FAQs Regarding Summer Camp Being Discontinued at Hidden Valley Starting in 2025

Yes, Hidden Valley will be open for resident camp this summer, including Tiger Cub camp, and preparations for the upcoming season continue.

Multiple factors led to this decision, including:

  • For 2022 and 2023, the Council’s operating deficit was $455,664. Our camping operations accounted for $337,405 of that deficit. For 2023, 89.3% of our Council’s operating deficit ($153,483) came from camping operations.
  • In 2012, our Council’s youth membership was 11,376. By 2023, that figure dropped to 5,455. With this decline in youth membership, the “market” of available Scouts to attend our summer camp programs is dramatically smaller. The current number of youth members is smaller than in either legacy council in 2008, and we have two camping facilities to support.
  • Since 2010 (the inaugural year of the New Birth of Freedom Council post-merger) the number of units in our Council has declined from 428 in 2010 to 235 in 2023. 100 of those dropped units occurred between 2020 and 2022.
  • As our youth membership declined, so did summer camp attendance. In 2010, summer camp attendance at Hidden Valley was 525 Scouts, peaked at 820 in 2018, and was 558 in 2023 (including Tiger Cub Camp). In 2010, summer camp attendance at Tuckahoe was 2,077, peaked at 2,629 in 2011, and was 1,108 last summer.
  • The Council currently lacks adequate youth membership to support the attendance levels necessary to generate enough revenue to bring our camps to break even. Rebuilding our youth membership to pre-COVID levels will likely take many years.
  • The projected summer camp attendance for 2024 reflects that the decline in attendance at both camps will continue.
  • Scouts BSA troops travel out-of-council more frequently for summer camp these days, seeking variety and new experiences. Our council has 122 Scouts BSA troops (boy and girl troops) – only 33 in-council troops are currently signed up to attend either Hidden Valley or Tuckahoe.
  • The expenses associated with running our summer camps are increasing. Inflation has impacted all costs, and hiring qualified summer camp staff has become much more costly.

No. The Executive Board's only decision is not to offer summer camp programs at Hidden Valley beginning in 2025.

After carefully reviewing a report from an ad hoc committee of experienced board leaders who studied the issues and developed recommendations for the Board’s consideration, the Board reached this decision at its meeting on April 16, 2024.

Yes, the Ad Hoc Committee identified and considered all the following possibilities before reaching their recommendations:

  • Closing and selling Tuckahoe.
  • Closing and selling Hidden Valley (all or a portion)
  • Closing and selling both camps.
  • Explore putting one or both camps into conservation easements.
  • Explore putting one or both camps into carbon credit programs.
  • Closing Hidden Valley or Tuckahoe as a summer camp, operating the “closed” summer facility for year-round purposes only.
  • Maintain the status quo at both camps, evaluating current programs and promotion efforts executed by senior management.
  • Restructure the council to prioritize subsidizing camping operations – further staff reductions beyond the four full-time positions already eliminated since 2022.
  • Develop new fundraising efforts targeting the financial costs of operating both current camps.

We have not changed our accounting practices for camping since the merger in 2010, which allows easy comparison from one year to the next.

  • Direct expenses only are charged to each camp. Camp rangers are expensed to their camp.
  • The employee compensation costs for the Director of Camping and Camping Administrative Assistant are allocated 50-50 between Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe.
  • No other full-time council employees (including accounting) are charged to our camps.
  • Full-time camp employees are budgeted to cost $278,304 in 2024 (salaries, benefits, and taxes).

Our current situation is not an accounting exercise where it is worthwhile to rearrange where expenses are charged. Ultimately, the money to pay our camp-related expenses comes from the same bank account as all other council expenses.

Camp Tuckahoe will be our council’s only long-term resident summer camp at that point. The Camping Committee has not yet made specific recommendations to the Board, but we anticipate that short-term (weekend) camping will likely be available. No summer camp facilities or amenities (e.g. the swimming pool, boating area) will be available.

Given the positive impact of summer camp experiences for our Scouts, we encourage all New Birth of Freedom Council units to attend the summer camp programs we offer at Camp Tuckahoe. We are committed to providing excellent summer camp programs and facilities at Tuckahoe.

We plan to assess our facilities at Hidden Valley and determine our best course of action to make Hidden Valley a great year-round camp. At this point, we don’t specifically know what that answer looks like. Our priorities are to 1) stabilize the financial situation at Hidden Valley, 2) determine if any facilities are past their useful life and should be removed, and 3) determine if any facilities are no longer helpful in our camping operation and should be removed.

The condition of all facilities and the costs associated with maintaining them change over time. The Executive Board, through the Properties Committee, will monitor the condition of all facilities at Hidden Valley and decide how best to proceed.

Our most urgent priority is to regrow our membership as quickly as possible. If we cannot do that, we will not have enough Scouts in our council to attend our camps and make them financially viable.

No specific targets have been established to reopen Hidden Valley for summer camp programs in the future. But if summer camp attendance at Tuckahoe increases beyond our capacity to meet the demand, considering the possibility of reopening Hidden Valley for summer camp may make sense. If the Council is again operating with a surplus, we will not reopen Hidden Valley for summer camp if doing so would result in an operating deficit.

Using our 2023 results as a “snapshot,” we incurred a $24,973 deficit for Hidden Valley summer camp operations. For the non-summer months, Hidden Valley incurred a $107,675 deficit in 2023.

