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An Owasippe Solution

One Way To Fix Our Problems And Preserve Owasippe For The Generations
--- by Joseph Sener, Chairman, Owasippe Program Committee & Eagle Scout

"A Suggested Plan For The Future Of Owasippe"

>>>  OUR GOAL... To Eliminate The Financial Burden Of Owasippe From The Chicago Area Council.


1.     What Is Owasippe?

  • An Outdoor Education Center with the potential for full service conference facilities
  • A treasure trove of nature with an estimated 1,000 species of flora and wildlife identified including 19 rare, threatened, or endangered species.
  • The focal point for the Council's summer camping program.
  • A youth and youth leader program training and education center.
  • Under-utilized as a result of a number of strategic causes:  (1) Reduction in the number of Scouts attending from Chicago Area Council as well as Out-of-council units; (2) Strategic decision made by council leadership to NOT make use of the camp during the off-season, Aug-June.

2.    Owasippe Offers...

  • 90+ years of relationship between Chicago and the West Michigan communities on 4,800 acres that provide an unsurpassed experience for youth
  • Facilities for recreation, educational programs and services based on identified needs which reflect the values of the BSA and our natural resources.
  • A facility to host many other groups of diverse backgrounds and missions

3.     Owasippe Has...

  • Approximately $200,000 annual shortfall from operations
  • Electrical wiring needs... underground cable donated by Huen Electric Co several years ago and still held, coiled up and unused, at the camp
  • Phone System Problems... a new $77,000 phone switch donated through the good auspices of Tellabs and Siemens Telecom, not hooked up and turned on
  • A Need For Phone Alternatives... wireless options being investigated by Curt Andrich of Booz, Allen and Hamilton
  • A Water System in good shape but in need of a backup generator for its central water supply
  • An LP gas system in need of review and inspection by a competent party


When we look at the population of youth we serve and the number of Scouts in Chicago who do not come to camp, we believe there are 2 main reasons:

  • The main reason is a function of single leader units and single parent families
  • Our council leadership and operations mis-management of Owasippe has driven many units away from our campgrounds

It is NOT a function of money (the current membership funds exist to remove that issue)...and it is NOT a function of distance!


  • We believe that we can increase the number of youth coming to camp by creative use of "provisional" units.
  • We have two volunteers ready to move to change the camping format in these "at risk" units to get them organized to come to camp.
  • We need to act NOW and not come May.


  1. Muskegon County has ranked in the top 30 out of 315 metropolitan communities in "Industry Week's" World Class Community annual survey for five consecutive years.
  2. The Muskegon-Grand Rapids-Holland MSA ranked 3rd nationally for new and expanded business facilities according to the 2000 survey conducted by "Site Selection" magazine, for their annual Governor's Cup Contest.
  3. In the past 10 years, West Michigan's population has grown from a 1991 estimate of 955,165 individuals to a 2001 estimate of 1,099,841...a 15.1% increase compared to a 6.4% increase for Michigan and a 12.6% increase for the U.S.
  4. Total wage and salary employment by place of work mushroomed 35.2% during the past 10 years, from 445,800 employees in 1991 to 602,500 in 2001.  This compares to a 20.1% increase for Michigan and a 22.1% increase for the U.S.
  5. While manufacturing employment is shrinking elsewhere, West Michigan experienced a 21% growth from 1991 to 2001 compared to a 4.7% increase for Michigan and a 3.8% decrease for the U.S.


Since June 1, in an effort to determine the receptiveness of the local community, I spoke with a number of people interested in helping to make Owasippe a viable member of the community, ie. county officials, Michigan state representative, a county foundation, a licensed civil engineer, Blue Lake Township supervisor, mayor of Whitehall, and Grand Valley State University, and the board president of the West Michigan Girl Scout Council.


  1. Lease a portion of Owasippe to Muskegon County for a low-risk adjudicated youth facility (at Bass Lake)
  2. Lease Camp Robert Crown to the West Michigan Girl Scout Council
  3. Lease additional camping space to Scouts of the Church of The Latter Day Saints
  4. Conduct "shoulder season" specialty camps for the school systems in the county, ie. football camps, band camps, leadership schools, etc.
  5. Develop Reneker Family Camp into a multi-season use facility for use by executive teams as well as youth organizations.


Here is a sampling of some opportunities that have come our way recently but have NOT been capitalized upon by our professional staff:

  • $150,000 of annual lease for the Church of The Latter Day Saints Scouts (They are still interested in a Wood Badge course today.).
  • West Michigan Shores Football Conference annual football camp (recent email) for 300 youth for a 10-day camp.  Camp Miniwanka, 20 mins north of Owasippe, acted on the request, got the camp, and charged $300 per participant for their attendance.
  • Overlooked grants from The Community Foundation for Muskegon County


  • Sell Hoover and Owasippe, then consolidate the camping activities into a near-in camp within two hours of Chicago
  • Sell Hoover only, and use the proceeds to retire the council's debt and fund a permanent endowment of Owasippe
  • Fund a permanent endowment of Owasippe through outside fund-raising
  • Generate sufficient funds through additional in-season revenue and off-season usage


  1. Selling Owasippe and Hoover will NOT address the fundamental problem of leadership's inability to run a camping program for the Scouting Youth of Chicago
  2. We recommend the generation of an endowment through a number of means:
  • Sale of Hoover Outdoor Education Center
  • Solicitation of funds from donors in Chicago utilizing the volunteers.  Either we can find the support or we can't, but we do not believe that the council has done a complete job (ie. Steven Fossett, Stone Foundation, Crown Foundation, et al)
  • Generation of off-season use revenue to further support the cost of operating Owasippe


We are not ignorant of the financial issues and their magnitude.  The most active volunteers have been dealing with this for over twenty-years.

  • WE WANT... a chance to prove we can provide the financial backing necessary.  If, after a reasonable period, we are unable to do that, then we must face the inevitable
  • WE DON'T BELIEVE... that all of these options have been explored enough to cast off our existing resource


Omnes Divitiae Terrae et Caelli... All The Wealth Of Earth And Heaven





Remember this, "If we are NOT part of the solution, we are certainly part of THE PROBLEM".   We only have one shot at this for the sake of our predecessors and for the generations of Scouts, Leaders and Staff to come.   Let's make our efforts count, strive with passion and fervor, and be unrelentless.
---  Ron Kulak