Miami Valley Council Boy Scouts opt to close, sell off Woodland Trails camp in Preble Co.

Decision was made to preserve local assets, programs, help compensate abuse survivors a part of national settlement.

For more than 60 years, the Woodland Trails Scout Reservation has been a place where local Boy Scouts and their leaders spent time camping, sharpening their outdoor skills and learning about nature.

Over the years, Woodland Trails, located north of Camden in Preble County, has been a place where memories have been made for generations. That will end this summer as the property is up for sale by the Miami Valley Council.

Last weekend, Jeffery Schiavone, scout executive/CEO of the Miami Valley Council in Dayton, said more than 400 Scouts, adult leaders and former camp staff members said one last goodbye to the camp during a celebration.

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Those who attended had the opportunity to hike its trails, visit old campsites and take part in various activities.

Schiavone said the decision to sell the camp was made after its board explored ways to preserve the assets critical to the mission of delivering the Scouting program in the five-county service area as well as compensating survivors of abuse by contributing to the trust as part of the national organization’s financial restructuring process.

“This decision was the result of careful consideration by our board, including a review of property utilization rates and a series of town hall discussions to hear and incorporate feedback from the community. While a sale is not yet finalized, conservation and protection of the land is a top priority in this process,” he said.

Schiavone told the Dayton Daily News that the council conducted five town halls in five different locations to share what the trends were and discuss possible scenarios, including selling the property.

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The council executive board approved selling the camp on Oct. 27, 2021, Schiavone said. He said the anticipated contribution of the council to the trust to compensate survivors through the BSA’s financial restructuring process is $1.255 million.

According to the Preble County Auditor’s Office, the total valuation of the camp is more than $1.36 million. It was last reappraised in 2017, according to the auditor’s website.

He said the local council has not filed for bankruptcy. In addition, restricted donations can only be used for their designated purpose and will continue to support local Scouting in our area.

Council programming will continue through the use and further development of its other facilities — the 169-acre Cricket Holler Scout Camp and the Harry F. Schiewetz Leadership Training Center will continue to be available to youth and adult leaders moving forward.

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However, area Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews who attended summer camp at Woodland Trails will have to go elsewhere for their summer camp adventures. Miami Valley Council has developed partnerships with the Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati, Great Trail Council in Akron, and James C. Justice National Scout Camp at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, so Scouts from the Dayton area can attend camp.

“The national organization of the Boy Scouts of America and all local councils across the country are working together to achieve two key imperatives: equitably compensate survivors of past abuse in Scouting and ensure that Scouting continues in our communities and across the country for generations to come,” according to the council statement. “Our leadership team is committed to making decisions that are in the best interest of continuing our important mission and delivering Scouting’s invaluable programs to youth in our area.”

Bryan Waid of Kettering has been a Scout leader for a number of years and said he heard that it was a possibility that the camp would be sold but was unaware of the decision.

“It was the most logical choice,” he said, adding that he didn’t like it. “Council has another camp and facilities we can use, but it will be a different facility.”

Waid, who is affiliated with Troop 236, said one of his favorite memories was when he was a Cub Scout leader and took the group to Woodland Trails for a weekend event. He said it started to rain, which did not please the adult chaperones being at a muddy event, but that the Cub Scouts were thrilled and wanted to make a mud slide.

“They all had fun,” he said.

Waid said he had the opportunity to go to summer camp with his Scouts and had a great time.

“Our troop always went to camp there, and last year 73 Scouts and adult leaders went to Woodland Trails,” he said. “Buzzard’s Roost was our favorite campsite.”

While it still hurts that they won’t be at Woodland Trails, Waid said, “the kids will still have fun where ever they go.”

This summer, the troop will attend summer camp in Northwest Ohio.

Dr. Charles Goodwin, a pediatric surgeon at Dayton Children’s and a longtime scout leader who guided 317 boys to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, said, “it’s a shame to close it.”

The Washington Twp. resident served as scoutmaster of Troop 236. He said they attended summer camp at Woodland Trails for 40 years and this year, they will be at a camp in the Findlay area.

“Our troop accounted for more than 13% of the total camp attendance for years,” he said. “At times, we had 100 Scouts in camp.”

Goodwin, who turns 80 this year, said the camp was not breaking even and was close to closing in 2020, but he and other volunteer leaders raised the funds to keep the camp open. He also said there has been a push from Scouting’s regional and national levels to close camps because of declines in membership.

The Miami Valley Council purchased about 2,000 acres in Preble County in 1958 as the outdoor program was outgrowing the Cricket Holler camp, which was built in 1919.

Since 1959, the council operated a summer camp and officially renamed the new camp from Miami Valley Scout Reservation to Woodland Trails in 1960.

In 2000, the council sold 710 acres to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to form the Woodland Trails Wildlife Area. Those funds were used to rebuild the council’s endowment fund and retain ownership of Cricket Holler, according to records.

Over the years, the camp was developed with various buildings and included shooting and archery ranges, a 55-foot rappelling tower, aquatics center and a STEM area.

The summer camp did not operate in 2020 and was forced to cancel its 2021 season due to a COVID-19 outbreak in July.

In 1996, the Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati sold Camp Hook, located outside of Middletown. The camp operated for 70 years before being sold to Five Rivers MetroParks.

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