El Rancho Cima

El Rancho Cima is a Boy Scout age appropriate camp for troops, teams, crews, and ships, located at 5800 Ranch Road 32, Fischer, TX 78623 on the Devil’s Backbone in the hill country, just 15 miles west of San Marcos, TX close to Wimberley, TX. The property was purchased in 1954 and consists of 2,382 acres of mountainous terrain covered by an umbrella of cedars and hardwoods. 

After months of diligent analysis by a special task force of the Council's Board of Directors in 2015, it was decided and announced in December 2015 that eventually El Rancho Cima would close and the property would be sold. After marketing El Rancho Cima for sale since July 2016, the property is now under contract to be sold later in 2017. Therefore, plans are for El Rancho Cima to close upon the conclusion of Boy Scout resident camp, which ends on July 15, 2017.

El Rancho Cima Decommissioning Celebration

July 15, 2017

For anyone who wants to participate and see El Rancho Cima before it closes, there will be a camp staff alumni activity and a decommissioning of El Rancho Cima activity on July 15, 2017. For FAQs about the camp properties of the Sam Houston Area Council, please visit the Camp Development page.

Register

Summer Camp

The summer camp program includes a traditional summer camp program for troops and teams conducted at Walter Scout Camp at Horseshoe Bend, and a high adventure program called Rough Riders. El Rancho Cima is accredited by the Boy Scouts of America and complies with the standards of the BSA national camp accreditation program. There may be limited space still available for a troop to register to participate in Boy Scout summer resident camp in 2017 at El Rancho Cima. 

Our plans are not to conduct Boy Scout summer resident camp in 2018 at one of our camp properties and instead assist our Boy Scout troops to find a suitable summer resident camp at another council’s camp to meet their needs. There are many other local council camps in the Texas region. We have partnered with the Capitol Area Council headquartered in Austin, Texas for troops to consider their Boy Scout summer camp program at Lost Pines Scout Reservation, located in Bastrop, Texas. The Capitol Area Council has expanded their Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp season in 2018 to accommodate our troops.

Also, we will continue to provide campership assistance for our Scouts in need to participate in a Boy Scout summer resident camp program if they attend the Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp in 2018.

El Rancho Cima FAQs

What is the background of El Rancho Cima and what were the reasons back in 2015 for the decision for it to close and be sold?
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, only 2.8% of the council’s Boy Scout troops used El Rancho Cima for weekend camping. This low percentage of troops using El Rancho Cima for weekend camping has been the norm for many years.

Also, 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 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 separate camp properties.

During the years 2012 – 2014, only 9.0% of the council’s troops participated in the Boy Scout summer resident camp program at El Rancho Cima. Of those Boy Scout troops, 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 percentages of the council’s Boy Scout troops participating in Boy Scout summer resident camp at El Rancho Cima are low, our council does have a high percentage of Boy Scout troops participating in summer resident camp, which is what is most important.

The council is proud to share that in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, we achieved the Gold level in BSA’s Journey to Excellence for Boy Scout camping. We achieved the Silver level ranking in 2011 and 2012.

In 2014, we had 80.9% of Boy Scouts/Venturers participate in summer resident camp. In 2015, we had 82.7% of Boy Scouts/Venturers participate in summer resident camp. In 2016, we had 85.6% of Boy Scouts/Venturers participate in summer resident camp.

The numbers confirm 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 costs to operate year-round on a per Scout basis has been 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 had been consistently 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 ten plus years prior to the May 2015 flood, there had been other flooding and it appears the frequency of flooding is increasing. This increases our safety risks to Scouts camping near the river and/or conducting programs on the river.

After months of diligent analysis by a special task force of the council’s Board of Directors in 2015, it was decided to eventually close El Rancho Cima and sell the property.
 
“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.

− In 2016, the Gold Level could be achieved with 80% Boy Scouts camping or 65% camping and improving over previous year by a minimum of 2-point increase.
− In 2016, the Silver Level could be achieved with 65% Boy Scouts camping or 55% camping and improving over previous year by a minimum of 2-poinincrease.
− In 2016, the Bronze Level could be achieved with 55% Boy Scouts camping or improving over previous year by a minimum of 2-point increase.
How did the council come to this decision back in 2015?
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 the 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.
Now that El Rancho Cima is under contract to be sold later in 2017, what is the schedule for its closing and are there any opportunities to see it again before it closes?
Yes, there are opportunities to see El Rancho Cima again before it closes on July 15, 2017.

The schedule is for El Rancho Cima to close upon the conclusion of Boy Scout resident camp, which ends on July 15, 2017.

On July 15, 2017, there will be a camp staff alumni activity and a decommissioning of El Rancho Cima activity for anyone who wants to participate.

Please see the El Rancho Cima Decommissioning Activity for additional information and to register to participate.

In addition, there may be limited space still available for a troop to register to participate in Boy Scout summer resident camp in 2017 at El Rancho Cima. Please see www.samhoustonbsa.org/summer-camp for information about what space if any, is still available.

