateful for the donations which provided over $500 for their equipment fund.
Our township attorney, Mr. Doug Hughes, was most helpful in guiding us through the process of conducting the hearing and developing a protocol.
The Blue Lake Township Planning Commission has a difficult decision to face.  This decision has been an emotional one for many. We have appreciated all the thoughtful, informative, as well as emotional input from so many people from all over Michigan, Illinois, and beyond. This decision will impact many now and in the future. We are grateful to all who are giving of their time to help us come to a recommendation.
~Lyle Monette, Chairman
Blue Lake Township Planning Commission

Camp Owasippe - 'Which way is the wind blowing?'
by Debra Carte, The White Lake Beacon 
Scoutmaster Walter Hoskins and Assistant Scoutmaster Deb Skopec bring the Boy Scouts of Chicago Troop 337 to Camp Owasippe in Blue Lake Township, Michigan, as often as they can.
Their fathers, uncles and grandfathers, all Scouters too, did the same.  “It’s tradition,” they said, family tradition and a scouting tradition.  “Once you come to Owasippe,” Skopec continued, “Owasippe is in your spirit. It’s not just a place to come, it’s your home.”
On Friday night, Jan. 13, they drove with four of their Scouts from Chicago in the pouring rain to come “home,” and to defend it from a bid by their own Boy Scout leadership to have Owasippe’s 4,765 acres of pristine wilderness rezoned for residential development.
Several Chicago area Boy Scout troops joined about 400 Blue Lake and White Lake area residents, even seasonal residents from across the country, at a public hearing on Saturday, Jan. 14, to hear the rezoning request of the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts. The hearing, before the township’s planning commission, was at Marek Dining Hall at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, just down the road from Camp Owasippe. It started at 10am and lasted the entire day, until 5 pm.  [Note: Roughly 55 Scouters, campstaff and staff alumni were in attendance.]
Some 60 people made their way to podiums equipped with microphones and laid their hearts bare concerning what could be the demise of the camp that will celebrate its 95th anniversary this year, making Owasippe the oldest continually operating Boy Scout camp in the world.
Emotions were highest among the Scouters, some of whom apologized to the community for the actions of their council leadership and told planners they risked reprisals from the Chicago Area Council just for being there.   “Look around you, you don’t see many [Owasippe admin] directors here today. They fear repercussions from the council [CAC]. Allegedly, they were told not to be present today,” said John Hosty, Jr., long-time Scouter with Chicago Troop 475 of Saint Daniel the Prophet Church.   “ I’m sorry for the actions of this board (Chicago Council), and I want the people of this community to know we don’t support them.  This has been our home every summer ...,” said Hosty, his voice trailing off as he choked up with tears.
Public comment opposed to the rezoning and sale of Owasippe continued for several hours, but Benjamin A. Smith III, the Holland banker whose investment group has an accepted offer of $19.4 million for Owasippe, only heard a portion of it. Just over an hour into public comment, Smith, who had been sitting at the back of the crowd, nearest the door, got up and left.
Story continues via this weblink...

Owasippe Rezoning Fact Sheet #1
as provided by the OOEC

The following information is taken from the July 23, 2004 rezoning request and the June, 2005 Rezoning Request Analysis provided by the Chicago Area Council, BSA to the Planning Commission of Blue Lake Township, Michigan.

The rezoning proposal would allow up to 1,278 residential lots with a projected population of 3,604 residents (projected as 2.82 residents per lot). By area the proposed zoning would allow:

Big Blue Lake (383 acres) 663 .25 acre lots 1,870 residents

Wolverine Lake (1,284 acres) 281 2.5 acre lots 792 residents

Cleveland Creek (1,780 acres) 268 5.0 acre lots 756 residents

Russell Road West (795 acres) 66 10.0acre lots 186 residents

The total residential population of Blue Lake Township as of the 2000 US Census was 1,990 people. The pending rezoning request would allow result for in a 181% increase in the population of Blue Lake Township.

The total of 4,252 acres of development would only leave a total of a mere 449 acres of the total 4,765 acre Owasippe property as "conserved"; and 64 acres not-buildable.  The majority of this area is wetlands that are already protected by State and Federal law.

by the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Inc
{The following information is taken from the July 23, 2004, rezoning request and the June-2005 Rezoning Request Analysis provided by the Chicago Area Council BSA to the Planning Commission of Blue Lake Township, Michigan}.
The Council’s rezoning proposal states; “Since at least 1981, the majority of the Parcel (Owasippe) was zoned “Forestry-Recreational (FR) District.”  This zoning designation allowed for a number of uses, including construction of homes, subject to a minimum lot size of 2.5 acres.” 
In reference to the current “Forest-Recreational (FR-I), the Council has stated, “This classification is among the most restrictive and most unusual in the state of Michigan.  It effectively limits use of the property to a single purpose; operation of a “youth camp”…”
Numerous times in the Council’s statements are claims that the FR-I rezoning destroyed the economic value of the Owasippe property.
The Council has a long history of appeals of the assessed value of the Owasippe property. Within the last 10 years the Council submitted its’ latest appeal for a reduction in property value in excess of $750,000.
The request was granted by Blue Lake Township.
Submitted by the Council, as supporting documentation of their property valuation, is an extensive third party appraisal that repeatedly tells the Township that the highest and best use of the Owasippe property is as "camp land".  The Council further states in the documentation that there is no reasonable expectation for residential development of the Owasippe property.
The Council has appreciated great financial benefit from the tax exempt and low property values they have consistently claimed for decades.  The Township has used the representations of the township’s largest property owner and the other residents to develop a Master Plan for the community and establish the appropriate zoning of the properties.
>> OWASIPPE REZONING FACTS is a project of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center with the objective of preserving the Owasippe Scout Reservation property for educational, recreational and conservation uses.  Visit us on the web at  Office: 231-733-0557.

(The following information is taken from the July 23, 2004 rezoning request and the June, 2005 Rezoning Request Analysis provided by the Chicago Area Council, BSA to the Planning Commission of Blue Lake Township, Michigan.)
The Chicago Council states “The Council seeks to have the Parcel rezoned to allow for a productive and, ultimately, more logical land use.”  Also they state, “The Council has made no formal decisions regarding the ultimate disposition of the property.” 
The rezoning application cover letter states, “The Council’s effort to perform long range planning has been stymied because the zoning does not allow for any economically productive use of the property.  And they say, “This problem has interfered with the Council’s ability to discuss options with interested parties.”
In addition their formal statements to Blue Lake Township say, “The Council is committed to operating a youth camp in the township for the foreseeable future.”
What should be the guide for the logical use of the land in the Township?  The Planning Commission and Township Board certainly are more qualified and reflective of the community needs and feelings than the Council.  Since the rezoning application has been submitted, the Council has parlayed their rezoning application into a potential claim of lost value of $19+-million dollars.  No effort has been made by the Council to amend the rezoning request to disclose the evolving facts and the true intentions of the Council.
The Council’s “ability to discuss options with interested parties” statement ignores the fact that The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has an economically viable vision for the Owasippe property.  While the Education Center’s vision was established before the filing of the Council’s rezoning application, the Council summarily dismissed the Outdoor Education Center’s vision by refusing to have discussions.
There is nothing but residential development included in the rezoning application that has been submitted.  At best the 2004 statement of wanting to continue operating a youth camp rings hollow in light of there being no zoning provision for a camp in the rezoning proposal.

[The following information is taken from the July 23, 2004 Rezoning Request and the September 20, 2005 Circuit Court of Muskegon County Complaint made by the Chicago Area Council, BSA to the Planning Commission of Blue Lake Township, Michigan.]
In the Rezoning Request the Chicago Council states, “…the Council has undertaken a full environmental review of the property in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy…” 
In the Complaint the Council states that they “…relied heavily on a comprehensive environmental review of the property undertaken by The Nature Conservancy.”
It is important to note that the Council’s use of the Bioblitz report to guide the zoning of Owasippe is inappropriate. As The Nature Conservancy states (12/29/05 letter to Blue Lake Township Planning Commission), “It is critical to note that the report was neither researched nor written to provide guidance for the kind of questions the Township is currently addressing.”
The Council has attempted to present the designation of 41 acres of the Owasippe property as a major advancement in the preservation of the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.  In fact The Nature Conservancy writes, “An isolated population of the (Karner Blue) butterfly would not be expected to survive in the long term.”  It is further observed, “For the long-term survival of the (Karner Blue) butterfly, at least 1,920 acres of the camp and/or neighboring properties would need to be managed for maintaining savanna habitat and increasing wild lupine populations.”
The management techniques and more detailed guidance that would be used in a true effort to protect the Karner Blue is contained in the original Bioblitz prepared for the Council.  It is guidance that the Council appears to be ignoring. They hope that the 41 acres set-aside will be accepted as some sort of satisfactory solution.  In our opinion it is NOT acceptable.  When you have the knowledge of what is necessary to effectively protect the endangered specie, to do otherwise falls well short of the expected stewardship of the land expected of an organization promoting the ideals of Scouting. 
>>> OWASIPPE REZONING FACTS is a project of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center with the objective of preserving the Owasippe Scout Reservation property for educational, recreational and conservation uses.  Owasippe Outdoor Education Center – 143 W. Sherman Blvd, Muskegon MI 49444; office 231-733-0557.  Visit us on the web at

Planning commission rejects rezoning plan for Boy Scout land
The Associated Press
BLUE LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A planning board has rejected a rezoning proposal that would have allowed a large residential development to be built on a pristine 4,780-acre camping area owned by the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts.
The council wants the Owasippe Scout Reservation in Muskegon County's rural Blue Lake Township, just north of Muskegon, to be rezoned so the property can be sold for $19.4 million to a Holland developer.
Many local residents oppose the plan because it has the potential to more than double the population of the township, which has no municipal sewer or water service and has an on-call fire department.
The proposed 1,278-home development would most likely require extensive road improvements.
The plan now goes to a regional planning body and then before the township's Board of Trustees, where passage is unlikely because of the public opposition.   The final resolution of the development plan probably will be decided in court, The Muskegon Chronicle reported Thursday.
The council operated camps on the property for 94 years, but faced with mounting financial losses and dwindling numbers of campers, it announced three years ago that it would try to sell the land.   Most of it is zoned "forestry-recreation (institution)," a designation given in December 2002 that limits its use to camps.
Benjamin A. Smith III, founder and chairman of Holland-based Macatawa Bank Corp., heads a private investment group that wants to buy the property.  Smith has said he would like to preserve as much of the land's more than 7 square miles as possible, but his investors will need to make money from it.
<< Other Links To This Story >> (for video newsclip, go to "Blue Lake Development")


Owasippe Rezoning Request Rejected

=================================================, March 16,2006


At a meeting of the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission last night [Wednesday], the application for rezoning of the Owasippe Scout Reservation property was rejected.  The commission passed a motion by a 5-0 vote that recommends the Blue Lake Township Board deny the long-pending rezoning request.  An extensive list of the reasons for the recommended rejection was part of the motion.


The Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America submitted the proposal to change the current zoning from Forest Recreational – Institutional, which allows for year-round camping, recreation and educational activities, to various density residential parcels.  The Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts own 4,700+ acres of property in Blue Lake Township.


Planning Commission Chairman Lyle Monette made available more than 2,600 individual petitions, submitted from people across the country expressing their feelings against a change in the zoning of the Owasippe property.  Also made available were 175 written comments that were submitted to the Planning Commission during the public comment period following the public hearing held in January. 


The Muskegon County Planning Commission now will have the opportunity to review the recommendation before it is submitted to the Township Board for action.


In comments to FOX-17 television following the meeting, Chairman Monette referred to the impact of additional public safety equipment and staff and a doubling of the size of the township population as factors the township would face if the zoning request were granted.  In addition the desire of the community to preserve the natural environment and wildlife, including several endangered species, was a consideration.


Devin Schindler, attorney for the Chicago Council, expressed disappointment about the Planning Commission recommendation. He indicated that there is still hope as the Township Board now takes up the issue for a final vote.  Schindler indicated he has no idea what the Council would do if the Board votes down the plan. 




The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Board of Directors thanks the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission, township residents and folks from all across the United States for the massive effort to preserve the Owasippe property as a natural treasure.  The recommendation of the Planning Commission is an important initial step in the process.  More needs to be done to assure in perpetuity that the character of Blue Lake Township is preserved.


The Chicago Council’s proposal does not have the endorsement of the Planning Commission. However, the Township Board has the authority to ignore the recommendation of the Planning Commission and approve the plan.  In addition, the Council has the opportunity to move its efforts back to the venue of Circuit Court if it feels its rights have been abused in the rezoning process.


During the next several weeks OOEC will again make SAVE OWASIPPE campaign materials available to reinforce the message that zoning should not be changed for the Owasippe property.  We also will be taking additional actions to advance the vision that the current zoning does provide a financially viable opportunity that is in the best interests of all. 


The community, with the support of hundreds of people from across the country, has delivered the message that the basic character of Blue Lake Township and the natural environment is at risk if residential development is allowed.  The OOEC goal of being a catalyst for positive economic development, with a commitment to preserving the natural treasures of the Owasippe property, has not changed.  We will, with continued community support, make every effort to make that vision a reality.


Our vision, information updates and more information is available on our web site at

Numbers indicative of Owasippe passion
January 18, 2006
Muskegon Chronicle Editorial
We commend the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission for its patience and understanding in listening to an tremendous outpouring from residents and area citizens concerned over the proposed sale of the scenic Owasippe Scout Reservation.
The 4,700-acre tract is the largest privately held single parcel in Muskegon County. It has been put up for sale by the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts, which says it needs the money more than it needs the camp.
A Holland developer who has a purchase agreement contingent on rezoning wants to put more than 1,200 homes on the camp site. He has reassured residents the spectacular nature of Owasippe will be preserved.
This issue is far from decided, but Blue Lake Township has outdone itself in showing its willingness to listen to all the voices in this debate, and those on either side of the question are getting their chances to speak out.   That's democracy in action, not just paying lip service to the ideal.
- Muskegon Chronicle - all rights reserved

Township residents voice opposition to camp sale
Sunday, January 15, 2006
By Jeff Alexander and Lynn Moore
The Muskegon Chronicle /
(edited and excerpted to fit this transmission)
Hundreds of people converged on tiny Blue Lake Township Saturday -- environmentalists and industrialists, power brokers and mountain bikers, clergy and kayakers -- in an attempt to kill a plan to build what could be more than 1,200 houses on the scenic Owasippe Scout Reservation.
They came from the suburbs of Chicago and Los Angeles, from Muskegon and Whitehall and scores of other communities across Michigan to speak with one voice. Their message: Save the 4,700-acre camp, a largely natural area that is home to three lakes, a trout stream, rare oak-pine savannas and more than 1,000 species of animals and insects, including several threatened and endangered species.
The Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts wants Blue Lake Township to rezone Owasippe so the financially strapped organization can sell it to a Holland developer for $19.4 million. If approved, the rezoning would allow construction of up to 1,278 houses on the reservation, which has been used as a Boy Scout camp for 94 years.
Critics said the proposed development would devastate one of the region's most spectacular natural areas, overwhelm the rural township with thousands of new residents and vehicle traffic, and put an end to the nation's oldest Boy Scout camp.
"The Boy Scouts teach character ... and love of the land," said the Rev. Norm Swier, senior pastor at Fifth Reformed Church in Muskegon and a former Boy Scout. "Now they want to sell Owasippe to the highest bidder. Where is the character in that? Have they no shame?"
Swier was one of dozens of people who spoke out, some in tears, against the proposed rezoning during a 61/2-hour public hearing before the Blue Lake Township Planning Commission.
The orderly hearing was in a massive dining hall at nearby Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, with about 500 people in attendance sitting at long tables in front of the planning commission and a woman who translated the proceedings into sign language. After presentations by a representative of the Boy Scouts [CAC], and the township's consultant, about 70 speakers were allowed three minutes each and spoke at two microphones on either side of the commissioners. The volunteer fire department provided a lunch and coffee for sale during the hearing, which stretched from 10am to about 4:30pm.
Devin Schindler, an attorney for the Boy Scouts, told the planning commission that a restrictive "forest recreation-institution" zoning classification the township imposed on Owasippe in 2003 was illegal and prevents the construction of a single house on the property. He said the property could be developed without harming its greatest natural features, such as the oak-pine savannas that provide habitat for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly.
"This property has great sentimental and aesthetic value. It's a beautiful piece of property, but choices have to be made," Schindler said.
Blue Lake Township's planning consultants said the proposed rezoning runs counter to the township's master land-use plan, which identified protection of natural resources as "paramount."
Building the maximum number of houses identified in the Boy Scouts' plan, 1,278, "would irrevocably change the township and will certainly compromise many of the natural aspects of the property that make it so inviting in the first place," Steven Van Steenhuyse, the township's planning consultant, said in a memo to the planning board.
Van Steenhuyse said some development could take place at Owasippe without significantly harming the environment, but much less than what the Boy Scouts proposed. Van Steenhuyse said the proposed development would require the purchase of new firetrucks and connecting to the county's sanitary sewer system, which could cost local taxpayers millions of dollars.
Schindler said the Scouts are willing to work with township officials to find a compromise that permits construction of homes on the reservation. But he said the township must move in a "timely manner" to resolve an issue that has been an anchor around the township's neck for nearly three years.
"I don't want to be adversarial," Schindler said. "I want to see if a compromise can be reached in a timely manner."   Schindler repeatedly said the township must act in a "timely manner," a not-so-subtle hint that the rezoning issue might wind up in court. "We've been in this process 21/2 years. We're losing a great deal of money."
Van Steenhuyse said the township probably won't act on the rezoning request until later this year, after a new land-use plan for the township is adopted.
Holland financier Benjamin A. Smith III has agreed to buy Owasippe from the Boy Scouts if township officials approve the rezoning. Smith has said he doesn't have immediate plans to develop the property.
The Blue Lake Township Board of Trustees has the final say on the matter. The board will act after the planning commission makes its recommendation.
Planning commission Chairman Lyle Monette said he was pleased with the comments and conduct of the audience at the hearing. He said the planning commission will accept written comments for the next 30 days and then take time to review them and input from Saturday's hearing. He said he hopes to get a recommendation on the rezoning issue to the township board by April.
Schindler said Smith and the Boy Scouts are losing as much as $5,000 a day -- in potential earnings and continued operating costs at Owasippe -- as the issue drags on.
During his 90-minute presentation, Schindler tried to convince township planners and the audience that the Boy Scouts' proposed rezoning would allow construction of more than 1,200 houses, while protecting Owasippe's most spectacular natural resources.
Few were swayed, and many seemed offended by Schindler's comments.    "The techniques used by Mr. Schindler and his client are designed to intimidate you," said Jim Schlichting, development director for the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, in comments to the planning commission. "They well know how damaging and expensive to the community this plan will be."
A group of current and former Boy Scouts and Muskegon-area residents formed the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center in 2002 to combat arson at the reservation. The organization is now trying to raise funds to buy the property and run it as a year-round camp, convention and education facility.
Several speakers called for the planning commission to "stand tough," "stand firm" and to "not falter."
"We're not impressed, we're not intimidated and we're not going to be bullied in our own neighborhood," said Scott Haan, president of the Big Blue Lake Association.  Haan turned in petitions opposed to the rezoning he said contained more than 1,900 signatures, including more than 200 from other states.
Note: For this story in its entirety, click onto the below link or paste it into your browser:
# # #
Related Story:
<< "Scout Camp May Become Housing" >> Saturday, Jan 14, 2006,
by Chicago Tribune / AP (Associated Press):

Hundreds Turn Out to Oppose Camp Owasippe Rezoning
WZZM-ABC-TV13, Grand Rapids, Mich
by Amy Fox
Created: 1/14/2006 5:17:09 PM
The future of a large piece of natural land is up in the air. Nearly 400 people turned out for a planning commission hearing Saturday about rezoning the Owasippe Boy Scout Camp on Big Blue Lake in Muskegon County.
Camp Owasippe started welcoming boy scouts in 1911. Many fond memories were created there.
"Confronting the Manistee wilderness and it's acres and acres of old growth forest was both breathtaking and spiritual," said one former camper [Ron Kulak].  "I want other scouts to continue to share this experience of 4800 acres intact as it is today."
But that may not happen. Dwindling numbers in recent years put a financial strain on the Chicago Area Boy Scout Council, which owns the land. Now the council is asking the township to rezone the land to allow residential development.
"Big chunks of this property can be maintained as open space and
conservation," said Devin Schindler, attorney for the council. "The
tradeoff would be this concept of cluster development, which would be more development around the areas that have more value."
Schindler says the rezoning plan would call for up to 1,275 houses on the land.   The plan breaks the hearts of many former scouts and scout leaders.  "I am sorry for the actions of our board," one Chicago man [John Hosty] told the Planning Commission. "The supermajority of our Chicago area council of families does not agree with or endorse this plan or the sale of this property.  This is or has been our home each and every summer."
Prospective owner Ben Smith says he appreciates the natural beauty of the land, and hopes to preserve much of it.   "Our goal is and has been to try and however we can, be creative, to maintain as much of the property as pretty much is now," Smith says.
Many say that's not good enough. "Once this camp is broken up, we'll never get it back," said one former camper. Blue Lake Township Assessor Marion Knash agrees.
The Blue Lake Township Planning Commission met all day Saturday to hear comments [from the general public]. You also have thirty days to send your opinion in writing to the Commission. It will then vote on the matter in February.
You can send your comments to:
Mr Lyle Monette
Blue Lake Township Planning Commission
1491 Owasippe Road
Twin Lake, MI 49457
We want to point out that Devin Schindler, the attorney for the Chicago Area Boy Scouts is also an attorney for WZZM TV-13.
# # #
[Note: The Blue Lake Township Planning Commission welcomes letters from any interested party stating their opinion in regards to the proposed re-zoning request of Owasippe.  Letters of comment can be written and will be accepted for up to 30 days after the hearing date of January 14th.  These should be dated and contain the writer's name, address and phone number, and whom (if anyone) they represent.
Copies of the form and form letter can be found at]

Boy Scout Camp Land Battle
Wood TV, Channel 8
Grand Rapids, Michigan
[Note: Video Link below narrative]
(Muskegon County, January 14, 2006, 6:00 p.m.) A sprawling chunk of untainted earth, 4700 acres in all are up for sale.
The Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts wants to sell one of the oldest scout camps in the world. That camp is located in Muskegon's Blue Lake Township.
The Owasippe scout reservation is now a near century old boy scout camp. But the owners, the Chicago council says it's a real money pit. It wants to sell for roughly $20 million. The council has a buyer if the land is rezoned for homes.  Residents worry about as many as 1500 homes.
The area is the type of peaceful that has locals ready for war to keep it that way. 350 people gathered on Saturday, 70 some spoke.
Lyle Monette sits on the Blue Lake Township planning ommission, "It's a considerable number and most of them are against change. " Monette says if they rezone, if they build, there could be other problems. The township could double in size. It would need fire and police departments and improved roads and more.
No decision was made Saturday. Many believe this is the beginning of what promises to be a long protracted legal battle.
>> Note: Channel 8's news coverage video stream of the Saturday Hearing at BLFAC on potential Owasippe rezoning:
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2006 WorldNow and WOODTV. All Rights Reserved.

