Three Harbors Boy Scout Council of Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties decided to close LeFeber which consists of two scout camps on 1,140 acres in the midst of the Nicolet National Forest. and a Cub Scout camp, the Robert S. Lyle Scout Reservation located about 17 miles away in Elcho.
Citing a drop in the number of Scouts visiting the camp, a survey of parents who don't want their boys to travel so far from home and the rustic nature of the place that does not offer a dining hall for troops, the council plans to focus on two mostly Cub Scout camps in southern Wisconsin and close its two Boy Scout camps in the north. (Supposedly Lefeber was still making a profit while Lyle was not -RS)
"Some Scout leaders and others have started a campaign with the name Baden-Powell Northwoods Experience to either keep LeFeber and Lyle as council camps or to purchase them to continue running them as other camps. The group is working with a lawyer to help it become a nonprofit and started a Facebook page.
"Our group believes the camp is financially viable and self-sustaining as long as there's no mortgage," said Crystal Grayl, a counselor with Boy Scout Troop 580 in West Allis. "Even if the council decides to close it and not keep it a Boy Scout camp anymore we think it can be used by other groups."
Dave Loosen, Troop 580 Scout Master, worked for Three Harbors Council for 38 years before retiring four years ago on good terms. He sharply criticized the council's decision to close the two northern camps and said Boy Scout leaders who use the camp were not consulted.
"A year ago this was never on the table, it wasn't discussed at any meetings of leaders who use the camp. The first we heard about it was when the email went out," Loosen said.
Loosen said the email mentioned that roughly $1 million in improvements are needed to bring the camps up to operational readiness. "When I asked about that, it meant all four of the council's camps, not the two camps up here, which was misleading to say it was only the two northern camps," he said.
Katie Clark, director of development for Three Harbors Council, said the deferred maintenance needed for both northern Scout camps and the two southern mostly Cub Scout camps is $940,750 — of that total $310,750 is needed at LeFeber and Lyle. The cost to improve the northern camps to a premier facility, though, is estimated at almost $6.6 million. And with the number of people using LeFeber and Lyle dropping over the last few years, the council's executive board decided it wasn't worth it financially to invest in the camps.
"They felt that it would be financially improper to invest in underutilized properties, and that because of the trends, camp upgrades would in no way ensure an increase in the number of camper days ... to financially justify continued operations," Clark said in an email.
Less than 50% of troops in the Three Harbors Council have sent their Scouts to LeFeber and Lyle in the last two years. But Loosen said that three years before that, 60% of troops from the council visited the camps. When he asked the head of the council why Scout leaders were not consulted, he was told an outside study was done.
"It was an online survey of 300 people, parents and leaders. One of the things it said was that parents of Scouts didn't want their sons to go long distance. I have 38 young men up here this week, their parents want them up here. That was something made by Cub Scout parents, so it was a small portion of people taken out of context," Loosen said.
Clark said a task force was formed when the Boy Scout councils in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties consolidated in 2011 to study use of the camps. Volunteers were invited to join the task force, which decided after two years of study to recommend in January closing LeFeber and Lyle.