Also, weekend camping is still available for Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews through the end of May 2017. Please see www.samhoustonbsa.org/weekend-camping for information about weekend camping at El Rancho Cima.
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, 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 on what is known today as 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, consisting of 2,359 acres, was purchased in 1943. In 2012, it was decided to relocate Camp Strake to a rural area. This resulted in the land of the original Camp Strake to be 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, consisting of 3,190 acres, was purchased in 1974. It was closed and the land was sold in 1991.

The Hamman Scout Camp was another of the council’s camp properties. It was located seven miles southwest of the city of Bandera, Texas, which is approximately 250 miles from downtown Houston. The land, consisting of 965 acres, was donated to the council in 1987 and was sold in 2017.
What are the council’s plans for Boy Scout summer resident camp in summer 2018 with the new Camp Strake not scheduled to open until summer 2019?
Our plans are not to conduct Boy Scout summer resident camp in 2018 at one of our camp properties and instead assist our Boy Scout troops to find a suitable summer resident camp at another council’s camp to meet their needs.

There are many other local council camps in the Texas region. We have partnered with the Capitol Area Council headquartered in Austin, Texas for troops to consider their Boy Scout summer camp program at Lost Pines Scout Reservation, located in Bastrop, Texas.

The Capitol Area Council has expanded their Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp season in 2018 to accommodate our troops.

Also, we will continue to provide campership assistance for our Scouts in need to participate in a Boy Scout summer resident camp program if they attend the Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp in 2018.
How would my troop register for Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp at the Lost Pines Scout Reservation for summer 2018, and how would my Scout/s in need of campership assistance apply for it?
The link to the Capitol Area Council’s website page for Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp is www.bsacac.org/activities/for_boy_scouts/summercamp. Once they open their registration for summer resident camp 2018, just register for a session with them just as you would any other camp.

The application for your Scout/(s) that need campership assistance will be conducted through the Sam Houston Area Council. Additional information regarding that application process will be made available after the 2017 summer resident camp season.

For all Scouts that we provide a campership to attend Lost Pines Boy Scout Camp in summer 2018, we will pay the Capitol Area Council directly on behalf of your troop.
Can my Scouts who need campership assistance apply for a campership if my troop is attending summer resident camp at any other camp other than Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp?
No. We are only providing campership assistance for our Scouts whose troops are attending summer resident camp in 2018 at Lost Pines Boy Scout Summer Camp.
Why is that?
While we will promote all local councils’ camps in the Texas region for your troop to consider attending in summer 2018, we decided to pair up with a camp close to Houston that had the ability to increase capacity at its camp for this one year and for simplicity in processing campership assistance that we will continue to provide to our Scouts in need.

The Capitol Area Council’s Lost Pines Scout Reservation is located outside of Bastrop, which is approximately 125 miles and about a two-hour drive from Houston.
Why not conduct Boy Scout summer resident camp at Bovay Scout Ranch utilizing Tellepsen Scout Camp in summer 2018 like we have been doing for Boy Scout Winter Camp?

That was considered but decided not to for reasons such as:

  • Cub Scout Resident Camp is conducted in June and July at the McNair Cub Adventure Camp at Bovay Scout Ranch and this would conflict with scheduling a Boy Scout resident camp at Bovay Scout Ranch because each program would need to use the dining hall at the same time.
  • Because of the scheduling conflict and use of the dining hall, a Boy Scout summer resident camp program could not be scheduled until late July, which historically has had the lowest demand for summer camp sessions.   
  • Rather than planning to conduct one or two week-long sessions of Boy Scout resident camp at Bovay Scout Ranch, utilizing Tellepsen Scout Camp that would have to be held in late July that we anticipate the demand would be low, we determined it would be more helpful and effective to find a suitable summer resident camp at another council’s camp to meet their needs.
  • Lack of ability to conduct the standard summer aquatic programs.
Is it possible that even though El Rancho Cima is under contract for sale that it this sale will not take place?
It is always possible that any real estate transaction under contract may not close that business transaction even though it is under contract.
Who is the potential buyer and what are their plans for the property?
It is a standard practice to have a confidentiality agreement in the contract for this type of real estate transaction and there is one in our contract. Therefore, we cannot comment on that at this time
If for some reason this contract for sale of El Rancho Cima does not close, will it change plans for the timing of when El Rancho Cima closes?
No. If this contract for the sale of El Rancho Cima does not close, we anticipate that we will have another potential buyer that will place the property under contract.
Did we consider a lease-back of El Rancho Cima through summer 2018?
While our ideal strategy was to obtain an agreement with the buyer for a lease-back program through summer 2018, we were not able to achieve that arrangement.
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. The demand does not exist to operate summer resident camp at two separate locations.

El Rancho Cima has in the recent past had an average annual deficit of approximately $600,000 to operate it year-round. That deficit 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.

For additional questions, contact Thomas.Franklin@scouting.org.

Contacts

Dolly Ortega
Winter Camp Registration
(713) 865-9123
dolly.ortega@scouting.org

Brett Lee
Program Director
(713) 756-3306
Brett.Lee@scouting.org