I love summer camp. I loved it when I first attended a week long camp in 1962. Four years later I was back there working and four years after that I was running camps.
One summer at camp, I asked one of the Scouts to take a turn reading from the Fieldbook. He was embarrassed that he couldn’t read, but by the end of camp he could. Now that same Scout is a leading architect and has designed buildings in our camp. Like this Scout, time after time I’ve seen a week at camp change lives—many hundreds in my 45 years of adult leadership.
Our camps are very well used, but our Scout numbers just keep soaring, so when I started my new job six years ago, I knew we needed to get the camp at the Mountain Dell Scout Ranch done. However, the capital fund was spent and our properties director had to take disability. His full time duties fell to me; me with no construction experience and two left thumbs, but an obvious love of camp.
There had been rosier times, so let me take you back a couple of years. We received an anonymous major gift to improve camps from the BSA Foundation. The board and staff decided to begin developing the new Mountain Dell Ranch property, which the Mortensen Family had given to us 10 years earlier. Starting with just a bare mountainside there was a lot to do: roads were pushed in, electricity laid in the ground, water systems built, and septic systems and other basic infrastructure developed. This all cost a lot, but we had a good start.
I remember helping with the lower access bridge and gate, when Larry Seeley, then camp advisor, warned me that he might drill into my boot while I held planking in place by standing on it. He was under the bridge and I was on top. Minutes later he did it… he drilled into the heal of my boot.
As a novice, I was the rare exception; other than me, we had trained builders and construction crews who joined Camp Ranger Dave Merrill, our on-site construction manager, in getting the camp built. Still there we were, a year from opening and we were out of money.
Some of the first structures were at the National Youth Leadership/Timberline training camp. Tom Perl’s deep interest in junior leader training caused him to invest in the training center, now named for him. His generosity led to the construction of three training camps, each with two pavilions and running water.
By the time the project fell into my hands, we had three training center camps, 30 campsites for regular summer campers with pavilions, a shower house, and some classroom buildings. During that first year, John Valentine helped with a new First Aid Lodge and the Eccles Foundation paid for a Nature Center, while the Horace Chipman Estate allowed the sale of their Granite Ranch which paid for the construction of the Trading Post. We had a solid beginning
We were slated to open in just one year, the economy had tanked and the capital fund was depleted. That’s when Ron Mika, Sorenson Capital managing director, stepped in with his North Star Foundation to help finish the pool and shower house.
Just after that Robert and Angè Workman came to inspect progress on the camp. Since they had given the original start up money through the BSA Foundation, they had a vested interest in the camp’s progress. In fact, their Tifie Foundation gave the new camp its name.
They left camp offering additional major support and gave us a new vision that included a major expansion on the original dining hall design, which now would include seating for 500 and a reception patio that overlooked the Sanpete Valley.
The first year, we rushed to connect septic systems and finish electrical connections. We got final building inspections and insured the camp would meet the muster of BSA standards. That summer camp opened to 3500 very satisfied campers and we were in business. Even with this progress we were missing several important structures, all under construction, but not complete: the Center for Enterprise (STEM Center), the dining hall and the Service and Support Center at the Perl Training Center.
Together the Workmans and Mikas brought the Bill Burch Lodge to life and this summer we were able to serve our first meals there—nearly 40,000 in all. Tom Perl’s support pushed the Training Center’s Service and Support Center toward completion and members of the Gunnison Utah Stake offered funds to begin the final work on the Center for Enterprise (CFE).
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA