Camp Development

Camp Development for the 21st Century

The Sam Houston Area Council has the vision to become a leader in camping by having first-class facilities that are well maintained and provide safe, fun and educational outdoor programs for our Scouts. In 2012, the council approved a new Camping Vision Statement: Exemplary, Sustainable Outdoor Experiences and Creative Learning for 21st Century Youth and Their Leaders.”

To achieve this vision, the council has a properties master plan. This plan is modified from time to time based on need and situational events.

In developing the plan, the following are key principles that drive decisions:

  • Exemplary – first-class facilities, maintained to meet today’s standards;
  • Sustainable – a long-term solution for ongoing operating and maintenance costs and the long-term maintenance of facilities;
  • Program Impact – delivering high-quality programs associated with quality facilities – basically driving towards achieving the goals of the Camping Vision Statement;
  • Impact – maximizing the use and access based on location to our camps by as many Scouts as possible; and
  • Efficiency – being a good steward of resources and eliminating redundancy.

Plans

The current plan includes developing new camps such as the new Tellepsen Scout Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch (near Navasota, Texas) that opened in 2015, the new Camp Strake (near Evergreen, Texas) and a new Janis and George Fleming Cub World at Bovay Scout Ranch (near Navasota, Texas) the later two of which will open in a few years.  It also comprises making improvements to Camp Brosig (near Sealy, Texas) and McNair Cub Adventure Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch (near Navasota, Texas) and discontinuing operations at camps that have low usage, are not meeting financial plan and/or are not sustainable.

After months of diligent analysis by a special task force of the council’s Board or Directors, and other rationale as described in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding camp development, it has been decided that eventually El Rancho Cima will close and the property will be sold, 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. For additional information about Camp Strake (design plans, construction schedule and periodic updates), please reference www.samhoustonbsa.org/camp-strake.

Camp Strake Plans

Funding  

Donations are a major source of funding to develop capital improvements in the properties master plan. The council is in the midst of a major gifts campaign called Leaders of Tomorrow Campaign, which will dedicate more than $21 million for this purpose. The Leaders of Tomorrow Campaign is an initiative to unleash the potential of our programs and camp properties to best serve the needs of Scouting families in the 21st century. Please refer to the Leaders of Tomorrow Campaign for more information.

Leaders of Tomorrow Campaign 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Sam Houston Area Council’s plans for camp development? 

In 2012, the Sam Houston Area Council (“council”) approved a new Camping Vision Statement: Exemplary, Sustainable Outdoor Experiences and Creative Learning for 21st Century Youth and Their Leaders.”

Our vision is to become a leader in camping by having first-class facilities that are well maintained and to provide safe, fun and educational outdoor programs for our Scouts.

To achieve this vision, the council has a properties master plan. This plan is modified from time to time based on need and situational events.

The plan includes developing new camps such as the Tellepsen Scout Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch (near Navasota, Texas) that opened in 2015, the new Camp Strake (near Evergreen, Texas) and a new Janis and George Fleming Cub World at Bovay Scout Ranch (near Navasota, Texas), the latter two of which will open in a few years. It also comprises making improvements to Camp Brosig (near Sealy, Texas) and McNair Cub Adventure Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch (near Navasota, Texas).      

Are there any metrics/standards being used to measure how the council achieves the Camping Vision Statement?

Yes. 

Exemplary
  • Do the camps provide the opportunity to fulfill the aims and methods of Scouting?
  • Are facilities and programs safe and well maintained and meet today’s standards?
  • Are all program needs (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturing) based on the defined role of the camp being met? 
  • Are the numbers of participants utilizing the programs at an appropriate level and increasing over time?
  • Are the programs fun, creative and educational?
  • Are the camps appropriately located for their intended use?
Sustainable
  • Does the camp operate within a board approved budget?
  • Is the property environmentally sound for future generations?
21st Century Youth
  • Are programs that are conducted attractive and exciting for today’s youth?
  • Are the programs that are conducted leading youth to lifelong values, service and achievement?
Other
  • User (youth and adult) feedback will be sought as a confirmation of experience. 
Definitions
  • Well maintained – “routine maintenance and major maintenance is conducted as scheduled and needed”
  • Environmentally sound for future generations – “the camp and its facilities are designed, managed and maintained in a manner that balances program use with sustainability” 
  • Attractive and exciting for today’s youth – “incredible facilities and fun and /or intense outdoor programs that expand the limits of what youth can do.”