Operating only one summer camp results in significant “opportunity cost” savings – hiring one summer camp staff instead of two, focusing capital spending on summer camp at one camp only, etc. Professional, volunteer and financial resources are being spread too thin while trying to operate two summer camps. This “opportunity cost” savings allows us to better focus our collective attention and resources on delivering outstanding summer camp experiences at a single summer camp.

Tuckahoe makes the most sense for the following reasons:

  • Centralized location within the Council
  • Cub World facilities to support Cub Scout summer camp programming.
  • Larger per session capacity (450 campers vs. 250 campers at Hidden Valley)
  • More opportunities are available to attract units to nearby attractions like Gettysburg.
  • Easier administration with the future council service center located at Tuckahoe.

Local United Way support has declined by $359,843 from 2010 to 2023 (from $476,914 to $117,071). This often-overlooked factor has played a significant role in our Council’s financial health, as it has been challenging to increase support and revenue trying to keep pace with this sharp decline in United Way revenues.

For decades, local United Ways invested significantly in our programs. But that’s no longer the case as local United Ways have prioritized their funding elsewhere, as is their prerogative. Our point is not to criticize this decision, only to share the reality this funding is no longer available.

Over the years, the Executive Board has always endeavored to be fiscally responsible. Since the merger creating the Council in 2010, the Board decided to reduce the number of districts in the Council from eight to five, reducing the number of field staff available to serve units. Other support staff positions, including a full-time marketing position, have also been eliminated.

In the past two years, as a direct response to the current financial challenges fueled in considerable measure by our camping deficits, we have eliminated another four full-time staff positions, including the Assistant Scout Executive position (Chief Operating Officer).

We need to provide compensation levels that will allow us to attract and retain the caliber of staff we need to operate and lead our council effectively. We are asking our remaining staff to do even more now without meaningful increases in their compensation.

If regrowing our youth membership is our top priority, further reducing the size or quality of our staff will not help us achieve that objective. We cannot reduce our staff size further without affecting our ability to function as a council.

A new service center at Tuckahoe best positions our council for the future and reflects anticipated use by Scouts, volunteers, and council staff, as well as our focus on camping programs. The Executive Board did not think it would be the best path forward to retain the Mechanicsburg Service Center, and the decision to sell the Mechanicsburg Service Center was made many months before the decision to end resident summer camp programs at Hidden Valley starting in 2025.

In addition to the planned sales of the York and Mechanicsburg service centers and 900+ acres at Tuckahoe, we have submitted a grant proposal for state funding to help renovate the historic dining hall into our new service center, and an additional application for funds to upgrade the shower and restroom facilities at the Tuckahoe pool. We are hearing positive feedback about our proposals from local elected officials, and we hope to hear good news very soon.

In the best interests of the entire NBOFC Scouting community, selling a large amount of the former York-Adams Area Council’s assets (Wizard Ranch, York Service Center, and ¾ of Tuckahoe’s acreage) while appearing to act differently to retain as much as possible of the former Keystone Area Council’s assets would likely be viewed as inequitable in the southern part of the Council, and in any event the Executive Board is focused on what is in the best interests of the NBOFC going forward, not balancing physical assets of legacy councils merged out of existence more than a decade ago.

The Board plans to pursue opportunities for a potential conservation sale of buffer acreage at Hidden Valley, hoping that if such a sale can be accomplished, the proceeds can be treated as an “endowment” to assist in subsidizing some of the operating costs at the camp.

As we have learned in our efforts to preserve land at Tuckahoe through a conservation sale to the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, we can unlock the considerable financial value of our “buffer” acreage (not used in delivering our programs) while protecting the land from future development without impacting the camping experience or appearance of the camp.

As our Council looks to recover from the financial impact of our $2.7 million contribution to the Survivors Settlement Fund, the Executive Board is trying to identify new revenue streams, especially when those revenues can help support our overall mission while protecting our camps.

The Council’s Executive Board, now or in the future, has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of Scouting in south-central Pennsylvania. It is impossible to accurately predict what circumstances future Council Executive Boards might face many years from now, so it is impossible to predict what decisions may or may not occur.

While the Executive Board prefers a conservation sale for part of Hidden Valley, we don’t know yet if that option can be realized or if other private party sale opportunities may come along that the Board will want to consider.

We plan to continue using Hidden Valley for year-round camping, cabin rentals, training courses, and other events.

On June 1, 2023, at the Council’s Program Launch event, Council President Jan Wagner and Immediate Past Council President Matt Haar gave a presentation on the council's overall financial health in the immediate aftermath of the COVID pandemic, including a detailed look at the significant operating deficits incurred in our camping operations.

Their presentation was posted on the Council website on July 28, 2003. Their presentation is available here – “A Closer Look at Our Council’s Financial Health.”

That presentation included the following statement: “We know how important our camps are to our Scouts and volunteers. We can tell you that the members of the Board know this and feel the same way. But if the financial results we’ve shared with you here were playing out where you work or your household finances, the conclusion would be inescapable – this situation is unsustainable.”

We know that our camps are not just outdoor facilities where Scouting occurs. There is sentimental and nostalgic value for many current and former Scouts and volunteer leaders. This emotional connection to our camps is genuine and not to be taken lightly. However, given the significance of the financial impact of our camping operations, doing nothing is not a viable option.

We hope that our units will consider attending summer camp programs at Tuckahoe and continue to use Hidden Valley for non-summer camping opportunities. We are committed to offering the best possible experiences and facilities at both camps.

Unit leaders and others can contact council officers via our website at https://newbirthoffreedom.org/council-leadership-executive-board/.

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.

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