OOEC gains first land acquisition
by Debra Carte, White Lake Beacon
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) has accepted a donation of 10 acres of land adjacent to the Owasippe Scout Reservation, property the OOEC hopes to play a role in delivering from potential developers.
Joe Sener, chairman of the OOEC, announced last week the donation of 10 acres of Blue Lake Township land from Brian and Christine Blaski, owners of Heart-N-Hand Country Gifts in Muskegon.
The transaction marks the initial real property ownership for the OOEC, a non-profit corporation formed in 2002 to preserve the nearly 4,800-acre Camp Owasippe in Blue Lake Township, the oldest continuously operating Boy Scout camp in the world. OOEC is seeking to provide management for the camp and to create an outdoor education center rooted in conservation-minded principles.
In a press release from OOEC, Blaski said they donated the land to the OOEC for conservation purposes.  “It is our desire to see these parcels stay the same. This land is home to wildlife and plants still undisturbed by development and not far from the White River,” said the Blaskis.
“This area remains part of the largest portion of north Muskegon County that has been untouched by development. We support the vision that the Outdoor Education Center folks have been promoting, and this is our way of encouraging the conservation of this entire part of the township.”
The 10-acre chunk of land borders Camp Owasippe, now under threat of residential development. The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America has operated a camp at Owasippe since 1911 and has now applied to Blue Lake Township to have it rezoned for development. The Chicago Council is proposing to divide the land into lots ranging from a quarter acre up to 10 acres, which could mean as many as 1,400 homes on the property. Blue Lake Township planners held a public hearing on the rezoning request on Jan. 14 and will make a recommendation to the Blue Lake Township board by April.
Camp Owasippe and land adjoining it is in the midst of the Manistee National Forest and is home to several endangered species, including the Bald Eagle and the Karner Blue Butterfly. OOEC hopes to manage the property and create an outdoor university offering year-round recreation and educational programs.
Blaskis’ land donation will fit right into the OOEC’s plans, Sener said, and help to protect the White River watershed, a critical component of White Lake and Lake Michigan.
Copyright © 2006 White Lake Beacon

2006 Could See Change in Face, Direction of Area Communities
Sunday, January 01, 2006
The anticipated issues and events of 2006 promise to change the landscape of the Muskegon area for decades to come.
Downtown Muskegon and the Owasippe Scout Camp in Blue Lake Township face significant changes. Along with those equally critical properties, the new year brings decisions that could change the Muskegon Lake waterfront -- from the Sappi Fine Paper plant to the Muskegon Family YMCA.
Political fortunes also could change in 2006.
All of these are among 10 stories that will be closely watched in 2006 by the editors and reporters of The Muskegon Chronicle. There are others -- such as the first indoor water park in West Michigan expected to open in the fall at Double JJ Resort and the ongoing, over-crowding and facilities issues at the Muskegon County Jail.
Owasippe zoning decision:
Blue Lake Township officials are expected to make what promises to be the most important decision of their political lives: Whether to open up nearly 4,800 acres of pristine wilderness to residential development.
If the township board agrees to the request by the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America to rezone its Owasippe Scout Reservation, the land is expected to be sold for $19 million to a Holland businessman and his company for development of up to 1,278 homes.
No matter what the township board decides, the issue very likely will wind up in court. There is fierce opposition to the rezoning plan, which will be the focus of a hearing later this month among township residents and a group of Owasippe camp alumni and others who have been trying to raise money to save the land from development.
©2006 Muskegon Chronicle

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp Supportive With Owasippe
Exerpted from White Lake Beacon story, August 23, 2005
See the news story in its entirety...
Jim Rose, attorney for the BLFAC, thinks Harris [Little Blue Lake resident] and many others are missing the forest for the trees. There’s a much bigger issue involved, according to Rose, and it’s called the Owasippe Scout Reservation and the preservation of a rural Blue Lake Township.
If the township’s variances to Harris stand or it rezones for him, then what will prevent the township from granting the Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts’ request to rezone Owasippe?, asks Rose. And that’s something a lot of area people are opposed to.
The Chicago Council submitted a rezoning request to Blue Lake Township over a year ago to allow residential development at the nearly 4,800-acre Camp Owasippe. The camp has been a Boy Scout camp since 1911 and is currently zoned forest - recreation - institutional to prevent development of the wilderness property. The Scouts have a $19.4 million offer for the property from Holland banker Benjamin Smith III, but only if the township will rezone the property. Many local residents, environmentalists and Chicago Scouts want Owasippe to remain in its pristine state and are opposed to its rezoning. So are those on the board of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.
Rose describes the changes Blue Lake Township has made to its zoning to preserve its ruralness as forward-looking.   “We have the most incredible opportunity to do something (to preserve Owasippe and the rural nature of Blue Lake Township). The only thing that keeps that opportunity open is Blue Lake Township zoning,” Rose said.
“(BLFAC) is one jewel in a crown. The crown is rural Blue Lake Township.”
Rose said the fine arts camp does not want to see the legitimacy of the township zoning ordinance invaded, because if Harris can invade it, the Boy Scouts can too.  “We don’t want to see Blue Lake Township become a suburban area,” Rose said. “We wish the Boy Scouts [Scouter volunteers] luck in keeping it (Owasippe) a camp.”
BLFAC wants to add more land to its vast holdings for the purpose of preserving more township land. Harris’ land is part of its wish list and the camp is still willing to purchase his property for a value equal to houses on it, Rose said.
“(BLFAC) wants a rural wilderness experience that is unencroached upon,” Rose said. That desire is what many want for Owasippe, and to achieve it, limits must be imposed on the usage of land, Rose said.
- White Lake Beacon

CAC Board Votes To Sell ALL of Owasippe!
...but it has not yet been fully negotiated or sold and there has not yet been a transfer of ownership!
On Tuesday, February 22nd, Baden Powell's birthday, the CAC "Ad Hoc Properties Committee" recommend to the Executive Board which recommended to the full board that Owasippe be sold.    These very critical meetings occurred at the Union League Club, 65 W Jackson Blvd in Chicago.  The board meeting ran for over two hours with a great deal of debate and acrimony.
 > The CAC board voted to sell Owasippe by a vote of 14 to 12.  Three of those votes were permitted to be made by conference call and all three voted for the sale and all three were from the Ad Hoc Properties Committee headed by Dennis Chookaszian (BSA National Chrmn of Learning For Life).    This option is apparently now allowed in the council bylaws which were voted in by the board last year along with the other option for the board to vote itself in if it couldn't be elected in any other fashion.  Several known pro-Owasippe board members could not be there to vote, and at least one of them was not overtly given the courtesy of phoning-in their vote.
> While CAC has voted to sell, the deal has not yet been closed and cannot as yet because of township zoning contingencies that must be met.
> Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State and a CAC board member, could not attend the board vote because of government obligations,  but he did send in a signed letter, which was read, showing his opposition to the sale of the camp.   His letter was not permitted as a proxy vote, however.   We are not sure if Jesse White was presented with the option to conference-call in his vote as a courtesy given his obligations and schedule.
> The sales price is $19,400,000 from an investment group headed up by a West Michigan banker by the name of Benjamin Smith III.   We're not exactly sure what their ultimate intentions will be and how they will change the landscape, however one can surmise from prior news stories that it will involve some residential development and Mr Smith has a background in this.    The sale is still contingent on CAC being successful in changing its zoning in Blue Lake Township and Muskegon County as they publicized last August.  That zoning appeal may take awhile and is not necessarily guaranteed to be in favor of CAC.   A Public hearings has been set for Saturday, January 14, 2006, beginning at 10am edt at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. More info will be forthcoming.
> Owasippe is open now and will be in 2006.  Site reservations are being taken for the camp's 95th Anniversary Season.  Applications are now being accepted for next summer's staff. 
>>>IMPORTANT NOTE:  IT'S NOT OVER!   DON'T DESPAIR.   OTHER MEASURES ARE BEING EXPLORED!   KEEP THE FAITH!   Organize families and leaders within your unit and enlist the cooperation of your chartered organization rep to vote on behalf of the volunteer leaders in your troop, pack, crew or post.   Owasippe is a proven commodity and is an important tool in the furthering of Scouting ideals and skills for our youth!   CAC has already taken in $18-million from the Hoover sale. Losing Owasippe's wilderness and wonderful outdoor facilities are NOT worth the extra $19-million that would go into an endowment fund with no guaranteed results and with no other replacement camping facility of the same quality and heritage.   Just how much money is enough for them to effectively operate a council and at what price to the program and posterity???
Also monitor the OSA Website for added information and recommended action as it becomes available and recommended at

Prospective Buyer of Owasippe Has His Say
08/15/2005 - White Lake Beacon Letters to the Editor
Five months ago, Smith & Associates made a commitment to purchase 4,700 acres of property in Whitehall known locally and in Chicago as the Owasippe Scout Reservation. Since that time, summer camping sessions for the Chicago Area council of Boy Scouts have begun, much as they have for the past 90+ years. Since that time, area residents have continued to enjoy the beautiful forests, meadows, lakes and other areas that make this such a magical location.
Some area residents have also used these intervening months to tell me and the Chicago Area Council why they don’t want to see any changes in the property. that’s only natural. Few of us like change and no one is particularly eager to see it in their backyard. Under these circumstances, I understand why the community might be wary of whatever the next chapter ion the history of Owasippe might hold.
While I wish I could tell you there won’t be any changes to the property, that is not the case. I can assure you, though, that it is my intention of preserving as much of this beautiful acreage in its current condition as is feasible. My motivation in purchasing this property was not driven by a profit motive, but rather by an appreciation for the beauty and serenity of this property.
I would ask that residents of Blue Lake Township look at the track record of the Chicago Area Council. The Council has been committed to this property and to the idea of a Boy Scout camp here for a long, long time - even in the face of mounting debt and declining interest on the part of its membership. It has tried to be a good steward of this property.
I would also ask that you look at my personal and professional track record. I’ve been a resident of Holland for more than three decades and am active in the civic and business life of this incredible Lakeshore community. Along with other area residents, I started Macatawa Bank Corp. in 1996 because I believe that community banks are vital to the health of a community. i live in a home that is in the city’s historic district and I operate a business from a historic building, which is the oldest public building in the city. I’ve been involved in a number of preservation projects in Holland - not because it’s the easy or the inexpensive thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.
When I agreed to purchase this property, I repeatedly and publicly stated that I am prepared to preserve the natural integrity of this property and set aside large portions for conservation. That is still the case, but the longer and more costly the process of getting the property returned to its former zoning, the more the property will have to be developed. If our investors grow weary of this process, there are others who are willing to step in - and I can assure you they will not have the same attitude we have.
I would urge the township to carefully review the Chicago Area Council’s proposal and begin discussions on the proposed zoning changes. I hope that we can find a way as a community to sit down and discuss these issues in a way that is productive and respectful. It would be great for our grandchildren to be able to enjoy this lovely acreage and to see it in all its natural beauty.
~ Benjamin A Smith III,
CEO of Macatawa Bancorp
Holland, Mich

OOEC Responds To Prospective Buyer's Plans For Owasippe
August 24, 2005 - OOEC Responds to Benjamin Smith's Letter
- via
Two weeks after comments by the President of the Chicago Area Council in a Letter to the Editor of the White Lake Beacon, prospective developer Benjamin A. Smith III has used the same forum to make public comment about the pending rezoning and sale of Owasippe.
Mr Smith commented that since his purchase offer was made “…area residents have continued to enjoy the beautiful forests, meadows, lakes and other areas that make this (Owasippe) such a magical location.”  He also acknowledges “Some area residents have also used these intervening months to tell…why they don’t want to see changes in the property.”
Ben Smith offers assurance “…that it is my intention of preserving as much of this beautiful acreage in its current condition as feasible.  My motivation in purchasing this property was not driven by a profit motive, but rather by an appreciation for the beauty and serenity of this property.”
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center observes that Mr. Smith proposed his $19-million+ purchase to be contingent on the Blue Lake Township approval of the Chicago Council of Boy Scouts’ rezoning proposal. That rezoning proposal was submitted a half-year before Mr. Smith’s offer and OOEC believes Mr. Smith was aware of the details of the rezoning request and stands squarely behind the Council and the proposal.
The zoning proposal is that 90% of Owasippe would become residential housing while 10% would be preserved.  OOEC notes that the vast majority of the land to be “preserved” is wetlands that by law could not be disturbed.  The single minor preservation concession of the rezoning is 41 acres to assist in the preservation of the Karner Blue Butterfly.
Mr. Smith asks that the residents of Blue Lake Township look at the track record of the Chicago Area Council concerning their commitment to the property and the stewardship that has been demonstrated.  OOEC agrees that a close look is in order. 
Until the 1980’s Owasippe was a property of more than 12,000 acres.  The current rezoning proposal is the final disposal by the Chicago Council of their land holdings in West Michigan.  One needs to just look west and south at the 8,000+ acres already sold in order to realize what is planned for the remainder of Owasippe.  We believe that even the folks now living on former Owasippe property are saying…. ENOUGH!
OOEC recognizes the personal and professional background that Mr. Smith presented in his letter.  However, we do have reservations about just how three decades of civic and business activities in the dramatic development of the City of Holland transfers to the rural character of Blue Lake Township. We observe that the revitalization of downtown Muskegon seems to be a bit more in line with the experience and interests of Mr. Smith.
It would take a huge, and we believe unwarranted leap of faith by local residents, to bridge the gap between the Ben Smith comments about preservation and natural set asides and the proposal presented to Blue Lake Township by the Chicago Boy Scouts.  This is the very zoning approval that Mr. Smith has made his $19-million+ purchase agreement contingent upon.
As we commented earlier this month about the letter from the Council President, Blue Lake Township officials can only respond to what has been presented to them.  We fully support the idea that what’s on paper and being asked for by the Chicago Scouts is the true future proposed for Blue Lake Township. We steadfastly encourage that no residential development become a part of the designated camping land that is the deep rooted character of Blue Lake Township.
Troubling to the OOEC is what seems to be “saber rattling” from Mr. Smith.  We read the following as a threat to the community that is in the process of reviewing its’ future: “…the longer and more costly the process of getting the property returned to its former zoning, the more the property will have to be developed.  If our investors grow weary of this process, there are others who are willing to step in – and I can assure you they will not have the same attitude we have.”
OOEC and many residents are growing weary of the misrepresentations and pleadings that the Council is a victim of rezoning.  The facts do not support these pleadings by the Chicago Council and Mr. Smith.
~ Jim Schlichting
OOEC Development Director

CAC defends its plans for Owasippe
White Lake Beacon, July 31, 2005
Dear Editor,
For the past several months, the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts has been following the letters in your publication about the future of the Owasippe Scout Reservation with great interest. As the members of the Board of Directors and the Chicago Area Council have long known, the beautiful land on which the camp sits has deeply influenced the lives of many people, both in and beyond West Michigan.
As the Chicago Area Council works to resume its zoning conversation with Blue Lake Township, we felt it was an appropriate time to address the community. Much has been said and much has been suggested about this property and how it should - or should not - be developed in the years ahead.
I think it’s important to remember where and how these conversations first began. The Chicago Area Council, which has had a presence in West Michigan for more than 90 years, first began publicly exploring options for Owasippe in 2002. At that time, the camp’s zoning would have allowed for residential development.
After learning of the council’s explorations, Blue Lake Township changed Owasippe’s zoning to a single use - youth camping - without talking to the Chicago Area Council. Less than 3 percent of the children we serve in the Chicago area use this camp annually. Although there are many reasons for this decline, it is not a result of a lack on our effort to promote camping. Simply put, times are changing and as much as we would all like to see a resurgence in interest in camping from the Scouts we serve, we do not feel this is likely.
We have been trying to work with the township to return the property to a more appropriate zoning category. We are very pleased to have secured Ben Smith as the prospective buyer of the property. Ben has strong ties to the Lakeshore community and has expressed a commitment to preserving portions of the property in its current natural state. He has also worked closely with the Scouts to ensure that we will be able to continue using the Owasippe property. We feel strongly that his values are in line with those of the Scouts - and with the community as a whole.
The plan we have proposed is not radical. In fact, it would allow for fewer homes to be built on the property than the previous zoning that was taken away from us. Zoning application aside, however, the council wants to emphasize its desire to work with Mr. Smith, the township and any other interested party to preserve as much of the property in its current condition as possible.
We understand from letters in your paper that the township shares this goal and has gone so far as to begin the process to obtain state funding to purchase some or all of the property from Mr. Smith. The council is prepared to support these efforts, but is troubled by the fact that the township has, to this day, never discussed these options with our representatives. We have similar goals, so why aren’t we working together?
The Scouts believe that everyone’s interests will be best served by a cooperative effort to preserve as much of the reservation as possible. Anyone who has purchased a home knows that sooner or later, you need to talk to the owner of the property. We strongly encourage the township to work with us and not against us, to realize our shared hopes for this property.
~ Lewis Greenblatt
President, Chicago Area Council BSA

OOEC's Rebuttal To CAC President's Defense Of OSR Residential PLan
August 4, 2005 -
More than a year after the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts applied for a total rezoning of the Owasippe property for residential development, Lewis Greenblatt, President of the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts, has publicly commented about the rezoning request and pending sale.
In a “Letter To The Editor” published in this week’s White Lake Beacon, Greenblatt reflects on the influence the property has had on the lives of many and he acknowledges the controversy the rezoning request has created.  He then goes on to position the Chicago Scouts as a victim of a rezoning of the property and calls to “…return the property to a more appropriate zoning category.”
Greenblatt reaffirms the contingent sale of the property to Ben Smith of Holland, Michigan and contends that “The Plan we (the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts) have proposed is not radical.  In fact, it would allow for fewer homes to be built on the property than the previous zoning that was taken away from us.”
The Scout Council President goes on to say “Zoning application aside, however, the council wants to emphasize its desire to work with Mr. Smith, the township and any other interested party to preserve as much of the property in its current condition as possible.”
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center observes that this effort to communicate with the community is laudable but is long overdue.  The Council began their effort to divest their camping property holdings three years ago and presented their proposal for rezoning to Blue Lake Township a year ago.  
It is clear, as specified in the Councils’ rezoning application, that it is their intention to preserve about ten percent of the property and have ninety percent of the property for various densities of residential development.
OOEC believes that the Blue Lake Township officials are handling the entire rezoning proposal correctly and in the best interests of the entire West Michigan community.  What has been presented in writing, both the original rezoning application and the recent impact study supplied by the Council, are the only facts that can be evaluated.
We observe that the Chicago Area Council BSA has a long and consistent history of asking for, and receiving, tax abatements on their property. The Council requests were based on their own contention that the highest and best use of the property is for camping and related activities. 
It is also our observation that the current zoning of ALL FIVE CAMPS in Blue Lake Township was established through years of work, by the township, on a Master Plan that reflects the highest and best uses of properties and desires of the community as a whole.  This Master Planning process included the participation of the Chicago Area Council BSA.
OOEC again reaffirms that the Owasippe property is unique, a natural treasure and should remain as a camping, educational and recreational resource.  If Mr. Greenblatt and other officials of the Chicago Council have been reading the comments that have been made about the future of Owasippe, we have to wonder what part of NO RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT they don’t understand.
~Jim Schlichting
Development Director
Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, Inc
143 W Sherman Blvd, Muskegon MI 49444

Congrats To Those Who Voted Against The Sale!
A VOTE against the sale of Owasippe is a vote FOR its preservation and sustenance and FOR its continuance in serving our youth and traditional Scouting...WITH the "outing".  After all, if gone...what do we have, what legacy is there to carry on, where does our youth conduct their outdoor program lacking the tremendous facility developed and utilized for the last ninety-four years????
Atta-boys and Kudos go out to those representing the values and interests of all frontline Scouters.  We THANK those Twelve that voted Against the sale of Owasippe and APPLAUD their courage to do so in the face of intimidation and difficulty:
> Peter Conway, District Chair - Indian Trails
> Bill Egan, District Chair - Arrowhead
> Rita Egan, Board Member
> Glenn Emig, District Chair - Ft Dearborn
> Raymond Galassi, Board Member & Assoc O/A Lodge Advisor
> Herb Goode, Board Member
> Davis Johnson, Board Member
> Mark Linse, Council Commissioner
> Joe Sener, Board Member & Chrmn Owasippe Committee
> Vince Sheridan, Board Member
> Howard Shermerhorn, Board Member
> Larry Strickling, VP District Operations & Board Member
AND...What about the others, you say?  Those that voted FOR the sale and who turned their backs on the will of frontline Scouters?
Those That Voted FOR The Sale Of Owasippe:
> Denni$ Chooka$zian
> Larry Green
> Lew Greenblatt
> Harry Harczak (cc)
> Mike Hughes
> Camilla Moore
> Dick Morrow
> Bill Saltenberger
> Ron Skwarek (cc)
> Gerald Smith
> Tom Thilman
> Louis Vitullo
> George Walper (cc)
cc = conference call participant
Still looking for #14, but 13 is still unlucky enough.  I still wonder how the three CCs happened to be the ONLY ones enlightened enough to have participated in the conference call?  Keep these folks lit up on your radar screens.  How many of them can lay claim to have been at Owasippe, visited with a Scout troop, talked with Scouts or Scouters at a program area, hiked to Owasippe's grave and Paradise Valley, or cast their eyes at the  majestic flight of Owasippe's eagles?  You also wonder what truly guides them or how they could be so easily misled into thinking they were doing the "right thing"?  What motivates such people to deprive Scouting of such a beautiful gem of a facility after already being flush with ca$h and providing for no other camping facility in their inventory?  How can they in good conscience turn their backs on our Scouts and on 94 years of history?  Why, oh Why?
BUT...keep in mind that there may be a signed contract but it has to close before the camp is lost to Scouting and the wildlife is evicted.

>>> CAC Board & Executive Officers

from the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center,
In late May, representatives of The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) participated in a meeting, organized by State Representative David Farhat, with Rep. Farhat and representatives of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).  Also attending the meeting were officials of Blue Lake Township and the County of Muskegon. 
The MNRTF is the Michigan authority vested with granting oil and gas royalties to local governments for the preservation of natural resources.  Any grant from MNRTF requires an application process that can take up to a year for processing.
Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Chairman Joe Sener stated, “The OOEC has steadfastly said that this is an issue of preservation of the property, not of OOEC ownership.  We continue to seek and support every effort to keep Owasippe whole, not subdivided for residential development.  We have been promoting the OOEC vision for three years now, and we believe the OOEC efforts have been positive for the West Michigan community.”
Sener said, “A combination of grants and investment money can be brought together to provide the Chicago Area Council a reasonable amount of money for the value of the Owasippe property.  The Scouts have held it close for their program needs for so many years but now find it easy to toss nature away and solely look to private residential development as their final parting mark on the community.”
The OOEC project office in Muskegon continues to serve as a clearinghouse for information, resources and outreach for the goal of creating a year-round world-class Education Center that will have a positive economic and environmental impact for West Michigan and the nation.
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center vision is detailed on

CAC Professionals Visit Camp Makajawan
Reliable sources have reported that Northeast Illinois BSA Council professionals showed CAC professionals around Camp Makajawan on the Memorial Day Weekend.  The witness saw gray tabs, CAC council and DE patches on the uniforms.  They spent time at East and West Camps but most of the time was at Camp Wabaningo.   The source also overheard talk about building a dining hall.  NEIC have talked about a new dining hall for the last 7 years at East Camp.
From  "Camp Wabaningo is located on the western side of the main highway, across the road from the primary part of camp and even beyond the horse ranch and maintenance facilities.  Camp Wabaningo includes two campsites (complete with latrines), an assembly field (also suitable for soccer or softball), a showerhouse, a firebowl (right on the lake), and a swimming area."   Note: The original Camp Wabaningo (Potawatomi Chief in the Whitehall Area) was located on Duck Lake near Scenic Drive southwest of Whitehall and closed in 1968.
Makajawan's period schedule mirrors that of Owasippe's and the camp is always at full capacity during 5th and 6th.  We're not real sure about the other weeks, but Makajawan is known to be popular with very few site vacancies. 
Camp Makajawan is a 1,500 acre scout camp near Pearson, Wisconsin (about 6-hours from downtown Chicago) and 25 miles northeast of Antigo.  It is owned and operated by Northeast Illinois Council BSA based in Evanston.  It first opened in 1928 and now consists of 1,560 acres of forests and has two lakes and a natural creek. 

Sale of Scout camp has led to impasse, some say
July 4, 2005, Chicago Sun Times


Bickering about the sale of Owasippe, a beloved Midwestern Boy Scout camp, has stymied some decision-making within the Chicago scout organization, according to foes of the purchase.

A meeting is planned Tuesday for Scout leaders to discuss "an impasse in local Scout administration in the Chicago area for more than a year,'' according to the Web site of the Fort Dearborn District of the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. That district covers much of the city.

Internal politicking has been problematic, said Phil Niziol, a CAC member and Scout leader.

"It's down, dirty; it's secretive,'' said Niziol, an opponent of the Owasippe sale.

The CAC has rejected three slates of board members put up by a nominating committee, largely "to show Lew [Greenblatt, council president] and the board that 'we do not like what you're doing,'" Niziol said.

In February, Greenblatt announced the camp's purchase by a Holland, Mich., banker and other investors.

Another slate was blocked by Greenblatt and his allies, according to Niziol and Ron Kulak, another foe of the purchase. Kulak is a volunteer with the Owasippe Staff Association, and his wife is on the Michigan camp's staff. Kulak said his CAC membership was suspended for a year after he led a protest against the sale.

<<< Camp had declining attendance >>>

Greenblatt and supporters of the sale could not be reached for comment Sunday, but administrators of the Chicago Boy Scouts have said they were forced to consider the transaction because of declining attendance at Owasippe, maintenance costs and budget shortfalls.

The meeting of Scout leaders is set for Tuesday evening at European Chalet Banquets, 5445 S. Harlem. "The focus of the meeting is not going to be on Owasippe, but just to get this stalemate over with," Kulak said.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

[Note:  While the camp some years ago had declining attendance, it has been increasing over the last four summers and appears to be on par this summer with perhaps a slight increase at best over 2004 when it camped 3,800.   The camp is under contract to be sold to Benjamin Smith and his investment group from Holland, MI, but this is contingent on the camp's zoning to change to accomodate residential development.  Owasippe is scheduled to be open in 2006 and is presently entertaining camper reservations.]

Planners disappointed in CAC studies
July 3, 2005 - White Lake Beacon story
Lake Wolverine, part of the 4,700-acre Camp Owasippe in Blue Lake Township could have 2.5 acre lots around it if a rezoning request is approved by planners.
Blue Lake Township planners are expressing disappointment after reviewing last Wednesday the studies they asked the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts (CAC) to conduct on the impact of residential development on the 4,700-acre Camp Owasippe.

Lyle Monette, chairman of the Blue Lake Township planning commission, said last Friday he was disappointed in the report and plans to meet with the township’s attorney, Doug Hughes, to discuss their options.  The study of the impact of residential development on traffic, fire safety, sewage and water in Blue Lake Township was conducted by JJR, LLC and submitted to the township on June 23.
Devon Schindler, the attorney representing CAC, said that same day he was hoping the completion of the studies would now force the township to hold the public hearing he’s been waiting a year for on CAC’s rezoning application.
CAC, which has operated a Boy Scout camp at Owasippe since 1911, wants to rezone the property for subdividing into 1/4-, 2.5-, 5- and 10-acre residential lots. CAC now has a buyer for the property if the rezoning is approved by the township. Holland developer Ben Smith III offered $19.4 million for Owasippe this past February, though he says he yet has no plans for the property.
Schindler said on June 23 that Smith and CAC have had several inquiries from conservancy groups interested in keeping portions of the camp in its current undeveloped status. Schindler would not say what conservancy groups they’ve been talking to, but said Smith is interested in conserving “a big chunk” of Owasippe. CAC’s rezoning application only seeks to conserve about 475 acres of the property’s nearly 4,800 acres.
The impact studies CAC has submitted to the township make comparisons between the zoning the council is proposing and a former zoning of the property that is no longer applicable to it. Schindler said he was told by the township to assume a “total build-out” of the property, something he says is unlikely and speculation at best.
Last week, Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven said CAC was only asked for an impact study based on what they planned to do with the property.
>>> Story continues via this weblink:
Copyright © 2005 White Lake Beacon

Can The State (of Michigan) Save Owasippe?
State, county and township may unite to secure a grant to place the land in a public trust.
By Debra Carte, White Lake Beacon, 05/31/2005
[Photo caption: "Beautiful Lake Wolverine and the 4,700 acres of pristine land, called Camp Owasippe, could be saved from developers if the township and county are successful in procuring a grant from the state to put the land into public trust."]
Those rallying to save Camp Owasippe, 4,700 acres of pristine nature owned by the Boy Scouts of America since 1918 and sold earlier this year with contingencies to a Holland developer, are about to have their hope renewed now that the State of Michigan is expressing its interest in the property. 
Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven said last week an effort is underway by State Representative David Farhat to secure the funding needed to turn Camp Owasippe into a state or county park or both.
Studaven and Farhat recently met in Blue Lake Township with those who could prove instrumental in bringing that about. Two agents from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF), Muskegon County Administrator Jim Borushko, Muskegon County Commissioner Chuck Buzzell and representatives from the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) toured the Owasippe property and then sat down to discuss what they could do to put the land into public trust.
MNRTF could provide a state grant that would require matching funds from those local governments involved in the purchase of Owasippe, whether it be Muskegon County, Blue Lake Township or a consortium of local municipalities.  “I think we got some people on board,” Studaven said. “They (MNRTF) had no idea we had anything like on this side of the state. I know they were blown away by what they saw.”  Owasippe is currently undeveloped and home to several pristine lakes, dense forest, marshes and protected species, like the Karner Blue Butterfly.
Farhat told the Beacon last Wednesday he’ll leave no stone unturned in the effort he’s spearheading to place Owasippe into some sort of public trust.  “What we’re trying to do is to find ways to help facilitate at the state level a way to keep Owasippe intact and get it in some type of local ownership,” he said.
Farhat invited MNRTF to Blue Lake Township so they could see firsthand what it is he and many others believe is worth keeping out of developers’ hands. But Farhat, a developer himself, said he’s not trying to undermine the deal already worked out between the Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts of America and Benjamin A. Smith III, the Holland banker and developer who’s offered $19.4 million for the property if Blue Lake Township will rezone Owasippe for residential development. The Chicago council accepted the offer, but the township has yet to schedule a public hearing on the rezoning request made by the Boy Scouts over a year ago.
Farhat said Blue Lake Township first needs to have a parks and recreation plan on file before an application can be made to MNRTF. Studaven said the township has already commissioned one that would be complete by the end of the year, but they may not need the township’s plan to make MNRTF’s August 1 deadline if Muskegon County comes on board. That’s because the county already has a parks and recreation plan. Studaven said if the township partners with the county or any local government that has a parks plan, the August 1 deadline could still be met.
Farhat said Blue Lake Township doesn’t have the resources itself to come up with the funds needed to match a state grant.  “They need the county,” he said.  Borushko was on vacation late last week and was not available for comment.  Farhat said Borushko and Buzzell sensed the importance of preserving Owasippe.  “You can’t be from Muskegon and not appreciate what we have there (at Owasippe) and not want to protect it,” Farhat said.
But it’s the county’s and all local municipalities’ fiscal problems that could put a damper on the plans.  “They have some problems fiscally,” Farhat said. “It’s a very inopportune time.”  That problem, said Farhat, could be resolved by preserving Owasippe incrementally. Farhat speculated that Muskegon County could own part of the land; Blue Lake Township, another; and the state set aside a portion as a state park.
Farhat said he doesn’t believe Blue Lake Township’s infrastructure could support the level of development being proposed by the Chicago council’s rezoning request.  “The highest and best use of that land is some sort of public trust,” he said.
Copyright © 2005 White Lake Beacon
VOICE YOUR OPINION. Open the following link, click "Voice Your Opinion", and have your say from the heart...

Owasippe Outdoor Education Update
March 24, 2005
Blue Lake Township received huge support of their current zoning as the Muskegon Conservation District passed a formal Resolution to NOT change the zoning of Owasippe.  A copy of the Resolution comes as a part of this update.
In light of the drastic rezoning that the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America has asked for, this Resolution clearly puts the Council proposal at odds with the nature of Owasippe.  The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center proposal preserves the current zoning and includes the ultimate in preservation of nature, a Conservation Easement.  A Conservation Easement would assure that the wildlife, flora and water resources of Owasippe would be available for generation after generation.
With all of the good work that The Nature Conservancy has done across the globe it is tough to disagree with them.  However, disagree we must.  With The Nature Conservancy being the chosen conservation voice of the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center feels The Nature Conservancy is giving their endorsement to a rezoning plan that is far from protecting the environment and nature that they profess to protect.
Only 476 of  the 4,765 acres of Owasippe would be designated as Conservancy Districts.  Much of that is already federally protected watershed.  OOEC does not subscribe to the position that 10% of Owasippe is all that needs to be protected.
The “foot prints” of development are already established on the Owasippe property.  Proper management will allow year-round use of the property by tens of thousands of people from Muskegon County, West Michigan and the World.  Isolated Conservancy Districts that The Nature Conservancy has given their blessing to will NOT allow for the public to enjoying the nature of Owasippe.
Help spread the word with these 3.5” x 12” stickers that are perfect for outdoor display on vehicles, windows or any other smooth surface.  We are in the process of finding public locations willing to keep a supply of these stickers on display.  We will list locations in future Owasippe Updates.  Also, if you have a group who are willing to support the SAVE OWASIPPE effort we can arrange for enough stickers to be sent to you.   <Arrangements are being made to get Scouter distributors in each of CAC's districts to handle bumper sticker sales.>
The suggested donation is $2.00 (or more) per sticker.  They are available by mail.  Please send $2.50 (including return postage/handling) to:
Owasippe Outdoor Education Center
143 West Sherman Blvd.
Muskegon MI 49444
Proceeds from the sticker sales will go towards the costs of keeping the Owasippe property from private development.  You will be helping to cover the costs of purchasing the property, keeping this office open, legal expenses and consulting costs.  Your donation is tax deductible!
OOEC wants to thank Nick Groszowski of Norton Shores, Michigan for developing the sticker campaign.  Nick also is arranging for large vinyl banners for roadside display to help the Save Owasippe effort.   <Why not have one outside where your troop meets or for your campsite while your unit is at Owasippe?>
If you live in the West Michigan area and would like to support the OOEC effort with a yard sign, please let us know.  Give us a call at 231-733-0557 or write to the address above.  Costs vary by sign size.   Thank you, Nick, for all the help!
All of this effort is needed to show visible wide spread support for preserving Owasippe.  Without such support it will be easy for public officials to assume that there is little interest in preserving the nature of Owasippe.
The OOEC will continue forward with the vision that Owasippe is much too important to sell for residential development.  It is our intention to go forth with our Plan that REQUIRES NO REZONING OF THE PROPERTY.  It is our firm belief that the current zoning was determined to be in the best interest of the people of Blue Lake Township, the nature of the area, and the quality of life in West Michigan. This is the highest, best use of the property.
It is our belief that there is a role for an investor in the Owasippe property.  We believe there can be economic reward for the investor and be consistent with the OOEC vision, with no change of the zoning.   The OOEC will attempt to open a dialogue with any investor that would share our vision and continue the effort of saving the final wilderness area in Muskegon County.  Saving it for all of our youth and adults in scouting and other youth organizations, from here and beyond, for now and for generations to come.
Write letters to the editors of the Muskegon Chronicle, White Lake Beacon, Holland Sentinel, and Chicago Tribune.  Your opinion to one or all of these publications is valuable and important at this time.  It is the opinion of the public that will make a difference in the results down the road.  If a community is silent there will appear to be no grass-roots concern.  With no concern, there is no reason for public representatives and officials to do anything but allow development happen by the highest bidder.
Here are the people to write to:
Mr. Gunnar Carlson - Editor         Mr. Greg Means - Editor
The Muskegon Chronicle              The White Lake Beacon
981 Third Street                              432 Spring Street
PO Box 59                                         PO Box 98
Muskegon MI 49440                       Whitehall MI 49461
Fax: 231-722-2552                            Fax: 231-894-2174
Mr. Jim Timmermann - Editor         Mr. Don Wycliff - Public Editor
The Holland Sentinel                        The Chicago Tribune
54 West 8th Street                              435 North Michigan Avenue
Holland MI 49423                               Chicago IL 60611
Fax: 616-393-6710                               Fax: 312-222-2598
Chicago Tribune On-Line Letters To The Editor:
Form letters usually are less effective when a group is trying to campaign for a cause.  Once published, the form letter is not repeated in print.  We encourage you to express your "personal" feelings in your letters.  All of us sometimes need a little help to get our thoughts together so we are offering the following observations/comments that may help you get your ideas and feelings flowing:
* Blue Lake Township should not be turned into a suburb.
* It has been a camp and unofficial nature preserve for over 90 years and should stay that way.
* We want this treasure preserved for our children and our children's children.
* We want to partner with someone who can find a use for Owasippe instead of seeing it sold to the highest bidder.
* Blue Lake Township changed the zoning and lowered the taxes for the Chicago Boy Scouts.  If the Scouts want to sell for million$, then charge them back taxes.
* If the property is worth $19.4 million now, it was worth close to that over the past years.  Bill the Chicago Scouts back taxes.
* 19 endangered species living on the Owasippe property are worth more than $19.4 million.
* All the talk by politicians about conservation and preservation of natural resources is just talk if the Owasippe wilderness is sold to the highest bidder.
[You get the idea!]  Again, let your personal feelings and observations be the basis of your letter.

The additional help that you can offer is financial.  It is evident that the challenge to preserve Owasippe is a longer road than any of us could have imagined a year ago.  Thank you to those who have supported our effort thus far.
The bottom line is that more effort is needed to keep the effort going.  Even operating a small part-time office, researching the financial resources for the property purchase, the cost of legal and other expertise to reach the goal is costly.
Please support our effort with a donation.  Your support is tax deductible and will go directly to the effort to fulfill the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center vision: Owasippe not rezoned and an Outdoor University for West Michigan and the world.
Check our updated web site at ...where you can also find a Pledge/Donation form and other useful information.
~ Joe Sener, Chairman OOEC <>
{NOTE:  And...Be assertive, Be positive, Be encouraging, Be Scoutlike, and plead your case to the general public.}

Blue Lake Township Reaches Out To Muskegon County
White Lake Beacon - April 17, 2005
by Debra Carte, Beacon writer
Blue Lake Township has officially appealed to Muskegon County officials for technical help as it deals with a request from the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts (CAC) to rezone the 4,700-acre Camp Owasippe for development.
Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven made the appeal to the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday afternoon. Displaying a color-coded map of Blue Lake Township, Studaven pointed out the camp that encompasses nearly a fifth of the township’s total 23,000 acres.  “I want you to try to understand this from some of the people’s point of view and how so many of us feel in Blue Lake Township (about Owasippe),” Studaven told commissioners.

From Sunday,  April 3, 2005
Muskegon Chronicle
Thank you for your recent editorial with the kind words of support for the Blue Planning Commission and the challenging task that lies ahead of us.  
A rezoning request was made by the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America concerning their impending sale of the 4,700 acres of pristine woodland and lake property located at the Owasippi Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township.  The planning commission is currently pursuing many resource avenues in our information gathering mode and we most certainly welcome any and all public and governmental input regarding this rezoning request.  We have invested untold hours researching the Owasippi issue during the past several months and will continue to do so until it’s time to make a decision.
At some point in the coming months there will be public hearings for all concerned to give a voice to their position and hear presentations regarding the scout’s rezoning request.  A request to rezone such a large parcel representing over 20 percent of Blue Lake Township’s total area will impact all of Muskegon County and West Michigan at various levels, so all residents should see this is much more than just a Blue Lake Township issue.
Our small township is by no means in a position to handle the kind of explosive potential new growth that total development of this scale could bring.  However, we are certainly not anti-growth or development but must rely on and follow the township’s master plan, which incidentally is scheduled for review this year.
The primary question at stake here is whether the preservation of virgin wilderness forest land that is home to many protected species of plant and animal life in addition to an almost 100-year tradition of youth camping areas can coexist with large-scale planned residential development.  Decisions we make now will have enduring influence on the use of this land for many future generations, so our decision must be made with extreme care, sensitivity and consideration for all.
We encourage all interested parties to provide their input to any of the planning commission members through either the mail in care of Blue Lake Township or direct contact by e-mail, providing suggestions and positions in writing rather than verbal form.
Lyle Monette
Blue Lake Township Planning Commission
1491 Owasippe Rd
Twin Lake, MI 49457

(CAC) Boy Scouts Rebuke 3 Leaders
Organization cites protest activities
By Joseph Sjostrom, Tribune staff reporter
Published January 14, 2005
Citing violations of Boy Scout rules and "un-Scoutlike" behavior, Chicago-area Scout officials suspended an adult volunteer leader and reprimanded another for acts related to a rally protesting council policies, according to the leaders and Scout officials.
The two leaders--and a third who was suspended--have been outspoken critics of the council's top officials and of a proposal by the council to sell part of its 7-square-mile campground in Michigan.   All three say the council is trying to silence criticism of Boy Scouts leadership and policies. 
"I'm outraged that [the suspensions and warning] are being used to prevent us from expressing an opinion," said Ron Kulak, who was suspended for one year for violating a directive from a Scout official to not include Scouts in a September rally.  "It's ironic," he said. "You'd think the Boy Scouts of America would be guarding our constitutional right to stand up and promote our point of view."
John Hosty of Merrionette Park was reprimanded for mocking the merit badge program at the rally and elsewhere.
Francis Podbielski of Riverside was suspended for 90 days for obstructing a council employee at a Scout meeting in December.
The three received their punishments in certified letters sent last month and signed by the president of the Chicago Area Council's board of directors, a board member and the council's chief executive officer.
The Boy Scouts have deleted a link on their official Web site to a site maintained by a North Side unit that contained a written description of the suspension and reprimand.
"None of this should have been made public," said Ryan DiBernardo, a spokesman for the Chicago Area Council.  The area council includes Chicago, plus a few adjoining northwest suburbs and 17 south and west suburbs.  
Leaders and adult volunteers in the council have been divided in recent months over plans by the council's board to sell part of the Owasippe Scout Reservation, the council's 7-square-mile campground in Michigan, and over election of the council's officers and 57-member board of directors. The slate of board candidates--composed mostly of incumbents--has been rejected three times by volunteers with voting status in the council.
The three who were disciplined dispute the reasons why they were punished.    According to the letter Kulak received, the Chicago Ridge resident was suspended for "promotion and encouragement of youth involvement" at the Sept. 4 rally, a violation of a directive from Scout board member Mark J. Linse.  DiBernardo said the directive to Kulak was verbal. Kulak, 54, an assistant leader of a North Side Boy Scout troop and an adviser to South Side Scout groups, said Linse had raised the issue at an unrelated meeting of Scout leaders before the rally but did not issue any orders.
DiBernardo said Linse's order was based on a Boy Scouts of America rule that prohibits involvement in partisan or political events as organized Scouting.  "The rally was considered partisan, hence the problem with the kids being there," DiBernardo said.
Kulak said he, Hosty and other organizers of the rally distributed fliers and sent e-mails to other Boy Scouts leaders saying "Scouts and Parents Welcome" and "Uniforms Preferred but Optional" and "Not an Officially Sanctioned BSA Activity."   "We invited everybody to come," Kulak said. "In the case of youths, it's a parental decision. Kids can't just leave the house and go downtown on their own."
Hosty, 38, received a letter stating he had made a "mockery of the merit badge program and [made] misleading statements" on merit badge requirements at the rally and elsewhere. It warned him that such behavior in the future could result in revocation of his membership.
Hosty said he indicated from the podium that Scouts could use their attendance at the rally, or their interest in the campground, to fulfill certain merit badge requirements.  "I don't know how I mocked or misled, so I don't know how I could modify my behavior except to not open my mouth," said Hosty, an assistant leader of a Southwest Side troop. He said he would continue to speak out on issues he considers important.  "I'm trying to teach the American way to my son and daughter, who are both in Scouting," Hosty said.
Podbielski received a letter suspending his membership for 90 days for bumping a council staff member and blocking the staffer's path at a meeting on Dec. 1.  Podbielski denied that he jostled or bumped anyone but conceded that he blocked the way of a staffer who was approaching a newspaper reporter because he thought the reporter was going to be ejected. Those attending the meeting said no one interfered with reporters after the meeting.
The council staff and board "want us to go away," said Podbielski, a Blue Island troop's representative to the council. "We are asking questions that they don't want to have to answer. ... I don't know of any democracy or any corporation where the leaders could be voted out three times and still keep their positions."
Richard Gudmundson, assistant leader of a Boy Scout troop on the North Side, said others have spoken about the actions but have no specific knowledge of it.  "I am concerned as a Scout leader that if I express my opinion, it could result in revocation of my registration," Gudmundson said.
© Chicago Tribune
PS:  Here's the link to the Tribune to send a "letter to the editor"...
PPS:  Dr Podbielski's suspension has expired, and he reapplied for registration in CAC and was granted back his position as COR for the Knights of Columbus which sponsors several units on Chicago's South Side and in Blue Island.  Ron Kulak remains suspended to December 24, 2005, and is banned from council properties including Owasippe.  His appeal for reinstatement was rejected per a CAC "committee".

Scout Council Votes To Sell Boy Scout Camp
CBS-TV, 9&10 News, in Cadillac, MI, and
KWOC-TV6 in Quad Cities/Rock Island, IL
CHICAGO (AP) - The Boy Scouts Chicago Area Council is selling its summer campsite in Michigan to an investor group for $19.4 million dollars.  The council's board of directors approved the sale of the four-thousand-800-acre Owasippe Scout Reservation yesterday. The reservation is near Muskegon.  The board had been discussing the sale for months. The buyer has been identified as a group run by a Holland, Michigan banker.  The Chicago Area Council will hold camp this summer on the Michigan property. But the council says it doesn't know where camp will be held after this year. 
Copyright © 2005 Heritage Broadcasting Group. All rights reserved.
AP material is copyright © 2005 Associated Press.

Banker to buy Boy Scout land near Whitehall
Macatawa Bank founder finalizing $19.4 million deal for 4,700 acres
By PATRICK REVERE, The Holland Sentinel
February 24, 2005
The founder and CEO of Macatawa Bank is finalizing a deal with the Chicago Boy Scouts council to purchase 4,700 acres of forest land near Whitehall, about 12 miles northeast of Muskegon.  Benjamin A. Smith, who also operates Smith & Associates, a Holland investment group, said the deal would be final following Blue Lake Township's approval of zoning changes to allow for a variety of low-density residential uses.
"This is kind of a special deal," Smith said Wednesday. "I don't consider myself to be a developer at all. It's not my forte. But this property was such an interesting piece ... that I felt it would be something that I would be proud to be associated with."
The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America approved Smith's offer for the Owasippe Scout Reservation during a Tuesday night meeting, according to David Schindler, an attorney for the Boy Scouts.   Dennis Chookaszian, a member of the Chicago council, said the 14-12 vote to approve the $19.4 million sale will better serve Chicago youth than retaining property that is a five-hour drive from the metro area.   "The council's objective is to create a quality scouting experience, not land ownership or land conservancy," Chookaszian said.
The deal calls for at least 476 acres of the most ecologically sensitive areas to be left undisturbed, though Smith said his goal is to build on the least number of residential parcels needed to make the deal financially feasible. Smith said no specific development plans are in place, but that there will be no commercial or industrial development associated with the project.
Under a rezoning plan recommended to the township by the Chicago Scouts, the smallest residential parcel available would be 2.5 acres, with other areas available for development on 5- and 10-acre parcels. The land borders the south bank of Big Blue Lake and encompasses Wolverine and Sauger lakes.
Schindler said the Chicago Boy Scouts began considering the sale of the property, which the council has used since 1911, more than two years ago because of its decreasing revenues and the increasing costs of maintaining the property. He said the camp at its height had a capacity for 16,000 campers during a summer season, but during the last two decades has seen a steady decline in campers. Last year, only 2,700 campers used the reservation.
Alex Rossman, a spokesman for The Nature Conservancy in Lansing, said the Owasippe camp is one of the largest intact tracts of open private land in the Lower Peninsula. He said The Nature Conservancy has been working with the township and the Boy Scouts to maintain the sensitive ecology of land, and would continue to do so with any new owner.   "Our stance is that while the ownership of the land is changing, the importance of the conservancy of the land remains just as strong," Rossman said. "One of our approaches, that is really the benchmark of our program, is to understand that conservancy is market driven, and being able to work with the buyers rather than working against them is the most important thing.
"We're really not a controversial or adversarial organization," he said. "We understand that land is a commodity ... and we try to achieve conservation while still meeting the needs of the owners."

by Jim Schlichting, OOEC
As 2005 arrives the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center project continues to move ahead.  We have several important items to report.
OOEC has selected Frank Bednarek of Whitehall as the OOEC Project Administrator.  Frank is the past Muskegon County Administrator who has been recognized as a visionary for successful economic development.  There is a long list of successes in Muskegon County that were accomplished with Frank in a leadership role.
Beautiful Heritage Landing would not be the home for Summer Celebration and other West Michigan Festivals, as well as a host site for “Tall Ships” and other activities, without Frank’s leadership.  During Frank’s time in County Administration, many additional great projects were successfully completed including:  Great Lakes Downs, The Lakes Mall, Lakeshore Marketplace, Muskegon Trolleys, the New Baker College campus and much more.
Frank has been down the road we are traveling before!  His County position had him involved when another Scout camp was to be sold.  At the time Boy Scout Councils were consolidated in West Michigan, Camp Shawondossee on Duck Lake in Muskegon County was headed for residential development because it was “excess property” owned by the Scouts.  A bit of protest and legal challenges held off the residential development and in 1988 Duck Lake State Park was dedicated. 
You can learn more about OOEC’s Project Administrator with a visit to his Web site .

A meeting is being discussed for the middle of January, in Chicago, for the full presentation of the current OOEC Proposal.  At that time it is anticipated that a cross section of the CAC Board will hear a complete presentation of the proposal from Chairman Joe Sener, Project Administrator Frank Bednarek and the OOEC’s initial Business partners.
Many months have passed since the Proposal was sent to the Chicago Council.  During that time OOEC has been able to share it’s vision and receive ever-growing support from individuals and groups in West Michigan.  It is the OOEC’s continuing belief that the highest and best use of the Owasippe property is as a world-class “Outdoor University” for summer camping and more activities 12 months a year.

During the time leading up to the November elections the OOEC was active in presenting its vision to all candidates for local and state offices.  All candidates were provided Owasippe background information and information about the OOEC Proposal.
During a “town hall” style meeting of the four candidates for the Muskegon County State Representative seats (91st and 92nd Districts), each was asked to state their feelings about the development of the Owasippe property.  All four candidates made it clear that they favored no residential development and would support efforts to find State economic support for the type of plan that OOEC has developed.

We have learned that the road to success is a long one.  It is also costly to keep even a “bare bones” effort going.  Your dollars have helped us keep the message of OOEC visible and viable.  We know there are more costs down this road that OOEC will have to pay.
If you have not sent in your pledge amount, please help by doing so now.  If you have made a financial contribution, please consider adding something more to the OOEC effort.  Send your tax-deductible donation to:  Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, 143 West Sherman Blvd, Muskegon MI  49444.

Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Info Update
October 15, 2004
As the colors change and we prepare for long nights and winter beauty, I’m pleased to give you an update on the progress of the OOEC.
During the past month, we have continued to enjoy growing support from many West Michigan community members and have announced our first Business Partner in the creation of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center.    Our partner is a successful learning and professional development company.  Through a Whitehall, Michigan, association, their desire to find a “home” for their teaching and conference needs was matched with the OOEC goal of establishing a world-class Outdoor Education Center.  The melding of our individual goals has been exciting.
With the initial financial commitment documented in a “Letter of Intent,” we have proposed to the Chicago Area Council, BSA, that they consider a lease/purchase agreement with OOEC.  We are awaiting the Council’s response and a date to begin those discussions.
Over the summer, the Chicago Area Council proposed an extensive rezoning of the entire Owasippe property.  That proposal is in the hands of Blue Lake Township officials for their consideration.  The OOEC has also presented an overall “Site Plan” indicating over 75 features and activities for the Owasippe property.  The Plan would conform to the current zoning of the property under the current FR-I zoning.  A copy of the OOEC Plan is available on our web site.
Gordon Zion continues as the OOEC Development Director.  After doing the “heavy lifting” of establishing the Muskegon project office, Zion has turned the day-to-day activities at the office to Jim Schlichting, a founding Director of OOEC.
With a lead Partner stepping forth and providing some of the initial property investment as well as a long-term revenue stream for OOEC, expanded discussions with other potential OOEC stake-holders is taking place.  Our overall goal is still to purchase the property as well as establish an endowment to help assure continuing maintenance revenue. 
Our thanks go to Emil Rousseau of ARAMARK at Grand Valley State University for inviting OOEC to serve concessions at home GVSU Lakers football games.  The service will bring together many supporters of OOEC for a fun event that will help raise dollars for OOEC.
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has established a presence on the Internet at  All of the latest news and information available concerning OOEC activities is now located at one dedicated site.  We thank the Owasippe Staff Association and others for their help and support that included posting information during the formative months of OOEC.
Over the past several months, requests to hear the message of OOEC have been continuing.  Several service organizations, area homeowner groups and others have heard directly about the work being done to establish OOEC.  In September, OOEC hosted White Lake Chamber of Commerce members as well as Blue Lake Township officials and residents to a dinner and campfire at Owasippe Scout Reservation.
A special thank you is in order to our American Indian friends who opened our September campfire and provided ceremony, dancing, singing and drum performances.  To hear their drums and voices echoing through the Owasippe woods and across the waters of Lake Wolverine was very special and beautiful.
We have worked hard to put forth the OOEC vision to our West Michigan community.  The following resolutions passed by various agencies and organizations show just some of the support we are receiving. We thank each of these, and the many other organizations who are doing what they can to help us reach our goals:
• County of Muskegon – Board of Commissioners on 3/9/2004
• State Senator Gerald Van Woerkom on 3/4/2004 (Letter)
• The City of Whitehall – March, 2004
• The City of Montague – March, 2004
We are proud to share with you the progress being made with our campaign and reconfirm to you our dedication. We appreciate your interest and support of the creation of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center!  If you have questions concerning our efforts please feel free to contact me (847-846-3198), our Directors or staff (231-733-0557).
~ Joe Sener, President OOEC

A Response To Concerns About The OOEC Proposal
by Jim Schlichting, OOEC Staff
The concerns about the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center proposal are reasonable.  They deserve comment.
The overall goal of OOEC is to place a Conservation Easement over the undeveloped portions of Owasippe. Think of such an easement as a wholesale preservation of the forests, flora, fauna and water so that they are not disturbed in the future.
Also in the OOEC goals is to have the developed portions of Owasippe to be available year-round where such use is practical. The Conference Center is envisioned in an area such as Reneker or Staff Village where the developed area is well defined and basic infrastructure is in place.
There will be changes made to accomodate the facilities.   However, everything will be restricted to within the "footprint" of current development with encroachment into the areas protected by the Easement prohibited.
Paved areas where 12 month a year access is required is possible for safety and maintenance concerns.   Hikes by campers to the Ad Center or Reneker happen now and I would imagine likely would continue.
The reported $200-600 thousand yearly loss is supposedly an "operating loss".   Not included in an operating loss are the costs avoided through deferred and preventive maintenance. The gross revenue that OOEC is projecting certainly is needed to net the needed revenue to rebuild, remodel and maintain all of Owasippe from the underground and up.
Here's an observation that helps describe the type of problem often overlooked in the currently developed areas of Owasippe:
The Reneker cabins were, in the mid-60's, designed and equipped for use before and after the summer season (not for winter use). There were fireplaces in each cabin to get through the chilly late spring and early fall days. Fire codes required the removal of the fireplaces and no appropriate heating was installed. The result is that the potential use of those 40 cabins ($$'s) in the beautiful fall and spring seasons was eliminated.
The cell tower idea went through the Council Camping Committee at a time when no service provider was awarded the area. Perhaps it is time for that idea to be addressed again.
I hope this helps explain that the OOEC plans are a balance between preserving what we all love and the reality of covering the associated costs.
NOTE:  The OOEC can be reached at 231-733-0557; their mission and plan is fully revealed on their new website at



OOEC Presents Its Plans For Owasippe

by Debra Carte, White Lake Beacon Staff Writer, 09/20/2004

The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) announced last week it has secured a business partner and has submitted its own plan for the 4,800-acre Camp Owasippe in Blue Lake Township to the Chicago Area Council, BSA.
OOEC presented a site plan and proposal for the use of Owasippe to the Chicago Area Council (CAC) last Tuesday. It's asking for an exclusive agreement to operate and manage the Owasippe property on a "revenue sharing basis."   The agreement between OOEC and CAC is to provide for the current Boy Scout summer camp and to retain a conservation easement throughout Owasippe.
Jim Schlichting, assistant development director for OOEC, said last week there will be no need for rezoning as recently proposed to Blue Lake Township by CAC. CAC wants to rezone Owasippe from its current Forest/Recreational/Institutional designation, which allows Owasippe only to be used as a youth camp, to several residential zones to make the property more attractive for sale to developers.   OOEC's proposal for the use of Owasippe was also submitted to Blue Lake Township officials last week. Schlichting said OOEC wanted the township to know there's now an alternative to CAC's plans for Owasippe.

The alternative includes opening up the reservation, a private preserve for the Scouts since 1918, to the public with some 75 program activities. A proposed $25 million learning and conference center is expected to generate annual revenue of $10-15 million.   About 40 acres of Owasippe's 4,800 acres is to be used for the conference center.  But, said Schlichting, no currently undeveloped portion of Owasippe is to be dug up. The 200-room facility that includes a 20,000 square-foot meeting area, is to be placed where current development is, at the family camp on Holton-Whitehall Rd. or at staff village.
The conference center will be available to the community, organizations, youth programs, corporations, schools and others. It is to be financed through a $30 million bond issue and a $2-4 million investment from OOEC's new business partner.   OOEC now has a letter of intent from an unnamed business partner headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, with offices also in Washington, D.C. and here in Whitehall. According to OOEC's development proposal, OOEC's first business partner is an international e-learning and performance development company with large sales channels and Fortune 100 clientele.
OOEC Chairman Joe Sener said in a written release that discussions with its first business partner have extensive and exciting.   "At long last, we were able to come forth with what we feel is the cornerstone for the future of Owasippe. One of the first comments we go, almost two years ago, was the need for a facility to host small conferences and retreats. This proposal will bring that facility to Muskegon County along with a generous number of bookings of the facility built in."

Schlichting said OOEC now has a "bankable deal," but there are other financial pieces yet to be worked out. He said CAC has held meetings on OOEC's proposal since presented to them last Tuesday.

CAC officials could not be reached for comment.

- @ White Lake Beacon

NOTE:  For more information on the mission, plan, and organization of the OOEC, go to their NEW website at

On Their Honor, Scouts Will Do Best To Save Michigan Camp

by Lori Rackl, Staff Report - Chicago Sun Times, 09/05/2004
The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America had better "be prepared" - for a fight over the fate of the oldest and one of the largest Scout camps in the country.
Dozens of Scouts from the city and the suburbs picketed Saturday outside the council's Chicago headquarters, protesting the council's plans to sell much of the sprawling Owasippe Scout Reservation in Western Michigan.  "This is the kind of place you need to keep around for a long, long time," said 16-year-old Scout Chris Pennant of Chicago.  "I've been going every summer for six years, and I've never failed to have a great experience."
Council leaders say the 4,800 acres - some of which might be developed into houses and condos if Michigan officials agree to a zoning change - would bolster the council's budget and funnel cash toward much-needed improvements at Owasippe, said Dennis Chookaszian, a council board member.  He estimated the whole parcel could be worth as much as $20 million.  "The council has two alternatives," Chookaszian said.  "It can sell some of its land and use the money to provide a better camping program on the remaining land, or the council can go out of business and provide no camping program at all."
Scouts and Owasippe staffers opposed to the sale say the reservation already is less than half its original size thanks to the council selling off sections over the years.  Although fewer Scouts spend a summer week at Owasippe now than in the past, attendance is starting to rebound.  They say the camp could make money if it were open for more of the year and hosted paying school groups.
They also note that the council's financial forecast shouldn't be as bleak now that it recently sold its Hoover Outdoor Education Center near Yorkville (IL) for $18 million.  "That should have righted the ship," said Ron Kulak, a Scout leader from Chicago Ridge and board member of the Owasippe Staff Association.  "We need to keep the camp as it is so we don't go squandering another resource," Kulak said.  "We don't want another single acre lost or developed.  It's not just for ourselves.  It's for the environment."
- Chicago Sun-Times

Camp caught between memories, red ink
September 5, 2004
By Joseph Sjostrom, Tribune staff reporter.
(Tribune staff reporter Hal Dardick contributed to this report)
Owasippe Scout Reservation--a serene 4,800 acres of woods and lakes near Whitehall, Mich., and a summer draw for Chicago-area Boy Scouts for nine decades--has become a battleground. The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America is considering selling parts of the camp in order to offset the council's $1.4 million annual operating deficit.
Local opponents of the sale, and their allies from the camp's Michigan environs, staged a rally Saturday outside the council's headquarters at 1218 W. Adams St., Chicago.   About 120 people, including men and boys in Boy Scout uniforms, took part.
"If they sell a part, they will sell it all," said Craig Johnson, 61, a former Chicago Scoutmaster who now is the Scouts' Ft. Dearborn district commissioner.   Johnson recently took his grandson, James Johnson, 11, to the camp. It was his 50th trip and his grandson's first.  "It's so valuable, we can't lose this," he said. "There are other camps, but nothing like Owasippe. So, we have to stop it."
In Michigan, the township where the camp is located has rezoned the property to bar residential development. And a group of former campers and staffers is suggesting the property, about 200 miles from Chicago, be kept and put to year-round use.   "Owasippe has been underutilized for years, and the [council] virtually refuses to make off-season use of it," said Joe Sener, chairman of the Chicago council board's camping committee. "Then they wonder why it doesn't make any money."
But other council leaders say camp usage has fallen to a tenth of what it was at its peak, in the 1960s, and that the sale of some Owasippe land could finance much-needed upgrades to the property and to the camping program.  "We have a huge piece of property that we can't run and can't protect," said Dennis Chookaszian, former chief executive of Chicago-based CNA insurance who chairs the council board's committee on Owasippe issues.  "We can run a good Boy Scout camp on a few hundred acres. We don't need 5,000."
Selling land at Owasippe is not new. Once nearly 10,000 acres, the council sold about 5,000 acres in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, said Ron Kulak, a board member of the Owasippe Staff Association who first visited the camp when he was 11 in 1965.  Kulak worked at the camp as a young man, and it's where he met his wife, Marilyn, who still works there, as do his four sons, all of whom have attained the Scout rank of Eagle. He now is one of the leaders of the opposition to the sale.
To raise funds, the council recently sold its 408-acre Hoover Outdoor Education Center in Kendall County for $18 million to CorLands, which plans to resell it to the local Forest Preserve District, and is looking at the possibilities at Owasippe.  The Hoover sale, Kulak said, "should have lightened the financial ship.  Why the rush to sell this off?" He fears any development on the site as a result of a sale would degrade the camp's environment, which he said is home to 19 endangered species, including Blanding's turtles and Karner blue butterflies. It's also home to five bald eagle nests, he said.   "It will continue to degrade and ultimately it won't be the same wilderness experience it once was," he said. "Our goal is to have a conservation easement put over the entire site so there is no more development."
About 400 acres on Big Blue Lake, where Camps Blackhawk and Hiawatha Beach are located, would bring the best sale price, board members say. However, they say much of the remaining acreage also might be offered for sale to "conservation buyers," who might build some homes but leave parts of it undeveloped and available for Scouting activities such as orienteering, hiking and horseback riding.
`It's all about money'
"It's like you want to make money so you build condos in the Grand Canyon," said Reinhard Plaut, an at-large council member who took part in the rally. "This property should not be given up to developers."
"It's all about money," he added. "Unfortunately, the Scout values on the professional level have been reduced to dollars and cents."
The plan also has produced strong opposition from residents and officials in Blue Lake Township, where Owasippe and several other summer camps are located. Two years ago, in a move to preserve its open spaces, the township--without asking the Boy Scout councils--rezoned all camps in the township from a category that permitted private residences on 2 1/2-acre lots in addition to youth camps to a category that allows only camps.
At the same time, a group of former campers and Owasippe staff members, organized as the Owasippe Staff Association and the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, have been attempting to stall the land sales plan. The groups are researching the feasibility of putting the Owasippe land to use year-round for camping, winter sports or a conference center to increase its cash flow.   "The mission of our organization is to buy the camp from the council and keep it as it is," said Gordon Zion, development director for the Education Center. "To rezone the property as residential would destroy it."  His group hopes to find an outside party to buy the camp and "operate it as an outdoor education center year-round for groups all over the region," like the Girl Scouts, YMCA and Indian Guides.
Doubts about off-season use
Chookaszian said off-season use has been researched but found to be without financial promise.  "We've tried on multiple occasions to make year-round use of Owasippe," he said. "It sounds good, but fundamentally it's next to impossible to do."   Since opening in 1911, the Owasippe camps have been used mostly by Chicago-area Scouts, particularly during Scouting's peak membership years. In the 1960s, Owasippe had 13,000 Scouts per summer, each staying for a week or more at one of seven separate camps.  Now, usage at Owasippe is down to about 1,300 Chicago-area Scouts and another 1,300 Scouts from outside the Chicago area during the six-week summer season, said Anthony Gibbs, the Chicago Area Council's assistant chief executive.
This year, 8th grader Joe Wenger spent part of his summer finding his way through the camp's woods using a map that shows its natural and man-made features as he tried to earn an orienteering merit badge.  "It's nerve-racking when you get lost," said Wenger, a member of Troop 923 in the West Rogers Park area. "We took a `scenic detour,' but eventually we found our way back."
Need for improvements
Council leaders said the property is large enough that Wenger and fellow Scouts can get lost among its rolling hills. But the camp is in dire need of improvements that they simply can't afford, they said.
Owasippe had an operating deficit of about $200,000 in 2003, Gibbs said, and he estimated this year's deficit will be about the same. The Chicago Area Council as a whole had an operating deficit of about $1.4 million in 2002, the last year for which figures are available.
Facilities in Owasippe's 150 buildings need at least $2 million in repairs and upgrades to water, electrical and telephone systems, Gibbs said. The council also needs to demolish several buildings that were destroyed by arson fires in the largely unguarded property, he said.
Owasippe closed its Pioneer and Wilderness campgrounds on Big Blue Lake around 1960 but still operates the Blackhawk and Hiawatha Beach camps on the lake and the Wolverine, Carlen and Crown camps on Lake Wolverine.
Owasippe owns roughly half the shoreline of Big Blue Lake; the rest of the shoreline is owned by other camps and by about 80 private homes.
The Chicago Area Council has applied to the township for a restoration of residential zoning. The council envisions selling some of the Big Blue Lake property and consolidating its camp facilities on Lake Wolverine, a smaller man-made lake that works well for aquatic activities such as swimming and canoeing, Chookaszian said.  "Clearly, the portion around Big Blue lends itself to development," he said.   "It's a recreational boating lake that could be developed with [homes], consistent with what's on the lake already," Chookaszian said. "Wolverine is by far the most valuable camping property."
Camp experience unchanged
Meanwhile, the camp still offers the same experience as it did years ago, say leaders and campers.   "This year, I was a counselor in training and I went through all five of the activity areas: scoutcrafts, nature, shooting, aquatics and handicrafts," said Jack Schmidt, 14, of Skokie, another Troop 923 member.   "The eagles are an awesome sight. The quaking bog is so cool. You jump on the ground and see the waves go and go.  "I had a blast. It's an experience you can't have in the city."
Johnson, the grandfather who recently made his 50th trip to the camp, said that kind of reaction is priceless.  "What price do you put on these little guys that want to go up there and learn this stuff?" he asked.
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune
WEBMASTER NOTE:   Just under 200 "Friends Of Owasippe" participated throughout the morning at the rally and march.   Some came as far away as Blue Lake Township, MI, and Michigan City, IN.  The event was considered a success and energized volunteers and brought awareness to the plight of Owasippe.   Media coverage was excellent with TV stations 2, 7, 9, 32 and CLTV on site along with the newspapers Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago City News Service.    WBBM News Radio 78 aired reports during the day on Friday.   Both Sunday papers featured stories on the rally and march.    There may be some followup stories and editorials in the very near future.
Those Friends Of Owasippe who would like to comment on the rally and march and further explain their position and rationale to the CAC board of directors regarding the preservation of the camp may do so to the group identified in the below link...

>>> CAC Board & Executive Officers

Friends Of Owasippe Unite At "Hands Across the Waters"
 by: Debra Carte, White Lake Beacon, August 16, 2004

Morning Snow Bear, a member of the Sioux Nation, lives in Grand Rapids, but her heart resides at a land left pretty much as her ancestors would have known it.    Now, the area she cherishes, the area she worships in, some 4,700 acres of land, called Owasippe in Blue Lake Township, are being threatened by those who measure value by dollars rather than as Morning does, by tree, flower, deer, butterfly,
and eagle.
"I started following the eagles in the early spring,"  said Morning who holds a long-time camping permit to the Blue Lake County Park.   "Then, I heard that one of the nests might be a condo. People were asking,  'What can we do?'"

"We can have unity and have hands across the water," she answered.
And that's what she and hundreds of others will have today, Sunday, Aug. 15, beginning at noon at Big Blue Lake, just off shore from her beloved eagle's nest at Owasippe's Camp Blackhawk.  "Hands Across the Waters" is an event organized by Morning and her friend, Judy Steffen, to unite all friends of Owasippe in a span of boats and anything that floats across Big Blue Lake in a gentle protest against the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts' plans to rezone Owasippe for development.

Camp Owasippe, established in 1911, is the oldest operating Boy Scout Camp in the United States. It consists of virgin land home to various ecosystems, watersheds and wildlife habitats, including those of the endangered American Bald Eagle and the Karner Blue Butterfly.  "We want to show everyone and the birds and Grandfather Sky that they matter," Morning said.

The Chicago Area Council (CAC) claims that Camp Owasippe has been a continuing cash drain on them and needs to sell some or all of the property.  CAC applied to Blue Lake Township three weeks ago to rezone the property to quarter acre lots around the south undeveloped side of Big Blue Lake, and two and a half, five and ten acre parcels elsewhere around the property. They are proposing to set aside 476 acres as conservancy districts to protect the watersheds and the habitat of the Karner Blue Butterfly.
The rezoning application is now in the hands of Blue Lake Township planners. A public hearing is tentatively being planned for late September. A date for the hearing will be set at the planners' Aug. 25 meeting.

Participating in the Hands Across the Waters event will be the tribal friends of Morning, Blue Lake Township residents, Sierra Club members, Scouters, various environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone with concerns about the plight of Owasippe.   "This is not an Indian issue," Morning said.    "It's for everyone."  

It's even for those who may live far away from Owasippe in body, but not in mind. Morning said a family in England with heart ties to Owasippe has sent the Union Jack to be flown during the Hands Across the Waters event.  "They couldn't be here, but they'll be here in spirit," Morning said.

Steffen, who lives in Holton Township, but close to Big Blue Lake, said Owasippe and Blue Lake have always been important to her family which participate in many outdoor activities there.  "We want our kids to respect the land," she said.  She hopes the show of support for preserving Owasippe will steer the sale of the property to those who will be environmentally responsible in managing it, like the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC).  "The OOEC is trying to purchase or oversee the land to use it more intelligently," Steffen said.

OOEC announced recently they have several conservancy groups interested in the property and hope to have a commitment from one of them by the end of this month.  Those attending the Hands Across the Waters event with boats on trailers are asked to launch from Camp Deremo around the corner from the Blue Lake County Park on Nichols Rd. Canoes, kayaks and inflatable rafts can be launched from the county park. The wearing of life preservers is encouraged.

©White Lake Beacon 2004 

Webmaster's Note:  The event was held on a picture-perfect day with roughtly 157 people in attendance from the various groups referred to in the above story.   Included among the participants were members of both the Potawatomi and Ottawa Nations (some of whom were tribal council members), a number of Chicago Area Scout leaders, a rep from Grand Valley State University, some public officials from Blue Lake Township and the surrounding area, and many residents from the
local community.   Thirty-five boats formed a unity circle on the lake while those without watercraft did the same on land.  A chief of the Ottawas was on hand to convey a blessing on the land and water, upon its conclusion, one of the eagles soared at treetop level in agreement.

> Muskegon Chronicle Story On HATW Event

> Eagle Slide Show

> American Bald Eagle

OOEC Continues Funding Efforts
Posted 7/26/04, Owasippe Staff Association
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center effort to purchase the 4,700+ acre Owasippe Scout Reservation is continuing. Joe Sener, Chairman of OOEC says, “We have made inroads with several entities that give us a firm financial base to work with in building our purchase proposal to the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.”
In response to the rezoning proposal that the Chicago Scouts have presented to Blue Lake Township Joe stated, “The OOEC is steadfast in the opinion that the highest and best use of the property is, as the people of Blue Lake Township have clearly indicated, for camping type activities. Our vision of an Outdoor University with local ownership and abundant local opportunity of use will preserve the natural beauty and resources that can never be replaced. We are pleased that the Chicago Council continues to keep the door open for our purchase proposal.”
Sener commented, “We fully understand the reasons that the Chicago Scouts have gone forward with their rezoning proposal to Blue Lake Township. Economics drive everything. We are also confident that a total purchase proposal from OOEC will make the most economic sense to the Council.”
Addressing the question of a timetable OOEC’s Chairman said, “We have had several timetables based on assumptions that have proven to be optimistic. Having never been down this road before, we have learned that portions of raising a large amount of money seem to fall together as pieces of a large puzzle. We’ve got a lot of the pieces, we are seeking the final ones.”
 For more info: Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, 231-733-0557

Boy Scouts Consider Selling West Michigan Land For Funds
July, 24, 2004
By Susan K. Treutler, Muskegon Chronicle
Boy Scout officials have taken the first step toward selling parts of their 4,700-acre camp in Blue Lake Township.  
But a plan for the sprawling Owasippe Scout Reservation, released Friday, calls for large portions of it to be conserved as a Boy Scout camp or in its natural state.  An attorney for the council called the plan a "compromise" that balances the needs and wants of residents, Scouting supporters and the fiscal responsibilities of the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which owns the camp.
The plan that the Chicago Area Council was to present today to Blue Lake Township officials included a request to rezone part of the camp to R-1, for residential development.  The rezoning would allow the council to sell portions of the property to a developer or individuals for homes, condominiums or hunting cabins.   Boy Scout officials said they have been talking to builders and others who are interested in camp property, but have made no deals and have no set timetable for any sale. 
When asked about marketing the property, officials said no decision has been made. They said they want the rezoning to protect the "value" of the land.  It is now zoned forestry-recreation, which they said has essentially made it "worthless."   How that plan will be received is unknown.  Township Clerk Fred Arbogast Sr. said Friday afternoon he had not seen the report and could not comment on any rezoning questions. In addition, he said he could not comment on any direction the board may take regarding the request.
The Boy Scouts have said they need to sell at least portions of the camp to help fund Scouting programs.  The Chicago council has for several years absorbed annual losses of $200,000 to $600,000 on camp operations, and must think first of the 60,000 Boy Scouts it serves in the Chicago area, said Grand Rapids land-use attorney Devin Schindler.   "Fifty-percent of those kids are at risk because they are from single-family homes or living in poverty," said Schindler, who represents the council.  The council has a duty to have enough money to provide for those children, he said.
Township officials, neighbors and camp supporters are concerned about selling the property.   The council has given time extensions to a group of former campers and counselors who have tried to raise enough money to buy the camp and establish an endowment for its operations.
Gordon Zion, a professional fund-raiser who is heading the Owasippe Project Campaign Office, said he is not worried about the zoning request from the council.  "I've gotten no indication the township has changed its mind" on what it wants for the property, Zion said. 
He said he hopes to have a deal by August to save the camp. He mentioned two possible prospects, but did not reveal names of individuals or organizations.   "We are chatting with an organization about building a conference center, to be used to help a lot of groups. There is no end of things going on," Zion said.   When told of Zion's response, Schindler said: "I look forward to Mr. Zion's offer.  We are interested in what he has to say."
But in the meantime, the council is going forward with its request to rezone the property.  Schindler said there is no price that can be put on the land, but the greatest value is on the southwest side of Big Blue Lake where the zoning request calls for houses or condominiums in clusters with most of the land left as is.   The proposal calls for the area around Wolverine Lake to remain a Boy Scout camp.  The request reflects the council's desire to conserve as much land as possible while still raising money to support Chicago-area Scout activities, Schindler said.
Shortly after the council announced in October 2002 that it might sell the camp, the township board rezoned the property to "forest-recreation." It effectively limited the property to use as a camp, according to the council.
The council subsequently sold a camp in Illinois for $18 million, and bought some time to make decisions regarding Owasippe.
The rezoning plan was drawn up by JJR SmithGroup, of Ann Arbor, and the council sought the advice of the Michigan Nature Conservancy and West Shore Consulting, Schindler said.
© 2004 Muskegon Chronicle. All Rights Reserved.
For A Followup Story from The White Lake Beacon...
* Boy Scouts Proceeding With Owasippe Development *
(By: Debra Carte - Beacon staff writer, 07/26/2004)
The Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, has applied to Blue Lake Township to rezone the 4,700-acre Camp Owasippe in an effort, it says, to rectify the township's "taking" of the property.  Continue via the below hyperling...

>>> Webmaster Note:  What the above articles refer to is the proposed sale of ALL of the Blue Lake property...Blackhawk, Wilderness, developers.   The story doesn't refer, however, to OTHER proposals being reviewed by CAC for the sale of possibly 40-50% more of the reservation to other prospects, some of whom may be neighbors of the camp and other private parties, with no guaranties of continued use by Scouts.    All of this happens in the throes of Owasippe having a banner year with good attendance and with its facilities and program areas being filled to the max with many re-ups for 2005...along with new units seeking to come there next summer.   So, go figure.

OOEC Adds Additional Development Staff

posted 8/12/04

Muskegon, MI – The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, Inc. (OOEC) is adding Whitehall resident Jim Schlichting to its local Development Office staff. Schlichting is an originating Director of OOEC).

Joe Sener, Chairman of OOEC, announced, “Jim will be working with Gordon Zion, our Development Director, to help bring all of the elements together for our purchase proposal to the Chicago Scouts. Jim’s experience in broadcast management for almost three decades, where he worked with a vast number governmental, not-for-profit and commercial companies, will help us at this point in time.”

Sener further commented, “Schlichting’s been associated with Owasippe since 1965 and a White Lake resident for more than 20 years and is Secretary of the White Lake Eagles Club. We are fortunate to have Jim’s vision and dedication to our mission added to our effort.”

Gordon Zion stated, “Adding Jim to the Development staff at this point in time is good. The work I’ve been doing has yielded OOEC impressive nationally and internationally recognized sources of support. OOEC is now getting the final local elements needed to bring the project home, and Jim will be most helpful.”

Zion also commented, “It’s been almost a year, and a wonderful experience, working to establish the Muskegon office of OOEC. The “heavy lifting” of getting OOEC established has been accomplished. I have additional obligations, with continuing clients in other parts of the country, that I must also take care of over the next several months.” Gordon went on, “I’m confident that OOEC will reach its goals, and I’m proud to continue as Development Director of OOEC with the help of Jim Schlichting in the Muskegon office.”
Owasippe Outdoor Education Center

YOU CAN Be Of Help To The Save Owasippe Effort!
May 10, 2004
   The OSA reports yet another $5,000 donation presented to the OOEC from a private resident of Blue Lake.   At the time Gordon Zion received the $10,000 contribution for the OOEC via Nancy Frye, another pledge was given to him for an equal amount.   In just the past month, the OSA's Save-Owasippe-Fund has been enhanced through a handful of individuals for nearly $2,000.   Save Owasippe T-shirts have also been sold @ $30/ea whose proceeds all go directly to that fund.   A collective "Thank-You" goes out to all who have helped financially.
   Those able to add to prior donations or contribute for the first time are encouraged to do so to assist this effort to preserve Owasippe for the generations.   Yes, you CAN make a difference with your $10-$100-$1,000-$10,000...Whatever!   Donations can be made payable to the Owasippe Staff Assoc c/o the Save-Owasippe-Fund at PO Box 7097, Westchester, IL 60154.   Inquiries and donor referrals can also be sent directly to OOEC Chair Joe Sener at  It should NOT have to be said that this is the time for participants to step up and not for spectators to emerge just to watch and wring their hands.  This is the time for those who care to whatever form that might be in.   We are in the late innings of a crucial ball game and the bench is getting thin.  
   We need your help and the help of others.   It's time for many to get on board for an old fashioned "barn raising" that used to be commonplace back-in-the-day when neighbors and citizens banned together for the common good.  Except, this time around, our "barn" is Owasippe.

Save Owasippe Update 4/20/04
By Joe Sener
The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center and our Development Director, Gordon Zion, continue to drive toward the successful solution of turning Owasippe into an outdoor university for the youth of America.   To date, we have $40 million worth of proposals out requesting funds to support our efforts, and we have a meeting scheduled with 23 different parties in late April. This meeting will include nine representative politicians from West Michigan (U.S. Representatives, State Representatives, county representatives, mayors and township representatives), seven foundations who have expressed an interest in our proposal, and five corporations or banks who are supporting us.
This week, we were presented with two personal checks for $10,000 each, along with a $5,000 check from a private resident on Big Blue Lake. Community leaders are coming out to support us, and we will be there to help them learn more about the opportunities the OOEC represents for their constituents.
Stick with us and continue to support us as you have in the past. We are staying the course and look forward to a successful conclusion. See you at Owasippe!
-- Joe
OOEC Contacts
Joe Sener: 815-444-6270
Gordon Zion: 231-733-0557
PS - We have been able to sustain the fight to save Owasippe through the generosity of a great number of people. As you may know, this fight has drawn heavily on the Save Owasippe Fund. A hearty thanks goes out to those who have helped along the way.  And for those who have not yet fulfilled your pledges, now is the time.

CAC Scout Executive's Message - April 2004 Scouter
Dear Fellow Scouters:
If anyone would have told me 30 years ago that I would be the Scout Executive of a big city council, I would have naively thought that was exciting.  Now, older and I hope much wiser, I realize that with excitement comes a great deal of responsibility:  a responsibility to a staff of dedicated professionals to provide them with a vision for Scouting in a council; a responsibility to a team of remarkable volunteers to lead them in the right direction; and a responsibility to keep the Scouting promise to the young people in the Chicago Area.
So, when I hear that these individuals to whom I have this responsibility have concerns about the future of Scouting in our council, I feel that I must address those concerns.  First and absolutely the most important concern that I would like to address is the issue of providing a quality outdoor experience to each young person who joins Scouting.  There is no Scouting without "outing".  And, rest assured that the Chicago Area Council will always make camping a priority.  Each district in the council does have a year round camping program. 
Whether a Cub Scout, Boy Scout or Venturer, each district has day and/or weekend camping experiences planned to keep the "outing" in their Scouting.
Second, I would like to address concerns regarding the message from our Council President in the March 2004 issue of the Scouter.  In his letter, our board president Lewis Greenblatt, stated that the board is exploring various alternatives regarding the sale of all or a portion of the Owasippe Scout Reservation.  He also stated that nothing is imminent and no action will be taken until any proposed transaction is presented to the board for its discussion and consideration.  I would like to assuage any concerns that anyone has regarding the focus of our board of directors.
The Chicago Area Council board of directors is a group of men and women committed to Scouting.  Some are Eagle Scouts, some attended Owasippe Scout Reservation, some have or have had children in the program, and all want to ensure that the youth of the Chicago Area have the opportunity to be involved in Scouting and with a quality camping program.  Their charge is to do what is in the best interest of the Chicago Area Council in providing Scouting to all youth in its service area.  This is a charge that they take very seriously.  No decision is made lightly.  I am confident that whatever decision that they may ultimately come to in regard to the future of Owasippe Scout Reservation or any other board level decision will be just that - "in the best interest of the youth we serve".
Scouting has been a significant part of my life and I take my responsibility to its preservation and future very seriously, as I know that the board does and as I am sure you all do as well.
Yours in Scouting,  James D Stone
Webmaster Note:  The CAC Exec Committee finalized the sale of the 450-acrea Hoover Outdoor Education Center in Yorkville, IL, for $18 million with payments coming in three installments.   The first payment was received and the council is expecting its 2nd anytime soon.

$ave Owasippe Fund Still Needs Donations!
>>> People willing and able to contribute toward the Save Owasippe Fund should do so c/o The Owasippe Staff Assoc and earmarked for "Save Owasippe".    This fund is to assist the OOEC with the preservation of Owasippe and to address necessary infrastructure repairs to continue the camp's operation.   Further referrals to other donor prospects for solicitation in this effort would be appreciated.   Pledge-Donor Forms are available on the OSA's website at and their mailing address is PO Box 7097, Westchester, IL 60154... or click-onto the "Word" file below.   All checks should be payable to the "Owasippe Staff Assoc" or "OSA".
Please Note...Under no conditions will these funds be surrendered outright to the Chicago Area Council BSA for their general use as they are being held in trust for the preservation and continued operation of Owasippe...only! 
We are in need of Millions...otherwise Owasippe faces the possibility of being partitioned and sold off to developers and others who would not be interested in a cohesive camp and nature preserve.   To them, the scouting legacy and tradition and heritage mean...nothing.   Even if a smaller Owasippe remains, it would never be the same and civilian encroachment would doom the land and outdoor resource as we have known it.
Jim Adamitis Says... "Save Owasippe T-Shirts Are Here"... See below
Story.   These shirts will be given out with donations of $30pp or $20pp if a group of 10 or more would like to place an order (troop?).   
You can also go below a bit and click open the "Word" file, SOSR Pledge-Donor Form, provided herein for your convenience.   Please feel free to copy this form and pass it around to your friends, relatives, and Scouting associates.   SPREAD THE WORD AND SHARE THE WEALTH...TO SAVE OWASIPPE.

> CLICK HERE For SOSR Pledge-Donor Form


County should find a way to help Owasippe

03/04/2004 Editorial, The Muskegon Chronicle

If Owasippe Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township is sold by the Boy Scouts of America, the impact won't just fall on Blue Lake Township.

The repercussions will be felt countywide as the 4,800-acre nature conservatory is carved up like a side of beef to developers and then sold off in pieces and chunks for new housing, condos or golf courses. Arguably, this might be called "progress," but we don't think so. You don't throw away treasures like green space and woods lightly these days. You never get it back.

Owasippe has been on the ropes since it was announced that a financial and membership squeeze at the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America had forced a move to put this property on the block. The news has galvanized Owasippe's supporters -- among them many former campers -- to save what all believe is not only a vital green enclave in Muskegon County, but a priceless piece of our past.

The odds are against them. To save Owasippe, its supporters have to find $17 million or something pretty close to it in order to postpone or avoid a sale to developers. Efforts are under way to do just that, and Muskegon County has been asked to pitch in with a $1.5 million contribution by the professional fund-raiser and former Boy Scout who is leading the Save Owasippe effort.

The county's response was less than encouraging. Looking at the gloomy economic cloud that continues to hang over our state, Administrator James Borushko's response was, "I think it's impossible."

Clearly, the county, which has a ton of obligations, shouldn't bust the bank, especially in these tenuous times. But if it can so, it ought to lend a hand in some way to the Save Owasippe effort. Perhaps some promotional tie-in with either the Muskegon Air Fair or the Muskegon Summer Celebration might be arranged. Perhaps an administrator might be assigned to find a grant that might be available.

There are many worthy causes in Muskegon County. Rescuing Owasippe is surely one of them.

© 2004 Muskegon Chronicle. Used with permission

A Message from the CAC President:

Dear Scouters:

On behalf of the Chicago Area Board of Directors, I would like to bring you up to date on the status of the Hoover Outdoor Education Center and the Owasippe Scout Reservation.

As many of you are aware, pursuant to the Board of Directors approval, in December, 2003, the Council sold the Hoover Outdoor Education Center to Corlands, for use as a recreational facility. At the time of the sale, we received $6M and pursuant to our agreement, we will be receiving the balance of $12M over the next two years or sooner. These funds have enabled us to repay our bank debt and will free funding for the hiring of additional District Executives and stabilizing our operations to serve the needs of our traditional membership.

While the sale of Hoover has temporarily relieved some of the intense economic pressure on the Council, it does not eliminate the necessity of our dealing with our operations in a fiscally responsible manner, including our current efforts with Owasippe, which is substantially underutilized and has need for substantial capital improvements. In that regard, the Board is currently exploring various alternatives regarding the sale of all or a portion of Owasippe. Once a plan has been agreed upon by the Executive Committee, it will be presented to the Board as an agenda item at the Board meeting and no decisions will be made without first obtaining Board approval.

For the past year and a half, the Board has supported and still supports Joe Seners efforts to obtain funds for the purchase of Owasippe. Inasmuch as he has been unable to obtain financial commitments for funding to date, we have advised Joe that we are seeking other alternatives, but will still leave the door open to him, should he be able to raise sufficient funds prior to our committing to other transactions. Though we are hopeful that Joe and his group will be successful, we need to move ahead with other opportunities.

To date, we have received offers for portions of Owasippe, which we are currently considering. We have retained an attorney and a land use expert to aid us in the zoning issues. It is our hope by considering various alternatives and by obtaining fair zoning for Owasippe, that the Council will be able to move forward with a financially responsible and prudent operational plan that will benefit the Chicago Area Council in the years to come and which will offer first rate camping experiences to the youth in our Council.

Again, nothing is imminent and no action will be taken until any proposed transaction is presented to the Board for its discussion and consideration.