Camp Strake

Where will the new Camp Strake be located?
The new camp is located near the community of Evergreen, Texas, between New Waverly and Coldspring, and is about 75 miles from Houston.  It is near Highway 150.  Scouts and Scouters will be able to easily get there by taking Interstate 45 north or Highway 59. It is about a thirty-minute drive from the entrance of the old Camp Strake.   



 
How many acres does the new Camp Strake have?
The property includes 2,816 acres and is surrounded on three sides by Sam Houston National Forest. 
 



 
Why was this site selected?
The Evergreen site was selected because it is in the heart of our target area, met our site selection criteria, which included convenient location and protection from urbanization and encroachment, and allows for expansion for program in the future. It is surrounded on three sides by Sam Houston National Forest, has the Lone Star Hiking Trail going right by the corner of the property, and it will be simple to get there, especially after the completion of the Grand Parkway.   


 
What will the new Camp Strake look like?

The new Camp Strake will be first-class and state-of-the-art for Scouts and their leaders and will have two distinct sections: 

  • Scout camp developed for weekend and resident camp operations for Boy Scouts and Venturers
  • Leadership Institute for advanced training programs for adult leaders and Boy Scouts/Venturers.        

The Scout camp for Boy Scouts and Venturers will have the following facilities:

  • 20 campsites with pavilions
  • Air conditioned dining hall with 450 person capacity
  • Event administration building
  • Large program pavilion
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) center
  • Eight merit badge pavilions
  • Shooting Sports Center with rifle, shotgun and pistol ranges
  • Shooting Sports Center for archery and sporting arrows course
  • Climbing pavilion with restrooms
  • Low ropes course
  • Zip line
  • Climbing and rappelling 40’ tower
  • Bikes and all-terrain vehicle ATV area
  • Aquatics Center with a swimming pool and pool house
  • Aquatics Center with lake (new lake with size range of 20-30 acres being created) and canoe storage
  • Aquatics Training pavilion
  • Sport fields
  • Basketball court
  • Extensive trail system
  • Order of the Arrow ceremony site
  • Arena for 1,200 people
  • One Chapel for 250 people
  • One Chapel for 100 people
  • Modern restrooms and shower houses
  • Forty summer camp staff huts

The Leadership Institute will have the following facilities:

  • Leadership Training Center
  • Four cabins with eight person capacity each
  • Four dormitories with 16 person capacity each
  • Arena for 100 people
  • Chapel for 100 people
  • Training pavilion
  • Training campsite
  • Shower houses
When will the new Camp Strake open?
The camp’s schedule is to open in the summer of 2019.  That date is predicated on favorable weather conditions and no unforeseen circumstances. 
Why is it taking until 2019 to open the new Camp Strake since the land was purchased back in 2013 and 2014?

There are many things that go into the development of a project of this size, and it takes time to accomplish them all. Just imagine, during many of our programs throughout the year, Camp Strake will be the largest community in San Jacinto County.    

Compare Camp Strake to a university campus or small city. Each have to have features such as roads, power, water, sewer, buildings and other amenities. Camp Strake will be just like a university campus or small city. 

Following are some neat highlights about the new Camp Strake:

  • Will have 155 structures 
  • Will have 4 miles of roads 
  • Will have 11.7 miles of trails 
  • Over 200,000 square feet of facilities built 
  • Newly constructed lake of 20-30 acres 
  • Camp Strake will be the largest community in San Jacinto County during many of our programs throughout the year

Following are some of the processes and projects that have gone into and will continue to go into the development the camp: 

  • Program requirements established by Camp Strake Project Definition Team
  • Master planning by architect based on program requirements
  • Land study for infrastructure including roads, power, water, sewer and lake, etc.
  • Endangered species and archeological studies conducted as required
  • Design completed by Camp Strake Design Team with architect after multiple focus group meetings involving Scouts, leaders, and special user groups such as climbing, shooting sports, etc.
  • Budget developed and approved by Board of Directors
  • Construction documents for all infrastructure features and 155 vertical structures completed by architect
  • Contractor/s selected by Camp Strake Construction Committee
  • Required permits obtained from local, state and federal agencies
  • Site work including creation of new lake in the size range of 20 – 30 acres
  • Infrastructure (roads, power, water and sewer) constructed
  • Vertical structures (155) constructed

Additionally, the creation of a new lake requires obtaining state and federal permits that take considerable time.  After the permits are obtained and the site work for the lake is completed, it then takes many months for the lake to fill from rain water.      

