By Kie Relyea The Bellingham Herald
MAPLE FALLS — Boy Scouts will be able to camp at Camp Black Mountain next summer, provided certain conditions are met by Dec. 31.
That temporary reprieve was part of the decision made by the executive board of the Mount Baker Council of Boy Scouts of America on Thursday as members grappled with how to end an annual operating loss of about $50,000 in recent years.
Two options went before the board Thursday:
•End operations, mothball Camp Black Mountain and prepare to sell all or part of the property.
•Suspend summer camp and develop a plan for the property, due by May 31.
The board picked the second option, although members amended it to allow summer camp at the property on Silver Lake near Maple Falls for summer 2013, as long as the following provisions were in place by the end of December:
•$60,000 deposited into a trust account to cover any potential loss in operating the camp in 2013.
•At least 300 campers over three weeks must be signed up and committed to attending.
•Qualified staff can be hired for the short season.
A group called Friends of Black Mountain agreed to come up with the $60,000 and to work with the Mount Baker Council on getting the required number of campers.
The Friends this week proposed buying operating rights to the camp — while the Boy Scouts retained ownership of the property — and reusing it as a scouting program and activity center.
“We’re extremely happy with it. It’s a good compromise. It’s a reasonable comprise. It gives us time to work up a plan to save the camp,” said Brent Richards, president of the Friends of Black Mountain who had camped there as a boy and worked there as summer camp staff.
He expressed confidence in the group’s ability to meet the provisions to get the camp going for next summer.
“The important challenge is to create a sustainable program moving forward,” Richards said. “We need to be able to deliver a program year after year that isn’t a liability to the council.”
The Friends of Black Mountain proposal will be among those that the Mount Baker Council’s study group looks at to develop a plan for the property.
That report is due by the end of May.
“I think the biggest thing was that they really wanted to give the committee (study group) more time to do its work,” said Duane Rhodes, spokesman for the Mount Baker Council of Boy Scouts of America, of the executive board’s decision.
“They wanted to explore some other ideas that had come up about possible alternative uses on the property,” Rhodes added.
“We haven’t seen any proposals that would, over the long term, put enough Boy Scouts in there for summer camp to have the camp on a fiscally sound model, but there may be other ways to use the property,” he said.
Camp Black Mountain has served Western Washington since 1929 but has been in the red each year for the past decade, Rhodes said, before losing $50,000 per year in the past five.
The Mount Baker Council serves about 7,600 Scouts in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island and San Juan counties.