Very truly yours,
Lewis B. Greenblatt

Chicago Area Council President

message posted 2/18/04 on CAC website:

Owasippe On Schindler's List
By: Debra Carte
While Lake Beacon staff writer February 16, 2004
The Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts was back in Blue Lake Township last week letting township officials know they're still strapped for cash and need to rezone and sell parts of the 4,700-acre Owasippe Boy Scout Camp to make ends meet. 
Devon Schindler, the Grand Rapids attorney representing the Chicago Area Council (CAC), came to the regular monthly meeting of the Blue Lake Township board last Monday night after the township refused to meet with him outside of an open meeting.   Schindler asked the board to appoint the township's zoning administrator or a member of the planning commission to assist him in rezoning the property.
He wants to rezone it from a Forest/ Recreational/Institutional (FRI) zoning which he said has "affectively destroyed the value (of the property)" to something more marketable.    "All of our property is zoned FRI," Schindler said. "That locks me into one use - to continue as a campground.  I don't have a market for FRI. The property has gone from a relatively high value to virtually nothing."
Schindler said CAC is losing "a great deal of money," about $321,000 a year, and is in "financial trouble," despite the recent sale of CAC's 408-acre Camp Hoover, near Chicago, for $18 million.   According to Schindler, the CAC's original yearly budget of $5 million for Camp Owasippe has been reduced to $4 million since United Way and other contributors are backing away from supporting the camp.   Schindler attributed the cause to changes in scouting for urban Boy Scout councils, which are now focusing on more life skills programs than camping.  
Schindler said the council doesn't yet have a plan for Owasippe and doesn't have a buyer.  He wouldn't inform the township board of CAC's asking price, saying the price would differ according to the buyer and the zoning.   Schindler said CAC needs to rezone portions of Owasippe for sale, but would protect a core area of the property for camping.   "I want to sit down with a planner," Schindler said. "What do you want me to do with the property?  What do you want to see on the property?"  
The township board told Schindler he'll get the answers to those
questions by holding a town hall meeting with the community, or he can simply present a plan for the property to the planning commission, like everyone else has to.  
"The first step is to have an open meeting and be prepared to listen to the people," said Don Studaven, Blue Lake Township supervisor. "We operate on what the people want."   Schindler said he'll take those options and others to CAC and would inform the township how CAC plans to proceed within six weeks.
The CAC had given the group, the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC), comprised of local and Chicago citizens interested in purchasing and preserving the property in its undeveloped state, a year to come up with the funds to make the purchase. But that year is now up.   Recently, OOEC hired Consultant Gordon Zion, a professional fund raiser, to raise $17 million over the next three years to buy Owasippe and create an endowment.  Last Monday night, Schindler said CAC is open to whatever proposals OOEC has to offer.
Meanwhile, Zion is attempting to raise funds.  Last Thursday, he approached the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners asking for their support to the tune of $1.5 million over three years.  Steve Wisniewski, Muskegon County commissioner and Montague resident, said all commissioners are sympathetic to OOEC's plight and want Owasippe to remain recreational and out of the hands of developers. But the facing of more budget cuts makes county monetary support impossible at this time.  "I don't how we can support them at this point, at least financially," Wisniewski said. "We don't have that much discretionary funds."
NOTE:  For the full story including a submitted letter to the editor, go to the White Lake Beacon website...

>> White Lake Beacon Story & Letter To Editor

Fund-raising Effort Launched In Hopes To Save Owasippe
Monday, January 19, 2004
By Susan K. Treutler
The Save Owasippe Scout Reservation committee has raised $100,000 in "seed money" to launch a capital campaign to raise funds needed to buy the camp, endow its future, and preserve it as an outdoor education center.

The committee, made up of friends of the camp and former campers and counselors, will kick off its campaign later this month.

The group has hired a professional fund-raiser to organize and run the campaign and has formed a nonprofit organization -- Owasippe Outdoor Education Center -- with the hope it can eventually own or run the Blue Lake Township camp as an "outdoor university" for Scouts and numerous other groups.

The Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts of America has considered selling the 4,800-acre camp to offset mounting debt incurred by the camp's operation and fund other experiences for Chicago-area Scouts who no longer use the camp in great numbers.

STORY CONTINUED...via this link:

>> Owasippe Fund Raising Effort

The basis for this story comes from a report recently prepared by Joe Sener, OOEC chairman, updating the efforts of his committee to date.   Click on the link below for a pdf file and full text of his report...

>> OOEC Update Report, 01/12/2004

Saving Owasippe...Zion Accepts Challenge
By: Ronda Howell - Beacon staff writer, 01/26/2004

Turning enthusiasm into commitment is the challenge set out for consultant Gordon Zion, but he is confident that within a three-year period of time it is possible to raise $17 million to both acquire the Owasippe Scout Reservation as well as fund an endowment to maintain and operate the camp.
Zion was hired in late summer to lead a campaign to acquire Owasippe property, located in Blue Lake Township, from the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts of America.   Staying at a cabin in the woods on Owasippe's perimeter, Zion said he definitely feels at home.   "My father was one of the first five professional Scouts," he said.   "I was at a Milwaukee camp when I was three weeks old. I've been around camping all my life."   Zion and his wife, Janet, currently live in the Milwaukee area.   He has first hand experience at Owasippe, having been a camp director at that location for two years.   He spent nine years as a professional with the Chicago Area Council (CAC).

Zion was hired by the incorporators of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) and is directed by that group.
Click on link below for full story online with The Beacon:

>> White Lake Beacon story continued

Some Things Are Worth Saving
Muskegon Chronicle editorial, 02/05/2004
It is heartening to see that strong efforts are still being made to save the Owasippe Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township.  Yet it is hardly clear as to whether those efforts will succeed.
Owasippe is an environmental prize of considerable importance for not only Blue Lake, but Muskegon County.  Its 4,800 acres encompasses a diverse habitat of dreams and surprises that has delighted Scouts and campers for generations. But the decline of Boy Scouting in the Midwest has resulted in a financial crunch for the organization and Owasippe has been put on the chopping block.
A sale of the reservation would be a true loss.  In addition to the wide open spaces that it now conserves, the proposed development of the acreage would amount to a nightmare for the bare-bones township government under whose jurisdiction it exists.  Planning and the thousand other details involved in the new homes and lots that would be slated for the area would quickly overwhelm this rural community.
The goal of former Scout Gordon Zion, now acting as fund-raiser for the Save Owasippe Scout Reservation, is to raise $17 million by August from a host of friends and benefactors.  Owasippe's fate depends on each and every one of them.

Fund-raiser Working Full-time To Save Owasippe
Thursday, January 29, 2004
By Susan K. Treutler, Staff Writer
Gordon Zion has temporarily left his home in Shorewood, Wis., and settled into a cabin in the woods in Blue Lake Township.   And he's spending his workdays in a cubicle in a Sherman Avenue office building.   To say he's put his life on hold is an understatement. But he's got a pretty hefty task to complete.  He wants to raise $17 million in donations by August for the purchase of Owasippe Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township.
The vision of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Foundation, formed to manage the camp, is to: "Provide a world-class outdoor education experience for youth and adults by operating a premier outdoor university rooted in conservation-minded principles."
For a similar story, see the White Lake Beacon story of Jan 26th above.


Investor$ Needed In Owasippe's Future!!!
>>> People wishing to contribute toward the Save Owasippe Fund should do so c/o The Owasippe Staff Assoc and earmarked for "Save Owasippe".    This fund is to assist with the preservation of Owasippe and to address necessary infrastructure repairs to continue the camp's operation.   Further referrals to other donor prospects for solicitation in this effort would be appreciated.   Pledge-Donor Forms are available on the OSA's website at and their mailing address is PO Box 7097, Westchester, IL 60154... or click-onto the "Word" file below.   All checks should be payable to the "Owasippe Staff Assoc" or "OSA".
We're especially now looking for those with "Deep Pockets and Big Hearts", those who have the wherewithall to contribute much more than the average guy, ie. 6-figures or more, toward the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center... to help with the direct acquisition of the camp from Chicago Area Council to preserve Owasippe in perpetuity as a Scout Camp and a broader-based youth education and training facility.   Interested parties should call Joe Sener at 847-846-3198 or email him at ASAP.   Those with knowledge of such resources should refer them to this website and to Joe as time is of the essence.    We need millions, folks!
(Editor's Note:  According to recent reports in the White Lake Beacon and the Muskegon Chronicle, the OSA has taken in donations and pledges to the tune of roughly $100,000 and is holding onto such monetary contributions in trust for the OOEC's efforts to preserve Owasippe!   Thank-You to all who have made donations, purchased a t-shirt or bought a raffle ticket to help this great cause!)
Please Note...Under no conditions will these funds be surrendered outright to the Chicago Area Council BSA for their general use as they are being held in trust for the preservation and continued operation of Owasippe...only! 
We ask that districts and Scout units run fund drives for this purpose (ie. pancake breakfasts, rummage sales, bingo parties) and seek help from the general public, other institutions from within their districts, and from employers.   While foundations are being researched for assistance, the importance of of a strong "grass-roots" effort cannot be emphasized strongly enough.  This is how we ALL take ownership for the success of this campaign and for the continuance of operations at Owasippe.   Be sure to talk to past Scouts and Scouters, to parents of prior Scouts, as well as to civic leaders and to vendors.  
Jim Adamitis Says... "Save Owasippe T-Shirts Are Here"... See below
Story.   These shirts will be given out with donations of $30pp or $20pp if a group of 10 or more would like to place an order (troop?).   
If you need sets of pledge/donation forms mailed to you, please call the OSA Endowment Coordinator, Mike "Buddha" Campbell at 773-283-7723 or email him at    You can also go below a bit and click open the "Word" file, SOSR Pledge-Donor Form, provided herein for your convenience. 

> CLICK HERE For SOSR Pledge-Donor Form

An Owasippe Solution


Owasippe Set As A Priority In Muskegon County In 2004. =================================================

Dec 29, 2003... from The White Lake Beacon

Villages, townships and schools have an election in 2004.   Villages elect new representatives in the spring, schools elect trustees in June, and townships elect board members in the November general election.    The variety of projects in the works for the new year range from roads or bridges, to improvements in parks and recreation opportunities.  Some of the projects we heard about are listed for Blue Lake Township:
* Continue to support efforts to save the Owasippe Scout Reservation from being sold to developers.
* Brown's Pond Dam. Township Supervisor Don Studaven said the board is advocating continued cooperation between the Muskegon County Road Commission and the property owners around the dam to protect and preserve the historic site.


"Save Owasippe" Effort Moves To New Level
>>> OOEC Opens Development Office

The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has announced the opening of its development office headed by the OOEC's Director of Development, Gordon Zion.    It is located at 143 W. Sherman Avenue, Muskegon Heights, MI 49444.   Phone (231-733-0557).

Email Gordon Zion to wish him well or to forward referrals for large personal or institutional funding.

>>> Save Owasippe Fund Keeps Growing:

Through the continued generosity of many, the Save Owasippe Fund has taken in a bit more than $82,000 after a little more than a year in existence.  Beginning this month, the fund will help support the efforts of a professional, Gordon Zion, who has started his work to raise funds to assist the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Inc, a Michigan not-for-profit charitable organization, to take over the management of Owasippe from Chicago Area Council BSA so they can continue to run it as both a Scout camp and as a year-round youth education and training facility.  While this effort has begun, no sale arrangement has yet to be agreed upon between CAC and the OOEC.   CAC is still working under their board directive to seek a conservation buyer for Owasippe and the board has recognized that the OOEC fits that description.

Individuals and organizations wishing to support this effort can still make contributions to the fund and make checks payable to The Owasippe Staff Association or OSA at PO Box 7097, Westchester, IL 60154.  With another tax year about to come to an end, this may also be a wise fiscal decision as well as donations are tax-deductible within the letter of the law.   The Owasippe Staff Association is a 501-c-3 charitable organization acting as trustee for the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center.   Specific questions about giving or regarding the fund can be emailed to Ron Derby, President of the OSA, at

A donor form can also be downloaded from the OSA home page at

A prospectus on the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center is available by contacting OOEC Chairman Joe Sener at 847-846-3198 or via e-mail at   





Scouts Sell Illinois Camp, Not Owasippe
by Susan Treutler, Muskegon Chronicle, October 18, 2003
Fears that the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America may sell part or all of Owasippe Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township have subsided a bit, oddly because the council has chosen to sell another camp (the 408-acre Hoover Outdoor Education Center in Yorkville, IL).
>>> There's more continued via the link below...
Scroll down below for more information on the efforts of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center to preserve Owasippe.

An Owasippe Solution

> CLICK HERE For SOSR Pledge-Donor Form

CAC Board Agrees To Hoover Sale
 CAC Website, Oct 16, 2003
By vote of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, at its October 15, 2003 meeting, a motion was approved to allow the  Council President, Scout Executive and Legal Counsel to negotiate the details  and execute a contract to sell the 408 acres of Hoover Outdoor Education Center.   Under the terms of the contract to be negotiated, Chicago Area Council will retain its rights to use  the property for a minimum of 3 years, with the possibility of a longer term of  access.  Under no terms will the economics of the purchase price be negotiated.

> Open Space Group To Buy Prime Parcel In Yorkville (Chicago Sun Times, 10/29/03)

Save Owasippe Rally Presents New Plan

The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Inc hosted a Save Owasippe Conference  and Rally on Wednesday evening, October 1st, at the European Chalet  Banquet Hall in Chicago.   Roughly 100 friends of Owasippe were in attendance and eager to see where things stood with preserving America's oldest operating Scout camp.   An update on the save Owasippe effort was presented, the new organization prospectus was highlighted, options for  service were offered, and a few questions fielded from the floor.   Patrick Monahan, past Owasippe reservation director, was master of ceremonies for the evening and the bulk of the presentation was provided by Joe Sener, President of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Inc. 

While it was reported that no major donations have been collected or pledged outside of what is being held in trust by the Owasippe Staff Association, inroads have been made with a few donor prospects and with influential people who can help with some important networking.   It was also reported that some very favorable political support would also be forthcoming that may prove useful in the coming months.  The most positive announcement was that of the hiring of Gordon Zion, professional fundraiser, who will be leading the charge into the funding of the OOEC for its preparation to make an offer to purchase Owasippe Scout Reservation and to transfrom it into the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, 
an "Outdoor University" to provide a world-class outdoor education experience for youth and adults.

A former Scouter himself, Zion helped raise millions of dollars for Chicago Area Council.   For the past 15 years, he has helped create successful economic development campaigns and feasibility analyses in many cities and counties across the United States, including Spokane, WA; Huntsville, AL; Des Moines, IA; Kalamazoo, MI; Sioux Falls, SD, Wilkes-Barre, PA; and Idaho Falls, ID.

His efforts have included raising large endowments for communities, colleges, and business districts including some in West Michigan.

Zion commented on the efforts to save Owasippe:   "By way of introduction, I was a professional with the CAC for nine years and a camp director at Owasippe for two (ie. Wolverine North in 1969 and Sauger Lake in its inaugural year of 1970)."

"Watching a ladybug climb a milkweed stalk, a chipping sparrow search for food, the sound of a cricket at night and the soaring flight of an eagle. Are those experiences of mine, and hundreds of campers, to be lost for generations of young people?  The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center says 'NO"".

Millions of dollars are needed to insure the continued existence of this unique place. Zion had identified the three level effort needed to accomplish raising the funds needed to buy Owasippe.

1. Buy in of major opinion setters who will not only endorse the effort but will provide major dollar leadership. This group will establish a level of expectation for other interested parties. This level will also appeal to those who would respond to the "naming right" of specific project proposals.

2. A second level would be potential "users" of the Center willing to buy in to the process in order to assure their use of the facility.

3. And lastly, to the alumni of Scouts and Scouters. Building a base of support by their numbers that not only campaign success and endorsement will be clear but also participation in program delivery will be assured.

In order to succeed, level one must deliver a minimum of 70-75% percent of the goal. Level two 20-25% and level three the remaining 5-10%.

The hiring of Gordon Zion is encouraging and brings new hope for the preservation of Owasippe from the success we believe he can help us achieve in our fund-raising efforts.  

Follow the link to read Gordon Zion's bio.

Those with questions about the OOEC or who would like to provide ideas and positive donor referrals can contact:    Joe Sener, 815-444-6270,  or John Chikow, 847-264-2552, or Chauncey Niziol at 708-562-8999.

"Failure Is NOT An Option"... Gene Kranz, Appollo 13 Flight Director
Scroll down to the below stories to see a press release issued by the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Inc.   Immediately following  are two recent news links and reports published in Western Michigan on Sept 22 and 23.   Just click onto the links provided for more information:   

> White Lake Beacon, 09/22/03

> Muskegon Chronicle, 09/23/03

by Frank J. McGrath, Ed.D... January 2003
from "The Senior Connection" and reprinted with permission

A newsletter received recently contained some startling and alarming news. The Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America is considering closing and selling the Michigan based Owasippe Scout Reservation. The Council claims the 4,800 acre camp in Blue Lake Township, Michigan, is losing nearly $200,000 a year.

Apparently relatively few of the Chicago area 59,000 Scouts attend summer camp. Last year only about 3,000 boys used the camp, half of them from other areas. There was a time when the Owasippe camps were attended by nearly 10,000 Chicago Scouts each summer. There was a time, too, when over 12,000 acres of Michigan forests were part of the Owasippe Scout camps around, about and between Crystal Lake and Big Blue Lake. Red, yellow and blue trails traversed the land connecting the camps and sites in between.

My initial experience attending Owasippe was in 1944 as a young tenderfoot Boy Scout in the Flying Eagle Patrol, Troop 935 at St. Bartholomew Parish. The troop number came from the address of the convent, 4(935) Patterson. The troop as well as Cub Pack 3935 were sponsored by the Parish Holy Name Society.

The trip to camp, located near Whitehall, Michigan, was an adventure in itself. Departure was from one of the now gone downtown train stations (LaSalle Street, if I remember correctly) on the Pere Marquette Railway. Of course, the coaches were not air conditioned, the windows were open and smoke and soot covered the travelers. After arriving at a railroad siding, we hiked about two miles to camp, our knapsacks being carried by trucks.

>>> Continued... click the link below...,%202003




September 15, 2003 - Official Press Release


The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center organizers face a critical few weeks in the effort to preserve the 4,800-acre Owasippe Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township.  The nations oldest Boy Scout camp, operated by the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts since 1911, appears to be headed towards a future of being subdivided and sold by the Chicago Boy Scouts.


We have not yet found the financial resources for assuring the preservation of what is a national treasure of woods and wildlife in West Michigan. said Joe Sener, a member of the Board of the Chicago Area Council and one of the organizers of the not-for-profit Owasippe Outdoor Education Center. 


Joe continued, We are constantly being reminded just how bad economic times have been by people from local West Michigan Foundations to individuals with greater than average assets from across this country. Its great getting the verbal and moral support we have had.  But, still being faced with not having found the financial resources we need to make this happen is frustrating.  Time is not on our side for making this happen.


We had great trust in the ability of the folks at The Nature Conservancy but Im disappointed they have not been able to help us generate more interest in the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center. Said Jim Schlichting, a Montague resident and co-organizer of the Education Center.


They have found a member of their organization who has a singular interest in preserving only a part of the Owasippe property.  They have presented that individuals offer directly to the Scouts in Chicago, Jim stated. 


Schlichting continued, Just over a year ago they put on a volunteer based Bio-Blitz that inventoried hundreds of species, from insects to flowers and animals, on Owasippe. 


The sad part of all of this is that the potential for use in the West Michigan area is enormous.  The things we can accomplish and the services we can offer to this community are spectacular if we can only get through this financial hurdle, said Sener.  Just imagine the conservation and experience-based training programs we can deliver with this type of facility.  Thats not to ignore the increased public access we envision for fishing and hunting we feel is possible.


The Chicago Councils critical financial condition does not allow it much room to delay making the tough decisions about the disposition of their camping properties, observed Joe Sener who is Chairman of the Councils Owasippe Camping Committee.  The Council has been open and accommodating to our effort.  For that we are grateful.  We know that we also have broad support from the Scouts, volunteers and fellow Directors of the Council across the Chicagoland area.  Were still working on finding those elusive dollars that are needed.


On September 20th the Owasippe Staff Association welcomes the community to Owasippe for the dedication of the new Chris Hill Climbing Wall.  Through memorials from the Hill Family and additional financial support of the Staff Association and the Owasippe Conservation Club the Climbing Wall has been added to the Chuck Nagel COPE Course at Owasippe.


                                                      # # #


Note:  For more information on the above, contact Jim Schlichting of the Save Owasippe Scout Reservation Committee at 231-894-9621 or -6263.   Scroll down below to see a recent memo from the Chicago Area Council president, Lewis Greenblatt, on the status of Owasippe. 

CAC President Gives Update On Owasippe
Sept 12, 2003
In a recent memo posted to the Chicago Area Council website, Lewis Greenblatt, council president, provided an updated status on the disposition of Owasippe Scout Reservation as well as Hoover Outdoor Education Center and the council's Kiwanis initiative.    In his memo, Mr Greenblatt assured Scouters that reservations for the 2004 summer camp season were being entertained and stated that no immediate sale was at hand but numerous options were being explored.    It may be construed that the subdividing or parcelling of Owasippe may not be out of the question by the sellers, CAC.  What follows is an excerpt from that memo.
"The Save Owasippe effort led by board member Joe Sener has not yet raised the necessary funds to purchase Owasippe from the council.  They are continuing their efforts and are still hopeful that funds can be secured.

The Michigan Nature Conservancy has identified one prospective conservation buyer for a portion of the property.  Our committee has met with the buyer and he is willing to allow the portion of the property he is interested in purchasing to be used for Scout camping in perpetuity with some restrictions.

Several neighboring landowners have expressed interest in portions of the camp that adjoin their properties.  Some of them may allow continued Scout usage.  Several developers have also expressed interest in all or some portions of the property.

The committee continues to explore all possible alternatives at Owasippe, including retaining a local Michigan consultant.

The Ad Hoc properties committee continues to consider all possible alternatives as it strives to reach decisions which will benefit the youth of the Chicago Area Council, both now and in the future.  All recommendations will be referred to the full board of the council for consideration before any action is taken on the dissolution of properties.  As always, your input is welcomed and encouraged."

To see his memo in its entirety, go to the Chicago Area Council website at

For further information on the efforts of the Save Owasippe task force to secure funding to purchase Owasippe in its entirety, scroll down below to further reports and news stories.   Those with specific concerns and ideas toward this effort, can directly e-mail Joe Sener regarding his Save Owasippe effort at

The CAC board's prior stance on the sale of the council camps still stands, that is to investigate the sale of Owasippe to a conservation buyer.    Thus far, their preferred buyer who meets this criteria has been the OOEC which is still in search of funding.   So far to date, nothing significant has occurred to positively change the council's financial position that would lean them away from this plan.   As a matter of fact, United Way has further cutback their funding of CAC for the next year and the Friends Of Scouting fund drive fell short of expectations further worsening an already grim financial picture for Chicago Area Council, BSA.




Owasippe O-E-C Gets Non-profit Status

White Lake Beacon Story

By:Ronda Howell, Beacon staff writer August 11, 2003
In mid-August the Owasippe Scout Reservation is expected to close its doors, perhaps permanently, unless efforts to acquire the camp from the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts of America are successful.

To that end, organizers of the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) have been granted 501(c)3 status by the Internal Revenue Service and are seeking financial backing to acquire the camp.   "We are now cleared to secure the necessary financial backing for both the acquisition of and the future programs to be offered to youth at Owasippe," said Joe Sener, incorporator of the OOEC.   Sener said the community interest in preserving the Owasippe property as a pristine natural resource with an education and recreational use has been made obvious from comments he's heard at various meetings.
"Unfortunately, the millions of dollars it will take to acquire the property have not been found in Muskegon County so far," he said. "It has been my hope that somehow, through the generous conservation tax advantages available to those with the financial resources, we would have made a local connection for at least a portion of the dollars to make the Education Center happen." 

The Save Owasippe Scout Reservation (SOSR) effort now enters its final phase, that of purchasing the 4,700-plus acre property in Blue Lake Township.   "One thing I want to make perfectly clear to any potential donors is that this property will no longer be subject to the whim of the Chicago Area Council. They will be an anchor customer, but they will no longer have control of this site," said Sener. He added that he believes the camp can be marketed to a much broader base than just the Chicago Area Council scouts. link below...

