Hidden Valley to Cease Summer Resident Camp Following 2024 Season

Following months of study, at its meeting on April 16, 2024, the Council Executive Board made the difficult decision to cease offering a resident summer camp program at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation after the 2024 season.   This is not a decision that any of us wanted to make, but as discussed more fully below, the council and Scouting across the country are facing significant challenges in membership as well as broader economic challenges.  The council will still feature camp events, resources and opportunities as a distinguishing feature of its program to serve our local youth.

Today, our council faces significant financial headwinds that are impacting our ability to effectively support local Scouting programs throughout our council, as well as operating our camps in a fiscally sound manner.  In the past two years, our council had a combined operating deficit of $455,664 for 2022 and 2023. In 2023, 89.3% of that deficit ($153,483) was attributable to our camping operations.

If you attended the Council’s Program Launch event in June 2023 at Camp Tuckahoe, you heard Council President Jan Wagner and Immediate Past Council President Matt Haar’s presentation on our council’s financial challenges, focusing on our camps.  We also posted Jan and Matt’s presentation on our website in July 2023 because we wanted our Scouting family to be aware of these challenges that we saw as unsustainable.

Unfortunately, our financial situation (including our camps) has not improved since last June despite our efforts to reduce expenses by eliminating staff positions and other costs. As we look toward the start of summer camp this June, projected attendance at both Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe 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).

At its April 16 meeting, the Council’s Executive Board voted that starting in 2025, Camp Tuckahoe will serve as the council’s sole 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.

We want to share with you the information the Board reviewed and explain why the Board arrived at its decision.

Youth Membership

The number of youth in our council is at the heart of the Council’s health, financial and otherwise.  In 2012, our council’s youth membership peaked at 11,376.  In 2023, that figure dropped to 5,455.  The number of Scouting groups in our council declined from 428 in 2010 to 235 in 2023 (100 of those lost Scouting units disappeared from 2020 to 2022).

The COVID pandemic was the single most damaging event, dramatically reducing the number of youth and Scouting groups in our council. With significantly fewer Scouts in our council (and other BSA councils) available to attend summer camp, summer camp attendance is clearly impacted.

Our youth membership is smaller now than it was in 2008 in either the Keystone Area or York-Adams Area Council, and we have been attempting to sustain two camping facilities and two resident summer camp programs with that total youth membership.

As Youth Membership Declined, So Did Summer Camp Attendance

Total summer camp attendance declined sharply following the COVID pandemic, although it was already in decline pre-pandemic.

In 2010, summer camp attendance at Hidden Valley was 525, peaked at 820 in 2018, and was 558 last summer (including Tiger Cub Camp).

In 2010, summer camp attendance at Tuckahoe was 2077, peaked at 2,629 in 2011, and was 1,109 last summer.

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.

Operating Budget Results Over Time

The graph below provides historical operating budget results since 2010.  In 2022, the council had an operating loss of $283,712, and last year, the deficit was $171,952,

During the pandemic, our council received significant financial support from the federal government’s Payroll Protection Plan and the Employee Retention Tax Credit programs, along with a $500,000 pandemic insurance policy we had earlier purchased from Lloyd’s of London (these revenue sources created the large surplus in 2021).

A Changing Financial Model

Over time, significant revenue sources have changed considerably.  One such example is the decline in support from local United Ways.  For decades, local United Ways invested heavily in our programs.  Unfortunately, this is 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 that this funding is no longer available.  In 2010, the council received $476,914 from the local United Ways, but in 2023, the council received $117,071, a drop of $359,843, which significantly impacted the council’s yearly budget.

Only the United Way of York County still allocates dollars to our council. However, the United Way of York County has announced a change in its funding priorities, and these dollars will also be gone soon.
While our fundraising efforts have grown steadily, keeping pace with shrinking United Way revenues has proven difficult.

Summer Camp Attendance & Financial Result

While youth membership declined across all Scouting programs, Cub Scout membership was impacted most severely during COVID-19. Those losses then impacted the Scouts BSA program a year or so later when those Cub Scouts should have been crossing over to Scouts BSA.

 Looking at Hidden Valley’s overall summer camp attendance, the 558 Scouts camping at Hidden Valley in 2023 marked a new low dating back to the 2010 merger.

Similarly, Tuckahoe’s summer camp attendance has also declined significantly from a higher-water mark of 2,629 in 2011 to 1,109 last summer:

Summer camp is critically important in covering the camp’s operating costs. We break camp operations into two periods for budgeting:  1) summer camp and 2) year-round. We do this even though we know that some operations at the camps in non-summer months support summer camp operations

If you look at the two graphs below, you can see the financial results from summer camp operations since 2010:

Year-Round Camp Finances

Revenues from non-summer camp months at our camps never come close to covering the costs of those periods.  The graphs below provide the non-summer camp financial results at both camps:

The council’s operating budget has not been able to compensate for the shortfalls, but the cash must come from somewhere. The cash was drawn from reserves built up in prior years, but those reserves are not unlimited, and we now must use our line of credit more than ever before to fund the council’s day-to-day operations.

From 2010 to 2019, the council’s camping operations produced a net surplus every year, but in 2017.  The graph below reflects the recent shortfalls in our camping operations:

Potential Actions Considered

An Ad Hoc Committee comprised of senior Board leadership was empaneled to identify potential options and make recommendations to the Board.

Potential scenarios considered by the Ad Hoc Committee included:

  • 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 of both camps into carbon credit programs.
  • Closing Hidden Valley or Tuckahoe as a summer camp, operating the “closed” 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 camp operations – further staff reductions beyond the four full-time positions already eliminated.
  • Develop new fundraising efforts targeting the financial costs or operating both current camps.

Recommendations to the Board

Following a careful review of each of these options, the Ad Hoc Committee decided to make the following recommendations to the Board:

  • Operate Tuckahoe as the council’s only summer camp facility starting in 2025.
  • Discontinue summer camp at Hidden Valley in 2025 while continuing to maintain year-round operations.
  • “Mothball” summer camp-only facilities at Hidden Valley for potentially recommission at some future date.
  • Pursue a conservation sale of a portion of Hidden Valley, with the proceeds creating an “endowment” to assist in subsidizing some of Hidden Valley’s operating costs.

Rationale Supporting These Recommendations

  • 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.
  • Many of our Scouts BSA troops attend summer camp programs in other councils more frequently than at an NBOFC summer camp.
  • Overreliance on attracting out-of-council summer camp attendance is not a sound fiscal strategy and involves considerable risk.
  • Camping programs are a significant membership draw and distinguishing factor for Scouts BSA.
  • Operating only one summer camp results in significant “opportunity cost” savings – hiring only 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 trying to operate two resident summer camps.
  • Tuckahoe has the following advantages as the council’s summer camp facility:
    • Centralized facilities within the council
    • More opportunities are available to attract units to nearby attractions like Gettysburg.
    • Cub World facilities.
    • Easier administration with the future council service center located at Tuckahoe.
    • Larger per session capacity (450 campers vs. 250 campers at Hidden Valley).

Potential Conservation Sale at Hidden Valley

Consistent with previous actions taken by the Board, the Ad Hoc Committee recommended that the Council pursue opportunities for a potential conservation sale of land at Hidden Valley, like what we are currently doing at Tuckahoe.

We have been informed of potential interest in doing this through the Central PA Conservancy, with whom we have already worked on our planned divestment at Tuckahoe. 

We would retain those areas traditionally described as east, central, and west camps, including all buildings, paved roads, and access to virtually all existing creek frontage.

In Conclusion

We know how vital our camps are to our Scouts and volunteers. We recognize and appreciate that this decision to discontinue resident summer camp at Hidden Valley will be profoundly disappointing for many of them.

By sharing all of this information with you, we hope you will better understand the challenges impacting our council and our camps, just how serious these issues are, and how they threaten our ability to be financially viable.

Today, rebuilding our youth membership is paramount.  Our council has lost too many Scouts and too many units.  If we can successfully regrow our membership, those additional members will hopefully attend programs at Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe, and the resulting revenues will help stabilize our financial situation.  That financial well-being is vital to ensure we, as a Council, can be prepared to do what we must to support your units to deliver Scouting to the youth you serve.

 Yours in Scouting,

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


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