What will we do if we use all the space at Camp Strake?
The site for Camp Strake was selected because it contains 2,816 acres and provides ample space for expanding programs and adding campsites for weekend camping for Boy Scouts/Venturers for years to come.  Also, the property is already master planned with a site for a future Cub World.
Will Boy Scout resident camp be held at Camp Strake?

Yes. Camp Strake will be home to our summer and winter resident camp programs. The current schedule is that beginning in the summer of 2019, Camp Strake will be the site for our Boy Scout summer resident camp instead of at El Rancho Cima.

Also, Boy Scout winter resident camp will move to Camp Strake from McNair Cub Adventure Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch. The current schedule for that to occur is December of 2019.   


 

What types of programs will be offered at Boy Scout resident camps at Camp Strake?

Our resident camp programs at Camp Strake – both during the summer and winter – will be the opportunity to show the full range of what Camp Strake has to offer. Current plans for these programs include:
  • A fully-trained staff engaged to deliver the best possible program experience
  • Exceptional food service in a new, state-of-the-art and air conditioned dining hall
  • Unique staffed program experiences in "Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience" (COPE), aquatics (lakefront and pool-based), shooting sports, climbing, STEM and ecology, and Scouting skills
  • Exciting backcountry opportunities in hiking, biking, and ATV programs
  • Impressive camp-wide events, including campfire programs at a spirit-filled 1,200 person arena
  • Comfortable camping facilities that will include pavilions in each campsite, modern and convenient restroom/shower facilities, and direct access to key program areas
  • Between summer and winter camps, over 75 unique merit badges offered, in addition to a comprehensive First Class emphasis program.
What programs will Camp Strake offer for weekend camping for Boy Scouts and Venturers?
Camp Strake will offer a full range of program opportunities for unit-led outdoor experiences. During a weekend, a troop or crew will have the opportunity to utilize the aquatics programs at the new lake and pool, experience a state-of-the-art shooting sports program, seek adventure in climbing and COPE activities, or explore the vast network of trails, including the Lone Star Hiking Trail in the Sam Houston National Forest, through hiking and backpacking programs.



 
What types of programs will be offered at the Leadership Institute at Camp Strake?
The Leadership Institute at Camp Strake will serve as the council’s home for our pinnacle training opportunities for youth and adults – Wood Badge and National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT). It will also serve as a facility to accommodate basic and supplemental training, as well as a venue for planning meetings and retreats for Scouting groups.

Cub World

Will there be a new Cub World at Camp Strake?
Day CampNot at this time. There will be a new Cub World named the Janis and George Fleming Cub World developed at the Bovay Scout Ranch instead of Camp Stake.





 
Why is the Janis and George Fleming Cub World going to be at Bovay Scout Ranch instead of Camp Strake?

Bear Resident CampPrimarily for two reasons. The first reason is that we already have facilities for Cub Scouts at Bovay Scout Ranch, and there is ample room to expand utilizing the existing resources for our Cub camping program.

The second reason is that it is more cost effective. We already have some infrastructure in place at Bovay Scout Ranch to support incorporating a new Cub World. At the new Camp Strake, the infrastructure, including roads, sewer, water, etc., would have to be constructed to support a Cub World there. 

 

When will the new Janis and George Fleming Cub World at Bovay Scout Ranch constructed?

Family CampingNo schedule has been developed for it at this time. However, it is an important project and plans are being developed to construct the first phase of it as soon as all the necessary funding is secured.

The first phase of development will be six campsites each with a pavilion, three restrooms/showers and two program elements.  Additional phases will be added as funding is secured for them. 


 

Will there ever be a Cub World at Camp Strake?
Webelos Resident CampThere could be. Camp Strake has the space, and is master planned for a Cub World. The demand causing a need for another Cub World and the funding to develop it will determine that timing.  






 
Where can I get additional information about Camp Strake and keep up with its construction?
Information about Camp Strake is on the council’s website. Periodic updates on the progress of construction will be made there.  Please reference the Camp Strake web page.
Are there plans for anything else at Tellepsen Scout Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch?

Yes. The following additional projects are planned to be completed at Tellepsen Scout Camp around the end of summer of 2016: 

  • Climbing tower lighting
  • Pavilion at climbing tower
  • Canoe launch bulkhead on lake
  • Canoe storage building
  • Canoe area pavilion
  • Campfire arena
  • Red roof inn (Philmont Style Latrine)
     

Bovay Scout Ranch

What are the plans for McNair Cub Adventure Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch?