> White Lake Beacon, 08/11/2003

An Owasippe Solution

Optimistic About Owasippe
White Lake Beacon  - June 16, 2003 - Editorial 
It's like shopping in a store without price tags. You don't know how much it's going to cost until you reach the check-out lane.  That's just part of the dilemma facing the Save Owasippe Scout Reservation committee as they seek to either fund an endowment or acquire financing to purchase Owasippe Boy Scout Reservation.
The 4,700 acre facility, with the ability to accommodate up to 3,500 campers and staff has been underused and in need of capital improvement for many years. Dramatic increases in single parent homes and single leader troops has left the Chicago Area Council (CAC) Boy Scouts of America scrambling to find relevant camping experiences closer to home.
Joe Sener and a core group of camp supporters have worked tirelessly for the past nine months to drum up financial support to preserve the camp "in perpetuity" for young people. Working with the Nature Conservancy and with a few significant potential contributors, an initial June deadline set by the CAC has been softened to provide more time for research and negotiation.
Will a newly created Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC) directorship manage an endowment fund on behalf of the CAC Boy Scouts of America? Or, will private investors purchase "chunks" of the facility then grant easements to the council or OOEC to allow camping use?  And how is the property appraisal going to impact that initial endowment target of $10 to $15 million set by the council?   The council is denying public access to that appraisal at this time. Such action seems counterproductive. If council members want cash, not the camp, then making the value of the camp public could be more helpful than detrimental to their case.
Sener told Beacon staff last week that he is confident that, if a sale of Owasippe is the council's desire, he believes the OOEC is the council's preferred buyer. He said he is confident that if a sale is imminent, there is enough interest by people in Chicago and West Michigan to make it happen. Regardless of what happens in that final check-out lane, he said the White Lake area will see a difference in how Owasippe is to be operated.
Sener said it is the directors' intention is to make the camp more economically viable through opening its doors to Scouts and youth from a much wider geographic area than Chicago.
Such change is good and we are optimistic about the future of Owasippe and the many ways those positive changes can impact the greater White Lake community.
©White Lake Beacon 2003 

OOEC Gets "Charitable, Tax Exempt" Status!
It has been reported that last week the Internal Revenue Service  issued its 501-c-3 status as a charitable organization to the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center (OOEC).   On March 3rd, The OOEC incorporated in the State of Michigan formally as The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center Inc, a not-for-profit corporation.   Now that this has been granted, presentations to various other interested foundations and organizations will begin for funding into this entity for purposes of acquiring Owasippe and running it as a year-round Scout camp and outdoor training facility for a variety of youth groups and educational agencies.   The Michigan state registration number is 784775.  
In a statement issued by Joe Sener, Chairman of the OOEC, he said,
"It is with great pleasure that I announce that the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has been approved and determined to be tax exempt as a 501c(3) corporation by the United States Internal Revenue Service. This puts us in position to accept the large scale donations required for purchasing Owasippe."
The Nature Conservancy is also still very much involved with this process and has been very supportive with soliciting potential benefactors and making preparations for a conservation easement over Owasippe.
Owasippe Scout Reservation as we know has opened for the summer 2003 season with camps Blackhawk, Wolverine and Reneker as well as with its High Adventure and Outpost programs.
In the meantime, Owasippe was evaluated by a commercial appraiser and their report and findings are being reviewed and scrutinized.    Negotiations with CAC for purchase will begin after this is completed.
Keep those cards and letters AND donations coming to the SOSR campaign...c/o the OSA,    All of these are useful in the efforts to preserve and expand Owasippe's usage and programs into the future.   Keep up your hope and hard work and "Don't Drop The Ball...SAVE Owasippe".   More info on this follows below along with a recent article in the "White Lake Beacon".

From The Archives Of The White Lake Beacon
In September, the public learned that an 18-month long study by a committee of the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America was to recommend selling the oldest operating scout camp in the United States. The Owasippe Scout Reservation in Blue Lake Township got its start when some local business people through the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce offered the scouts a 40 acre parcel of land on Crystal Lake in 1911.

For Blue Lake Township, the news represented a potential drastic change of land use in an area predominantly used by camps. Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and the Y-family camp Pendalouan and Pioneer Trails are all in close proximity to portions of the sprawling 4,800 acre camp.

Blue Lake Township set up an ad hoc committee to explore options to help minimize such an impact. Representatives from the Save Owasippe Scout Reservation Committee and others from the Nature Conservancy have held public meetings to discuss details of possible solutions to a sale of that property.   The township recently approved zoning that would help protect all of the non-profit camp properties in the township from higher density development.



Conservancy Works To Save Owasippe

Friday, December 06, 2002

by Susan K Treutler, Chronicle Staff Writer

The West Michigan Nature Conservancy is jumping in feet first to try to save Owasippe Scout Reservation from possible development.

The Conservancy has determined that the 4,800 camp in Blue Lake Township is one of the most valuable sites in the state from a conservation standpoint, said John Legge, a staff member for the Conservancy which has 32,000 members in Michigan.

It is too early to say what role the Nature Conservancy, a national group working to save ecologically significant lands, will play in the effort. But the regional chapter of the group has pledged to work with the Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which owns the property, and the Owasippe Staff Association, a group of former campers and staffers trying to raise a $10 to $15 million endowment to save the camp.

The Chicago council has indicated it wants to sell the camp and other property it owns to protect its financial health. Owasippe runs a $200,000 deficit annually.

The staff association is working on establishing a trust to fund camp operations, and could even raise money to buy the camp and ensure its continued use by the Scouts and the public.

For full text of this Muskegon Chronicle story, go to below link...

> Muskegon of the story

Sener Addresses Questions, Speaks To Campaign Changeup
We, the SOSR have formed together as a group of the volunteers disenfranchised by the CAC Executive Board to assure two things:

1. Assure that Owasippe will be around for the youth of America and the Scouts of Chicago, forever,
2. Assure we never have to cross this bridge again.

We have chosen to do that by forming a not-for-profit charitable foundation to operate or own/operate the camp (see the announcement of a couple of days ago for more details.) While we have not formally laid out a mission statement for this foundation I feel pretty confident it would sound something like: To provide a world-class outdoor experience for the youth of America through a traditional Scout camping program and other conservation uses. We dont need anyones approval to do this.

We hold strongly that Owasippe will be open to all Scouts, from all councils, for the same fee. The stake in management will be held by a Board of Directors made up of 50% from the Chicago area and 50% from West Michigan. All I can tell you is that this volunteer board will be dedicated to the Scout Oath and Law and the traditions of Owasippe. If you look at the members of SOSR you will find people who have been at the O for a long time and some younger friends but we all bleed Owasippe! The determination of the make-up of the board will be encapsulated in the by-laws of the 501c(3) foundation (remember that several of us were founding board members of the OSA).

Will the CAC have a seat on the board? We dont know that yet. Our whole purpose is to ensure that Scout troops from throughout the upper Midwest continue to have access to a quality outdoor program center. It is important that Scouting units from throughout the greater Chicago area are represented on the Board.

As for leasing rather than shared ownership, if we chose the right owners then we have more management say than a lease allows. Our goal is to provide a quality outdoor program in a turn key operation. Our job is to provide the resource and it is up to the customer to determine their needs.

We expect that the same great program will breed the same strong memories and volunteer support. While we believe that the OSA will be represented on the Board the real shape will be determined by who the ultimate partners are.

The volunteer and donor attention to Owasippe will be for the camping program. If they chose to also volunteer their time and money for unit level Scouting in Chicago that would be their choice just like many of the people on the SOSR today.

As for what action of ours was approved and what was not, I would suggest that, as a member of the Board, I have certain fiduciary responsibilities toward Scouting and Owasippe. I disagree with the direction taken by the Executive Committee and never hid that from anyone. As for our actions in secret, many of you were with us at the meeting at the European Chalet that Wednesday night several weeks ago. You will recall me talking about some efforts we had underway that we could not clearly discuss because of the sensitivity of their negotiation. I asked, Will you trust us for a little while as we go to work? The answer from the crowd was, We trust you, we dont trust them. That was a scary night for me. There were people in the audience who have known me since I was an 11 year old Scout. There were people in the audience who I have known since they were born. What right did I have to ask for such trust?

Well, we have not violated that trust. The SOSR is made up of long time volunteers who have argued for years about if we could just run the place right. This is our chance.

Those of you who know us and know me, know that you can pick up the phone and call at any time. We welcome the dialogue we welcome the tough questions. Each time you challenge us we learn what it takes to do the job right. The OSA was formed by dedicated people like you and ! I appreciate the guidance.

Joe Sener
Chair, Camping Committee and SOSR
cell: 847-846-3198


Group reveals plan to save Owasippe

The Muskegon Chronicle, November 21, 2002

Chicago businessman Joe Sener, leader of a group looking to save Owasippe Scout Reservation from developers, says he has a plan, and he's confident it will work.
All he and other members of the Owasippe Staff Association need to make it happen is about $15-million - - the rough estimate of the cost of buying the 4,800- acre Blue Lake Township camp and creating an endowment to help cover its operating costs.

"We will not lose it as long as there's a breath left in our bodies," Sener said.

Sener traveled to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp Wednesday to tell residents that the Owasippe Staff Association -- a group of former Boy Scouts and camp staff members -- wants to buy the camp, turn it over to a conservation trust, and turn it into an education center to be used by a broad cross-section of the public.

The association thinks that once the group buys the camp, builds up an endowment, and increases the camp's use, it can be self-supporting. Boy Scouts would continue to pay to use the camp. In addition, the group would lease portions of the camp to religious, educational, governmental and corporate groups.

(Chronicle story continued via the link below)

> Muskegon Chronicle, 11/21/02

SOSR Battle Trudges On
Brief update by Joe Sener 8/13/03

The biggest step in the past few months with our efforts to buy Owasippe from the Chicago Area Council is our incorporation as a 501(c)3 organization. The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center has passed all IRS paperwork, including bylaws and organizational structure, to be approved for that status.

What that means in the big picture is that a separate organization is now established to receive tax-deductible contributions. This was a major step in being able to officially solicit big-ticket donors and prove that there is a business plan, a management structure, a plan for future use, and a worthy mission statement that they can feel secure in supporting.

The one key piece of information that we are still missing is a viable valuation of the property. The evaluator hired by the Council came back with a report before camp started, but that has not been openly shared with the OOEC. In fact, the valuation was so egregious that we demanded it be set aside and we are working on what we believe would be a fair value, irrespective of the formal valuation.

One of the biggest selling points is that the donor or donors will enjoy large tax benefits from purchasing the land in the OOECs name and placing a conservation easement on the property but that property must have a purchase price in line with the recognized value, not higher.

Despite that, now is the time that our team is starting to revisit some of our donor leads. As an approved organization with a business plan in place, we can make pitches and pleas to save the camp that touches so many lives so deeply. Our plans are only to expand the number of lives that Owasippe affects in such positive ways.

But that means this is the time when we need your input! Do you work for a company that may support such an endeavor? Know of someone who is an avid Scouter, outdoorsman or environmentalist with a few connections? We need names, numbers, companies, organizations, or any type of lead to work with. Our list is varied, but we also need that foot in the door. A personal contact is the best way hit home with a potential donor. That means it comes from you the members of the volunteer organization that works hard, trains future staff, volunteers time, keeps contact, and remembers what camp is and what camp can be.

Please send solid leads to


By Joe Sener, Chrmn SOSR
It is time for another update on the efforts of the Save the Owasippe Scout Reservation team. We have finalized our prospectus and distributed it to our presentation team. This prospectus is about 19 pages long and includes a complete business plan for the purchase of Owasippe and operation by the Owasippe Outdoor Education Foundation. We are sharing this prospectus with prospective donors and are putting the finishing touches on a tri-fold brochure we can give away to tell people about what we are doing.
The donor list includes about 18 foundations and individuals in Chicago and West Michigan. These include most of the foundations you would expect would be giving to youth movement activities. We had a meeting in mid-January with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to review our donors and make sure we are not in conflict, ringing the same doorbell for the same dollars. This is a true partnership, and John Legge from TNC is leading this effort from their side.
My opinion is that we are better than a 50/50 proposition at this point, which is leaps and bounds ahead of our position at the end of last October. I have had a chance to meet a number of times with members of the CAC Executive Committee. We are developing a rapport that shows we all agree that the best action for Owasippe is to have it managed by a group of people dedicated to its long-term profitability and viability.
By the time the OSA "Vibrations" is in the mail, we should have the Owasippe Outdoor Education Foundation formed and incorporated as a Michigan not-for-profit foundation, and our paperwork should be filed for recognition as a U.S. 501c(3) corporation by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
The survey of the property is complete, and the final tally is 4,766 acres, plus or minus some small parcels. (Glen Roberts has been telling me 4,800 acres for years; that is about as close as it comes.) Now that the survey is complete, the valuation can begin, which will take about 60 days to complete. I am preparing a report for the Executive Committee of the CAC Board to describe our progress and recognition of our substantive progress [editors note which was needed by January as part of our original agreement with the Council]. I will let you know when that has been accomplished, but our deadline of June 30 is still firm for receipt of commitments.
Thanks to all who have given their time and effort and money to our cause. Keep the memory alive Omnes Divitiae Terrae et Caelli (all the wealth of Earth and heaven)!
(Note:  For feedback and ideas, you can reach Joe at

The Northwest Indiana Times
This story was published 11/20/2002

Finances threaten to force Scouts off reservation

Local troops raise funds to save nation's oldest Boy Scout camp.

BY LEE ENOKIAN, Times Correspondent

LANSING -- Boy Scouts in the Chicago area are rallying to save the Owasippe Scout Reservation -- America's oldest Boy Scout camp -- which is in danger of closing and being sold for private development.
Established in 1911 in Muskegon County, Mich., along the White River, the 4,800-acre camp is owned by the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Owasippe hosts approximately 3,000 Scouts each summer from across the nation, of which 1,500 of them are from the Chicago Area Council, said Joe Sener, chairman of Save Owasippe Scout Reservation, or SOSR.   The group is attempting to raise $12 million to $15 million to create an endowment that will allow the camp to stay open indefinitely.
According to officials, the reservation costs the cash-strapped Chicago council $200,000 each year. This fact has made the council reluctant to continue funding a reservation that is used by troops outside its council. This has motivated troops in other areas, such as those in the Northwest Indiana-based Calumet Council, to conduct fund-raisers to help maintain the resource.

According to Michael Creagh, executive director of the Boy Scouts of the Calumet Council, which handles Scout troops in the western half of Lake County and the south suburbs, a definite decision to close the camp in Whitehall, Mich., has not yet been made.   "While one of their options is to sell the camp, another is to scale down the operations.''
Creagh estimates that of the Boy Scouts who go to camp nationally, about 15 percent to 20 percent go to Owasippe.  "Summer camp is a great opportunity for the boys,'' Creagh said. "They can explore the outdoors, cook, get some environmental education. Camp is a great place.''  
When faced with a similar situation in 1980, the Calumet Council opted to sell its camp.
The Chicago Area Council has stated that fund-raising efforts to save Owasippe must be completed by June 2003, and that "substantive progress must be made on fund-raising by Jan. 31, 2003," said Ron Derby, president of Owasippe Staff Association.    "I hope that all troops that use the camp conduct fund-raisers to maintain it," said Rich Reichart, Scoutmaster of Calumet Council Troop 414.     "With scouting membership going down and taxes going up, and of course, that's a Catch-22 situation where you sell off property to pay the taxes on the rest of the property," Reichart said. "When you do that, somebody comes in and builds a really fancy resort or vacation house because the land is all forested. It drives up the taxes for the next year. It's a vicious spiral, if you will, then the taxes go up and now you have to pay more taxes on the same amount of land the following year."

Times Correspondent Sharon Porta contributed to this story.

Lee Enokian can be contacted by email at


Breakout: For more information on the fund-raising efforts visit the Owasippe Staff Association at

Tax-deductible donations may be sent by mail to: The Owasippe Staff
Association, P.O. Box 7097, Westchester, Ill. 60154.

Breakout: Lansing troop to hold tag day for Owasippe
Troop 414, Calumet Council, BSA, will hold a tag day at the intersection of
Burnham Avenue and Ridge Road on Saturday to help raise funds for the endowment that will hopefully keep it running. Scout parents and camp alumni will be present at the intersection.   Depending upon the number of available volunteers, the intersection at Wentworth Avenue and Ridge Road and at Torrence Avenue and Ridge Road may also see a Scout presence.

"Stay" Order On Property Sale Granted
In a communique from Lewis Greenblatt, CAC President, it has been stated that the board of directors of Chicago Area Council has voted to NOT immediately sell off any CAC properties but to allow a further discovery process into the potential of sale and development of camp properties as well as the raising of substantial funds into an endowment to eliminate the need for an eventual sale of Owasippe.   Mr Greenblatt goes on to state...
"The most sensitive aspect of the Strategic Long Range Plan dealt with the recommendations made by the Property Assets Sub-Committee. The board voted to actively seek camping facilities for Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting that are closer to the council service area.  The board also approved to continue the process of engaging our volunteer core to seek their input on the long-term usage of the Hoover Outdoor Education Center in Yorkville, Illinois and the Owasippe Scout Reservation in Whitehall, Michigan.
The entire text of Mr Greenblatt's press-release and council communique can be read in the "Property Status" page of this website and  at the CAC's websites by clicking onto the below links...

CAC Board Votes To NOT Sell Owasippe...At This Time!
The Chicago Area Council Board of Directors met early on Wednesday morning, October 16th, at the Union League Club of Chicago.   By a vote of 19-11, the board voted to not sell Owasippe at this time but to allow Joe Sener and his Owasippe Committee time to amass significant funding for an endowment to offset major expenses at camp, especially the operating deficit.   It was agreed that progress must be shown by January 23 and, if acceptable, continued fundraising would be allowed to June at which time $10-15 million would need to be raised for this endowment.   Three of the board members pledged $10,000 each during the board meeting, which included Scout Exec Jim Stone.
It was further approved that Hoover Outdoor Education Center will be reviewed for development over a 5-year period and, once this specific plan is prepared, it will be presented to the full council board for approval.  An eventual sale of this camp seems to be inevitable and a course of undeniable fate in the urban sprawl of Yorkville, IL, and Kendall County...Denny Hasterdt's back yard.  It is the intent of the Council to try to reopen Camp Kiwanis if OK'd by the Cook County Forest Preserve District Board so as to still have a camping location within CAC.
Time was thereby granted and a temporary reprieve allowed for one last chance to preserve Owasippe.   Now, we must make the best use of our time, our resources, our intellect and our creativity to raise the necessary funds and the organizational structure needed for its perpetual success.   But there are still some questions in need of answers:
> Can any of the existing "camp endowment funds" be used toward this new monetary goal?   If not, why not?
> Will CAC assist with this fund raising effort via use of membership lists, printing resources and postage for mailings???
> Will the service center at 1218 W Adams be placed for sale?   If not, why not?  If so, when?
> Can any proceeds from the initial sale of Hoover, once occurred, be used toward the Owasippe endowment goal?
> Why haven't any front-line CAC Scouters from districts and units been melded in with others in these strategic committees that hold power over the destiny of Owasippe and other program elements, ie. long-range strategic planning committee, properties committee??
>  Why wasn't the Owasippe Program Committee consulted in any of the preliminary hearings and why was critical information kept from them for their review? ALL OF YOU who bothered to write letters, send emails, attend meetings and rallies, and raise the level of awareness of others regarding the plight of America's Premier Scout Camp!
Without your dedication and efforts, all would be lost right now.   Keep up the pressure and don't let the wool get pulled over your eyes.   Be seen, be heard, and be outspoken.   Take charge of your own destiny and preserve Owasippe and traditional Scouting for the generations.

Scouter Q & A On Owasippe...From The Trenches
As heard from a recent district roundtable meeting...
Q: When all of you guys (current SOSR team) grow old and gray, how can
we be sure that your vision will be carried on by future foundation
board members. How do we know it won't just fall apart when the
passionate ones move on?

A: The board and by-laws will be structured so that board members are
required to look out for the camp and its operations. We all want to see
this succeed and we plan to set it up to succeed long-term.

Q: Will it still be called Owasippe Scout Reservation, just Owasippe or
Owasippe Outdoor Education Center.

A: We haven't gone as far as officially naming or renaming the camp.
That still has to be worked out.

Q: Will the Council give us access to the millions currently in Owasippe

A: It is my understanding that none of that money has or will be put
toward our efforts.

Q: Who would hire a summer staff, CAC or OOEF? Will the camp be leased to CAC for the summer?

A: There will be a full-time paid program director that will hire staff
on behalf of the OOEF. CAC will not be managing or hiring. The camp
won't be leased to them, it will be run completely by OOEF.

Q: Would the property be registered in Michigan or Chicago?

A: Michigan, which will actually make Owasippe's life a little easier in
terms of its dealings with the state of Michigan.

Q: Why are we wasting our time with this when we should just throw out
the entire board and pro staff? Why should we give them all this money?
We should dump them all, get new people in and let them run the camp properly.

A: I would be cautious when talking about dumping the entire board
because you don't know who you'll get to replace them. I'm actually not
here to talk about that, I am here to talk about saving the camp.

Q: Have any big donations been lined up?

A: Many contacts have been made. Now that the business plan has been
finished our team is starting the big push.

Q: Is the Council on-board with the SOSR's efforts?

A: The Council is coming around. If you think about it, it is a win,
win, win for them. They get some money to help their bottom line, they
don't have to deal with Owasippe's financial burden and the Scouts still
get to camp there.

Q: What are our chances? Can it be done?

A: We feel pretty good about our chances. Joe has given it an honest
50/50 chance which is a heck of a lot better than we had at the rally
back in October. Yes we definitely think it can be done.

Q: Will the Council have any control, managing rights or input?

A: If they are among the substantial contributors they would likely earn
themselves a seat on the board.

Q: What's the value of the land? What would be the purchase price?

A: We don't have those numbers yet. The land still must be surveyed and
appraised. Local officials also have a say in zoning which may affect
the final number.
                                                          #      #      #

An Update From Joe Sener, Chairman of SOSR

I would like to take a moment of your time to bring you all up to speed on our efforts over the past several weeks.

Several of us who make up the Save Owasippe Scout Reservation Committee have been active developing a proposal to do 2 things:

1. Assure that Owasippe will be around for the youth of America and the Scouts of Chicago, forever,

2. Assure that we never have to cross this bridge again.

Well, we believe we have a plan to accomplish both. We have been working with a group of interested parties here in Chicago and in Muskegon County, MI. This has developed into a partnership and we believe our plan will mature into a great opportunity.

Our plan is to form a 501c(3) not-for-profit foundation in Muskegon County called the Owasippe Outdoor Education Foundation and seek donors who will either donate the necessary funds to this foundation to buy Owasippe or buy the camp and secure it in a land trust entitled a "conservation easement" and allow the foundation to manage the property. While the Chicago Area Council may not be the owner of Owasippe, it will be managed by those committed and dedicated to its long-term success. We believe this plan will do several things:

* Assure that the Summer Camp objectives of the Chicago Area Council BSA are preserved and achieved through this plan. In fact, they will be enhanced through partnerships with the educational community including Muskegon County and Grand Valley State University. The Scouts of Chicago will have unrestricted access to Owasippe's summer camp program in perpetuity.

