Hidden Valley to Cease Summer Resident Camp Following 2024 Season

To the New Birth of Freedom Scouting Family,

The past several years have been challenging, as Scouting in south-central Pennsylvania continues struggling to recover from youth membership decline during the COVID pandemic.

Since 2012, when the council’s youth membership peaked at 11,376, we have experienced an ongoing decline, ending 2023 with 5,455 youth members.  With fewer youth members in our programs, that membership drop translates into fewer Scouts attending summer camp programs at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation and Camp Tuckahoe.

Sadly, our council’s combined operating deficit over the past two years was $455,664, with our camping operations accounting for $337,405 of that shortfall. In 2023, 89.3% of the council’s operating deficit ($153,483) was attributable to our camping operations.

As we look toward the upcoming summer camp season at Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe, the projected attendance at both camps is not encouraging.  For Scouts BSA sessions at Hidden Valley this summer, 323 Scouts are currently projected to attend (our previous post-merger low was 525 in 2010).

At Camp Tuckahoe, the current projected attendance for all programs this summer is 917 Scouts (our previous post-merger low was 949 in 2021).

The Council’s Executive Board, which has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of Scouting in our territory, has struggled to mitigate these financial losses from our camping operations. In the past two years, the Council eliminated four full-time staff positions and took other cost-cutting measures to reduce expenses.  Unfortunately, our youth membership has not rebounded as quickly post-COVID as we had hoped. With that, our summer camp attendance and corresponding revenues have eroded while expenses have increased.

At its meeting on Tuesday, April 16, the Council’s Executive Board voted to discontinue summer camp programming at Hidden Valley starting in 2025, with Tuckahoe serving as the council’s summer resident camp location.  Hidden Valley will continue to operate year-round for campsite and cabin use, training courses, and other special events.  Additionally, as we have already done at Tuckahoe with the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy acquiring 900+ acres to be preserved, the Council will seek opportunities to potentially divest buffer acreage at Hidden Valley to preserve that land from future development.

“This decision was difficult and heartbreaking, knowing how strongly many of our leaders and Scouts feel about our camps,” said Council President Jan Wagner.  “Many of our board members feel the same way.  Unfortunately, the simple reality is there are not enough Scouts in our council today to support the operation of two summer camp facilities. We cannot simply wish away the growing financial losses we are experiencing.  These losses are unsustainable.  Despite our best hopes, summer camp attendance has continued to decline, and the Board needed to act to stabilize the situation.”

To help explain the Executive Board’s rationale for reaching this decision, we’ve prepared a detailed presentation on our website that lays out the situation (financial and otherwise) we are confronting.  In addition, we encourage everyone to read through the FAQs we’ve prepared that address concerns and questions that are likely to surface.

Finally, we plan to hold an online “fireside chat” webinar with key council leaders soon to explain the Board’s decision-making process further and answer questions from our Scouters.

Yours in Scouting,

Jan Wagner
Council President
Tom Steckbeck
Council Commissioner
Ron Gardner
Scout Executive & CEO

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