Following are the planned projects by priority:

First Group of Projects
  • Roadways renovation
  • Restroom (Field Sports area)
  • Refurbish and repair existing buildings
 
Second Group of Projects
  • Parking lot expansion
  • Electrical extension into campsites
  • Storage facility at lake front
  • Pool renovation
  • Storage/Check-out building for the BMX Track
  • Nature Building Renovation (concrete floor)
Third Group of Projects
  • Storage facility at lake front
  • Expand pool features
When will these projects at McNair Cub Adventure Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch be completed?
Projects will be completed as soon as the needed funds are raised and collected through the Leaders of Tomorrow Major Gifts Campaign.

El Rancho Cima

What are the plans for El Rancho Cima?

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.
Why not keep El Rancho Cima and continue to operate Boy Scout summer term resident camp there?

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. 

How did the council come to this decision?

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:

  • Affordability
  • Program
  • Quality
  • Impact
  • Sustainability

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.

What are the council’s plans to conduct Boy Scout summer resident camp if El Rancho Cima needs to close and be sold before the new Camp Strake is open?
Our ideal strategy would be to obtain an agreement with the buyer for a lease-back program, allowing us to conduct our summer resident camp program at El Rancho Cima until we are able to operate the new Camp Strake. If this is not feasible, we would utilize the facilities of the new Tellepsen Scout Camp and the McNair Cub Adventure Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch to conduct a resident camp program, similar to the model that we have implemented to start operating our winter camp beginning in 2015.

Camp Brosig

What are the plans for Camp Brosig?
The plans for Camp Brosig are to continue to make improvements to it as soon as the needed funds are raised and collected through the Leaders of Tomorrow Major Gifts Campaign.

Following are the planned projects:

  • Road repairs 
  • Camp entrance 
  • Two shower / restroom facilities 
  • BB gun range (Cub Scouts) 
  • Archery range (Cub Scouts) 
  • Two program pavilions 
  • Campsite pavilions (carport style)

General Questions

Has the council ever closed and sold camp properties before?

Yes. The council’s first camp was Camp Masterson.  It was located twenty-one miles from Houston near Shelton. The land for it, consisting of 20 acres, was donated to the council in 1925. It was closed and the land was given back to the Masterson family heirs in 1927.

Camp Hudson was the council’s second camp. It was located in Houston in what is today Memorial Drive. The land for it, consisting of 100 acres, was donated to the council in 1925 and 1928. It was closed and the land was sold in 1973. 

The council’s third camp was Camp Strake. It was located in Conroe about 38 miles from Houston. The land for it, consisting of 2,359 acres, was purchased in 1943. In 2012, it was decided to relocate Camp Strake to a rural area resulting in the land of the original Camp Strake being sold in 2013 with a lease back from the buyer for the use of the land through 2014. 

The land for the new Camp Strake, consisting of 2,816 acres, was purchased in two separate transactions. The first in 2013 and the second in 2014. 

The Hudson Scout Reservation was another of the council’s camps. It was located about 120 miles from Houston near Centerville, Texas. The land for it, consisting of 3,190 acres, was purchased in 1974. It was closed and the land was sold in 1991.

Our camps have not always been well maintained.  How will the council maintain our new camps and the improvements that are being made now? 

For the first time in our council’s history, we have an endowment with sufficient resources to maintain Camp Strake over time.  We are in the process of building an endowment for Bovay Scout Ranch that in time may have sufficient resources to maintain it over time as well.

The resources of the council are limited. We are thoughtful and take seriously in our charge to use those resources wisely to provide the Scouting programs to an increasing number of youth. That is our mission. It is important that we eliminate redundancies in properties and have efficient and sustainable camp operations.

The way we will maintain our camps is to not have more camp properties than we actually need based on usage, demand, and sustainability and to have an endowment for the camps that we do need based on usage and demand.

How many camps and acres of land will the council own and operate after Camp Strake is completed and El Rancho Cima is closed and sold?

Our council will own and operate three camps with a combined total of 4,395 acres. Those three camps are the following:

Bovay Scout Ranch / 1,245 contiguous acres and an additional separate 242 acres.  It includes:   Camp Brosig / 92 acres

Camp Strake / 2,816 acres.  It includes:
  • Scout Camp (to be named)
  • Leadership Institute (to be named)

Contacts

Thomas Franklin
Chief Operating Officer
(713) 756-3365
 thomas.franklin@scouting.org