* Make all BSA units from any Council welcome, and encourage them, through marketing, to use Owasippe as their camping destination all year round.

* Assure that the Owasippe property is used more, and generates more revenue for operations and facility improvements, through a partnership with the West Michigan community.

* Other youth organizations will have access and use of the facilities of Owasippe for the balance of the year through a comprehensive approach to fulfilling the mission of serving the youth of America.

The Owasippe Outdoor Education Foundation will have a governance structure of a Board of Directors made up of an equal number of members from Chicago and Muskegon. It will include representatives from the several constituencies and donors who will make this new group successful. We know one of our partners will be The Nature Conservancy ( to help assure we become even better stewards of the land than we have been in the past. With their help and guidance the land and its year-round residents will be protected.

In proceeding with this plan we actually need to manage two kinds of funds; a capital fund to purchase Owasippe, and an endowment fund to help with the ongoing operations. Remember that the same issues that plague us today regarding facilities and infrastructure maintenance will be with us for some time in the future. The funds the OSA is raising are part of that endowment. If we are successful, those funds will contribute to the endowment for ongoing operations including necessary infrastructure improvements and upgrades required to make Owasippe into the world-class operation we all know it can be.


Owasippe plan outlined
By:Ronda Howell, Beacon staff writer November 25, 2002
Organizers of a Save Owasippe Scout Reservation Committee have a two-part purpose: The first, to assure that Owasippe is around in perpetuity for Scouts throughout the U.S. and, the second, to ensure that there is never again a threat of losing that resource.
That was the message Joe Sener, Camping Committee chairman and a member of the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts of America brought to residents in Blue Lake Township last Wednesday evening. He was assisted by Chauncey Niziol.

"We are working on two fronts," said Sener. "We are working to secure a capital outlay fund to purchase the camp. And second, we are seeking contributions for an endowment fund to help with operating costs."

Sener and Niziol, along with SOSR committee members Jim Schlichting of Montague and Blue Lake Township Supervisor Don Studaven have been meeting with local government leaders from Muskegon County and organizations like the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and with the Nature Conservancy's West Michigan office.

"We think within a few weeks to a month we'll have a fund set up with the Community Foundation that will provide local people with a place where they can make donations for the endowment fund," he said. He told the audience that the intent of the group is to create and promote Owasippe as an outdoor university and open it up to scouts throughout the United States and other groups.

> White Lake Beacon Story 11/25/02 Continued

> Click Here For Sener's Full Plan

Click Here For Pledge-Donor Form


Scout camp's neighbors rally to help

The Muskegon Chronicle, November 19, 2002


Muskegon's Tom Wallis has ridden his bicycle through rough terrain at Owasippe Scout Reservation, and he has taken his cross-country skis across its smooth trails.

Wallis, a mechanic at Breakaway Bicycles, said there are more and more people paying the small fee to use the trails and even to venture off them.

The land is challenging and beautiful, he said.

He said the sale of the historic Boy Scout camp for development into subdivisions or other uses would be a great public loss.

"There are few places to go," he said. "There is nothing like it close to that size around here."

While Wallis worries about what could eventually happen to the camp, a group of Blue Lake Township residents and supporters of the camp has taken up the cause. They plan to meet Wednesday night at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp as the group starts its efforts to save the camp.

They are dovetailing efforts with a regional volunteer group -- the Owasippe Scout Staff Association.

The idea to sell Owasippe stems from its $200,000 annual operating deficit and the looming cost of renovating many of its facilities.

The owner of the camp, the Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts of America, could realize $40 million from the sale of Owasippe and another camp it owns.

(for the rest of the onto the link below for The Chronicle)

> The Muskegon Chronicle, 11/19/02)

From WZZM-Channel 13's News Desk...
Boy Scouts may be forced to close more camps
Posted: 11/24/2002 1:27:00 PM

Finances are tight; Owasippe may be next

By Delores Patterson / The Detroit News

Scouting has built leaders, friendships and memories for generations of youth at campgrounds across the country.

Now financial hardships, fewer campers and suburban growth have some Boy and Girl Scout councils considering selling properties that give many children their first camping experience.

The country's oldest Boy Scout campground -- the Owasippe Scout Reservation in western Michigan -- is scheduled to close next year if volunteers can't raise the funds to save it.

At least six Michigan Boy Scout councils use the facility, including troops from Ann Arbor, Detroit, Pontiac and Auburn Hills.

The 91-year-old camp loses about $200,000 a year and needs major repairs.

(Story continued in below link )

> Click Here For Full WZZM-13/Detroit News Story

Owasippe Is Not Out Of The Woods
By: Ronda Howell, White Lake Beacon staff writer October 21, 2002
A sprawling Boy Scout camp in Blue Lake Township is not yet out of the woods for a possible sale.  

"We've got a lot of work to do," said Blue Lake Township Supervisor Donald Studaven last Wednesday afternoon after learning the outcome of a Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts of America board meeting.   During that regular business session, the Chicago Area Council, Boy Scouts of America moved to adopt a strategic long range plan that includes continuing investigation into selling two of it's properties, the Hoover Outdoor Education Center and the Owasippe Scout Reservation.

Joe Sener, a member of the council and chairman of the council's camping committee, noted that a definitive motion was not made to sell or stop the sale of the camps.   "A motion was made (and passed) to allow continued investi-gation into selling the property and/or finding alternative funding opportunities."   Basically, he noted, the verbal commitment made by the council last month has been honored.

*** Note:  For the rest of the story in its entirety, click onto the link below...



> White Lake Beacon, Oct 21, 2002

What Do We Do Now...Are We Done Yet?
NO...we have a long row to hoe and here are some options for you and your buds to work on...
1>  Make a pledge or donation to the OSA for the Owasippe Endowment...NO DONATION IS TOO SMALL!!!
2>  Keep your sights on our deadlines and recruit others to help us in our cause...spread the word by phone, e-mail and snail-mail.
3>  Be sure you have a district chairman and district committee sympathetic to the preservation of Owasippe
4>  Be sure you have a council board, officers, and professional staff sympathetic to the preservation of Owasippe...if not, OUT they go!
5>  Continue to write letters to members of the board and encourage their participation in fund raising and with all of our efforts to preserve and improve Owasippe.   Hey, why not even invite them to a district
roundtable meeting or to a camporee?   Keep them in touch with the reality of front-line Scouting.
6>  Conduct town-hall meetings in your district and find those Scouter alumni since removed from the program...and setup a troop family nights devoted just to Save Owasippe.
7>  Write articles for your local community newspaper and district newsletter.   Contact the media to convince them to publicize our struggle to save the camp and the camp's value to youth now and in the future.
8>  Engage your OA Chapter to be proactive with our effort and run fund drives, ie. sales, breakfasts, dinners, promotions.
9>  Sign up your troop for Owasippe 2003 and sign up another unit who hasn't done so yet.  Hey, why not sign up for two-weeks?!  The more we use Owasippe, the longer we keep it!
10>  If you know of a troop having adult leader problems that may prevent the Scouts from enjoying summer camp, why not buddy-them up with your troop as big-brothers and share your camp experience and expertise with them.   This "guided discovery" could help their unit out immensely with their organization and year-round program as well.
11> Donate your talents and time for work needed at Owasippe on any weekend and especially at the designated "Fix-Its".  Some volunteers have already stepped up to help our phone system, put in a new firebowl at Camp Blackhawk (OSA), and to lay new electric cable.   Many more things can be added to the camp "wish list".   Just contact Ranger Al Geisler at Owasippe to see how you can help at
12> Submit more names to our email or mail list so our camp army can grow exponentially.
13>  Refer foundations and corporations who may be interested in contributing to this endowment campaign and who want to have a stake in the outdoor Scouting program.
14>  Refer organizations to us that may want to use Owasippe in the off-season or even during the summer.   A large part of Owasippe's financial dilemna is due to underutilization of resources and management's reluctance to conduct effective marketing and to actively engage in year-round programming.
AND...add your own ideas to this list and please share them with us.   Just email them to me at   Together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish so long as we stay focused, determined and passionate in our resolve.   Just don't relax too much and don't get complacent...please!
Additionally, if you would like to become a soldier in this growing army and/or have a referral of someone who would like to make a substantial donation, please contact Joe Sener at  We really need activists who will help us network, shake bushes and move mountains in our cause.  


Owasippe Owners Give Fund-raisers A Chance

Thursday, October 17, 2002

By Susan K. Treutler

The Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts of America Wednesday did not put Muskegon County's Owasippe Scout Reservation up for sale, as some supporters feared.

Instead, the council gave volunteers trying to save the camp for Scouting and public uses reason to hope that it will not be immediately turned into a subdivision or other private development.   The Russell Road camp could be saved if volunteers raise as much as $15 million needed to establish an endowment to fund the 4,800-acre camp.... (more info and the article in its entirety by clicking the link below)...

> Muskegon Chronicle, Thrs-Oct 17

If $15 million can't be raised, longtime camp may be sold

Click onto link below for full story from October 5...

> Muskegon Chronicle, Oct 5


Area reacts to Owasippe sale

By: Ronda Howell, Beacon staff writer October 14, 2002
The oldest operating Boy Scout Camp in the U.S. could end up on the selling block if a committee comprised of Owasippe Scout Reservation supporters fails to establish a $10-15 million endowment fund no later than June, 2003.

Carol Wood, executive director, White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce said such a loss could be significant for the community.
"The camp and staff do shop with the local merchants," she said. "A number of campers have returned here as vacationers. Some former campers have moved here to the White Lake area. The camp has had a big influence on this area. We'll be doing what we can to help."
Fritz Stansell, president of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (BLFAC), said he finds it hard to believe the scouts would get rid of the property, which adjoins the fine arts camp.
"I can't believe they would throw that wilderness opportunity away for future generations," he said. Stansell said a sale and development of Owasippe property could jeapordize the future of the fine arts camp.

(**For the entire story, click the link below for The White Lake Beacon)

> The White Lake Beacon, Oct 13, 2002

Owasippe Scout camp is on the sale block
By: Ronda Howell, Beacon staff writer October 07, 2002
They could turn paradise into a parking lot, according to lyrics by singer Joni Mitchell's 1970 musical social commentary.

Later this month the Chicago Area Council board of directors of the Boy Scouts of America are expected to accept a recommendation to sell the Owasippe Scout Reservation.

The executive committee of that council on Sept. 26 heard a recommendation by the council's properties committee to sell two council properties, the Hoover Education Center near the suburb of Aurora, Illinois and to sell the 4,800 acre Owasippe camp in Blue Lake Township, the oldest operating Boy Scout camp in the U.S.

(First of a two-part series on Owasippe)


> White Lake Beacon, 10/06/02


CAC Planning Committee Recommends That Owasippe Be Sold

The Long Range Planning Committee Of Chicago Area Council has gone on record to recommend the sale of both Owasippe Scout Reservation and Hoover Outdoor Education Center.   According to CAC's website, it states "The CAC, BSA must provide the opportunity for all Scouts to fully participate in camping and other related outdoor activities.  Our vision is that by 2005, we will be the preeminent urban council for all camping and outdoor activities.  All camping activities will be self-sustaining and endowed so that future Scouts will always be able to use and enjoy the CAC, BSA camps or the use of other high quality facilities.  It is the recommendation of the Properties Long Range Strategic Plan Committee to divest the CAC of ownership of all existing camping properties.  New close-in camps will be utilized to give our Scouts the chance to experience camping and new opportunities will be explored for Owasippe type experiences, both through arrangements with other entities and/or purchase of property within a 3 hour drive of Chicago."

Keep in mind that the vote on October 16th was to "stay the sale" until such time as a clearer vision could be obtained regarding the formation of a substantial endowment to assist with the ongoing operation of Owasippe.   To see this report from the long range strategic planning committee in its entirety,and to see CAC's report on its properties, go to the Chicago Area Council website pages at...

Strategic Plan

Camp Properties:

CAC President Announces Board Decision, Strategic Plan
        October 17, 2002
On behalf of the board of directors for the Chicago Area Council, Boy
Scouts of America, I am pleased to announce the approval and adoption of our Strategic Long Range Plan.  Although these times pose serious social, economic, and demographic challenges for the Chicago Area Council, they also provide exceptional opportunities for serving more youth in the Chicagoland area. 

As the result of an 18 month research and study conducted by seven
sub-committees, we have developed a comprehensive detailed plan that will allow us to make the best possible use of our volunteer, professional, financial and physical resources to carry out the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.  Each decision was made by keeping in mind what would be in the long-term best interest of the Scouting families of the Chicago Area Council, as well as, the changing needs of our communities.

The underlying theme of the Strategic Long Range Plan is building strong traditional Scouting programs in the neighborhoods.  This overall objective will require forming more partnerships with religious and civic organizations to charter Scout units, to improve communications with local schools, to provide more new and innovative local camping experiences and to create a diverse corporate board to provide leadership to these efforts.

The most sensitive aspect of the Strategic Long Range Plan dealt with the recommendations made by the Property Assets Sub-Committee. The board voted to actively seek camping facilities for Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting that are closer to the council service area.  The board also approved to continue the process of engaging our volunteer core to seek their input on the long-term usage of the Hoover Outdoor Education Center in Yorkville, Illinois and the Owasippe Scout Reservation in Whitehall, Michigan.

A series of forums will be held to allow our membership to have input
into solving what has become an underutilization and capital improvement concern for many years.  Chicago Area Council board member and Owasippe Chairman, Joe Sener, was given the authority to solicit major gifts in the range of $10 to $15 million to endow the Owasippe Scout Reservation and therefore eliminate the consideration for divestiture.  However, this board action did authorize the officers of the Executive Committee of the board of directors to explore opportunities for the sell of camps.  It is important to announce that this board action did not approve the sell of any of the Chicago Area Council properties.

With the dedication and commitment to quality demonstrated by the members of the Strategic Long Range Planning Committee, I am confident that the Chicago Area Council will achieve all the objectives of the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.  I am proud of this team and equally proud to be a part of this incredible journey that we are about to partake on together for the benefit of the youth in our programs.
Lewis Greenblatt, President
Chicago Area Council, BSA


Emergency Alert
Believe that you can whip the enemy, and you have won half the battle. 
  --J. E. B. Stuart
Owasippe Being Considered For Sale & Immediate Phase-Down! 
There has been a whirlwind of rumor and buzz this week about the prospective sale of Chicago Area Council properties and other related activities.  To the dismay of many and to our great disappointment, I'm afraid that this may become true and, ironically, may signal CAC's eventual withdrawal from the camping program as we have known it.   As most of you know, there have been such stories and rumors for years, but I can emphatically state that this may now become reality.   Measures are being taken by the professional staff and certain council "committees" to push this forward.   However, dedicated Scouters and supporters of this Scout camping treasure are gearing up to dismantle such efforts and to do what is necessary to save and to preserve Owasippe, America's Premier Scout Camp (1911) for generations to come.
On Sept 26, the Chicago Area Council Executive Committee took on a discussion about its real estate holdings, specifically Hoover and Owasippe, as well as its outdoor programs and came away deciding to recommend for the immediate sale of Hoover Outdoor Education Center in Yorkville, IL, and to consider Owasippe also for sale by next summer but only if fund raising measures fail toward an endowment ($10-15 mill by June).   Such an effort is going to be launched by Joe Sener and the Owasippe Program Committee but with the intent to succeed...not fail.   The purpose of the endowment would be to earn interest annually to offset operating expenses and any deficit. 
A motion will be drafted for consideration by the full council board at their October 16th meeting on this matter.  Those included in the voting of this action will include all CAC District Chairmen as well as other members at large including the Council Commissioner, John Gelsomino, and George Walper, Vice President of Program.   This board is chaired by Lewis Greenblatt, CAC President.      
While the CAC Executive Committee implies that it is contemplating this as a desperate measure and is necessary for fiscal survival, reportedly the professional staff has been considering this for some time now and has even held discussions with outside groups about Owasippe's availability for sale.  All of this was going on outside of the knowledge of the volunteers and the Owasippe Program Committee.   Certainly, now we understand why the lack of action on the rebuilding of Reneker's lodge and the Carlen dining hall.  Still, the Executive Committee of the Council says that it does NOT want to sell Owasippe if it can avoid it with an offsetting substantial endowment.  However, there are indications that measures are now being taken to prepare for this eventuality such as with the ordering of a survey of the property's boundaries and the consideration to phase down Owasippe for the 2003 Season.  The latter proposed activity would theoretically limit Owasippe's availability as a summer camp next year to only Chicago Area Council units and focus their program to one section camp (probably Blackhawk).   Camp Reneker, seemingly, would still function but only in support of these units.  These measures are all up for review by the council board and final word on this should be available soon.


Attention all Scouters and Friends of Owasippe...

Official Statement - 9/27/02

By now you may have heard that the Executive Board of the Chicago Area Council will recommend the sale of Hoover and Owasippe at the next meeting of the full Board (currently set for Oct. 16). This is a decision that they have reached after literally months of searching for other alternatives. I have met with the Executive Board. I have looked into their eyes and seen the passion for Owasippe and felt the pain of trying to resolve the serious financial burden that it causes. It is now time for us to act. Let's face some "brutal facts."

1. Owasippe currently loses about $200,000 each year from operations. The cost of bringing a Scout to camp is not covered by the cost of camper fees and additional service fees. This mismatch is almost 2:1.

2. The infrastructure at Owasippe is in serious need of repair, repair that can be assisted by our volunteer labor and sweat equity but needs about $200,000 per year for several years to catch up. Things like a tired electrical system and sagging sanitary units at Reneker plague us and put our operation at risk.

3. There are fewer Scouts in the program today than in years past, and that number is not likely to come back. Additional Scouts are needed, but let's be clear in 1968, we camped about 1,500 boys and leaders each WEEK. This past year, we camped about 1,500 boys from Chicago and another 1,400 boys from out-of-council units for the ENTIRE SUMMER. We cannot make this up with additional Scouts.

4. The Executive Board has been pursuing their fiduciary responsibilities for years, trying to resolve this issue but to no avail. They have had us, the Owasippe Committee, focus on delivering the best possible program we could offer, a challenge delivered upon by many of you.

We now have reached a point where we, as the volunteer base of Chicago, need to see if there is sufficient support in the communities of Chicago and Western Michigan to fund an endowment to keep Owasippe as the treasure we have come to know and love. We have a short period to raise sufficient funds for an endowment, and we need to raise these funds without disrupting the vital flow of support through Friends of Scouting and other individual donations. This endowment needs to be between $10 and $15 million.

In my conversation with the Executive Board, I proposed that we, the Chicago Area Council, raise funds for an endowment to cover the annual loss from operations as well as the infrastructure improvement costs and that we develop an off-season use plan that utilizes Owasippe far more than the current six-week season. This off-season use will generate additional revenue and provide an outdoor education experience for the youth of Western Michigan.

The Executive Board has given us until June 1 to raise the commitments for the endowment. Our progress will be reviewed periodically, but if we cannot raise substantive support if together with the Executive Board we cannot see that we are making progress by the end of January then we will have to face the brutal fact that we are not able to raise the endowment and the support is not broad enough within our communities of interest.

We have pulled together a group of interested volunteers for a special committee to drive this project. We believe we will be successful. We believe we have a serious task in front of us, but we can do nothing BUT succeed. With your help, we can give back to the camp in a way most only dream of.

What can you do? You can write letters to the members of the Council Board. Please, do not send e-mail! Take the time and effort to let them know you agree with their decision to take this risk with us and that you will support the drive to meet the commitments made by the Owasippe Committee.  If you are a registered Scouter in Chicago, contact your District Chairman with the same message.

Together, we can get this job done.

Joe Sener, Chair, Owasippe Committee

For a complete list of District Chairmen, Executive Committee Officers and All Other CAC Board Members, go to this page on this website...

Editor's Note: What follows is an exerpted statement from the "Scout Executive's Message" in the November CAC "Scouter", where Jim Stone, Chicago Area Council Scout Executive, announced the launching of a council strategic-planning initiative that will involve the surveying of Scouts and Scouters from CAC regarding program interest, facility usage, and travel/distance tolerance.

"We will review population demographics, membership trends and making projections for the future as well as determining the best use of our camping properties in Yorkville, Illinois, and Twin Lake, Michigan. Many people use our camps from throughout the Midwest, and some of them are quite vocal about how we should operate them. What matters most to your council leadership, however, is what you think about your camps, your programs, and your council and where you would take them in the future. So, please, when you are asked, please let us know what you think".

--- Jim Stone, CAC Scout Executive

LEADERS' LETTER (from July 2001)...

Many of you have expressed concern over some of the recent events at Owasippe and some of the things you may have heard in the rumor mill or in your email. There are many issues that should concern us and you need to know that those concerns are shared by Jim Stone and his professional staff as well as the Volunteer Leadership of the Chicago Area Council. We thought we would take this opportunity to address some specific issues and let you know our plans for the future.

During the past several weeks we have both met with the Lew Greenblatt, President of the Chicago Area Council, as well as Jim Stone and others of the volunteer leadership. We have a number of things to report.

1. The fire investigations are still underway and we have a contact with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) who is keeping us as up to date as possible.  We are staying in contact with them but we all need to know that our expectation of urgency is different than theirs.  Arson, if indeed these fires are arson, is one of the most difficult crimes to prove as most of the evidence is destroyed in the fire itself.  We believe we are getting the support we should be receiving and Jim and his staff is involved in resolving the fires that have occurred at Owasippe.

The most critical issue is the health and safety of our campers.  We can assure you that Jim, his staff, and the volunteer leadership have made this the utmost priority. We are satisfied that any conditions that are significant health or safety issues have been effectively dealt with immediately.

2. We have received the insurance proceeds from these fires and they are currently being held on account pending decisions about what to rebuild and when. The process for those decisions will be described below.

3. The Chicago Area Council remains committed to the Vision of Owasippe: To be Americas Premier Boy Scout Summer Camp.  There are not now, nor have their been plans to sell Owasippe.  Indeed, we will be examining a myriad of ideas to further develop the camps ability to be financially self-sustaining.

4. A temporary task force will be formed after the close of camp to resolve issues of governance, mission, reconstruction, off-season use and a number of other issues.  This task force will be headed by Ron Skwarek, a long time scouter and member of Chicago Area Council.  George Walper and perhaps other executive board members will take active roles.  We have worked with the Executive Board for many years and their clear thinking and leadership will be great as we take Owasippe well into the 21st century.  This task force will include the volunteers of the Chicago Area Council and we will be soliciting your help.

If you are ready to be part of the solution, we need your help.  The Owasippe Committee has provided great leadership and service in the past and we are looking forward to being a big part of its future.  We would love to hear from you.  If you have questions about what is happening at Owasippe, contact either of us and we will be glad to answer your questions or get you the answer.  Positive, constructive communication among all of us should be our guiding principle. Think Straight Talk Straight!

Chauncey Niziol & Joe Sener 

Reneker Lodge Ruins, Fall 2000

As found on the North Country Trail near Tahquamenon Falls, courtesy of the NCT Association:

+ "I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on. I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat. I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin. I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer...HARM ME NOT!"

--- Anon

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