El Rancho Cima was purchased in 1954 using funds raised from a capital campaign. It is located near Wimberley, Texas about 30 miles south of Austin and 45 miles north of San Antonio. It is approximately 185 miles from downtown Houston resulting in a drive time from that location of plus/minus four hours on a Friday evening.
El Rancho Cima contains three separate camping areas for Boy Scouts/Venturers:
- Cockrell River Camp
- Walter Scout Camp at Horseshoe Bend
- Hamman High Adventure Base at Ironwheel Mesa
These three camping areas provide for weekend camping and Boy Scout summer resident camp.
Historically, weekend camping at El Rancho Cima has little usage. During the years 2012 – 2014, the average percentage of the council’s Boy Scout weekend camping at El Rancho Cima was 5.5% and the average percentage of the council’s troop weekend camping there was 2.8%. And, of the grand total of the council’s youth in all of our Scouting programs (Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Venturing), Scouts weekend camping there was just 1.9%.
El Rancho Cima has been a site for the council’s Boy Scout summer resident camp. This began in the 1950s and has continued through today. From the time El Rancho Cima opened and up until 2005, the council also conducted another Boy Scout summer resident camp at Camp Strake. Leading up to and since 2005, there has not been enough demand to conduct Boy Scout summer resident camp at two different camp properties.
During the years 2012 – 2014, the average percentage of the council’s Boy Scouts participating in summer resident camp at El Rancho Cima was 13.6% and the average percentage of the council’s troops participating in summer resident camp there was 9.0%.
Of those Boy Scouts participating in summer resident camp at El Rancho Cima, 61% camped at Cockrell River Camp, 33% camped at Walter Scout Camp at Horseshoe Bend, and 6% camped at Hamman High Adventure Base at Ironwheel Mesa.
While these are percentages of the council’s Boy Scouts and their troops participating in summer resident camp at El Rancho Cima are not high, our council does have a high percentage of Boy Scouts and their troops participating in summer resident camp, which is what is most important.
The council is proud that in 2013, 2014, and 2015, we have achieved the Gold level in Journey to Excellence1 for Boy Scout Camping. We achieved the Silver level in 2011 and 2012.
In 2014, we had 80.9% of Boy Scouts/Venturers participate in summer resident camp. In 2015, we had 82.8% of Boy Scouts/Venturers participate in summer resident camp.
The reality is that a significant majority of our council’s Boy Scouts and their troops participate in summer resident camp at other council’s camps in Texas and across the country or at BSA’s national high adventure bases.
El Rancho Cima’s cost to operate year-round on a per Scout basis is much more than any of the council’s other camps, and from the period 2012 - 2014 it had a year-round average operating deficit of $615,000. This annual average operating deficit has been consistent occurring for many years.
In May 2015, flooding caused significant damage and loss to the Cockrell River Camp resulting in its closing. Cleanup efforts began in August 2015 of Cockrell River Camp.
In the past ten plus years, there has been other flooding and it seems as though the frequency of flooding is increasing, which increases our risks with having Scouts camp near the river and conducting programs on the river.
The plans are to eventually close El Rancho Cima and sell the property, although no exact timeline has been established yet. The desire is to continue to conduct Boy Scout summer resident camp there through the summer of 2018 and transition to the new Camp Strake with the Boy Scout summer resident camp in the summer of 2019. However, no firm plan and timeline has been established. There could be reasons that would cause this to happen sooner or later.
1 “Journey to Excellence” is the BSA's council performance recognition program designed to encourage and reward success and measure the performance of our units, districts, and councils. It is meant to encourage excellence in providing a quality program at all levels of the BSA. For Boy Scout camping the measurement is to increase the percentage of Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts attending long-term camp and high-adventure program at any in-council/out-of-council long–term summer camp, high - adventure experience, or Jamboree, or serving on camp staff as entered on the national camping form.
The Gold Level is achieved with 80% Boy Scouts camping or 65% camping and improving over previous year by a minimum of 2 point increase.
The Silver Level is achieved with 65% Boy Scouts camping or 55% camping and improving over previous year by a minimum of 2 point increase.
The Bronze Level is achieved with 55% Boy Scouts camping or improving over previous year by a minimum of 2 point increase.
Not only is El Rancho Cima the most expensive camp to operate on a per Scout basis year-round, but it also has very low usage for weekend camping, which is the lowest of all our camps. Additionally, we will have a new state-of-the-art Camp Strake and will conduct summer resident camp there. There is not the demand to operate summer resident camp at two different locations.
El Rancho Cima has an average annual deficit of approximately $600,000 to operate it year-round. That $600,000 each year can be used in more effective ways to get more youth into Scouting and provide a program for them.
Also, there are no sustainable means to maintain the camp in the condition that it deserves. The cost to rebuild Cockrell River Camp to meet the standards of our Camping Vision Statement are cost prohibitive and we have no funding model to do that.
Additionally, because of the flooding and potential changes to the flood plain on the Blanco River, we do not have confidence that we could obtain all the required permits to rebuild near the river.
The catalyst for this decision was the loss of Cockrell River Camp during May 2015 due to the flooding of the Blanco River. Because of this, in June 2015 the council’s Board of Directors created a new ad hoc Boy Scout & High Adventure Resident Camp Task Force (“Task Force”) to develop a program implementation plan for Boy Scout and High Adventure Resident Camp for 2016 through 2018 and to determine a long-term future strategy for Boy Scout and High Adventure Resident Camp operations for the council and to present that long-term future strategy to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for review and consideration.
The Task Force included nine members who represented a wide array of interests and backgrounds in Scouting. After extensive meetings in June and August, coupled with a site visit of the Cockrell River Camp, the Task Force formulated near-term recommendations for clean-up of Cockrell River Camp and also prepared preliminary long-term recommendations.
These near-term recommendations and preliminary long-term recommendations were presented to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors in August. The Executive Committee conducted extensive discussion of these recommendations and charged the Task Force to identify and evaluate all possible alternatives that could be considered.
The Task Force carried out extensive further analysis in September through October 2015. In their analysis, they considered the following criteria for every possible alternative:
They presented a final recommendation for this plan to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors in November 2015, at which time it was approved with twenty-two (22) votes in favor, zero (0) votes against and two (2) abstentions.
In December 2015, the Board of Directors ratified the Executive Committee’s approval of this plan with fifty-one (51) votes in favor, three (3) votes against and one (1) abstention.