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{This Letter has been sent to all Scouting families as well as Scouting supporters affiliated with the Voyageurs Area Council, BSA}
 
 
June 26, 2015
 
Dear *|LNAME|* family:
 
In 2014 the Voyageurs Area Council began the process of evaluating our strategic goals, facilities, camps and properties.  The first step was bringing Tom Werner on as the chair of the properties committee. Tom now serves an executive board member as well as a member of the board’s executive committee in addition to chairing the properties committee.  The initial intent of this committee was to provide the executive board with an internal assessment of the condition and utilization of our real estate assets.  The second step was to ask the National Service Center, of the Boy Scouts of AmericaExternal Link, to send a National Project Architect (NPA) to do an external evaluation.  The NPA is a paid staff member in the Outdoor Programs/Properties Department of the BSA.  We asked the NPA to complete his assessment and to provide us a third party evaluation that was strictly fact based, with no emotional ties or preferences. 
 
In October of 2014, the NPA visited our council and spent several days assessing each of the properties and has recently issued his Field Service Report for our seven camps and the service center, in Hermantown, MN.  Three main questions come out of his report, “Where are we now? Where do we want to go?  How should we get there?” The NPA had also issued a brief prior to the final Field Service Report. Both are available here. This page will serve as the central site for information related to the properties review discussion.
 
Where are we now?  We have seven properties within our council in addition to our service center: Devil’s Track (Grand Marais, MN), Camp Lester River (Lakewood Township), Camp Horace Johnson (Island Lake Reservoir), Camp 28 (Cloquet River), Camp Newman (South Range), Camp Nushka (Cass Lake, MN), and Camp Barksdale (Washburn, WI).  While each of these  may provide a unique outdoor experience, they also each pose their individual challenges.  It is interesting that as a council we record over 50% of our youth camping; however, only 14% camp at VAC camps. Of those 14% the majority are camping at VAC camps held on short-term rental or lease properties and not at the camps listed above.  Why is this? 
 
We historically focus our finances on program delivery, yet we rarely appropriate sufficient resources to improve the tools, properties, and resources that we use to execute Scouting programs.  We have allowed  our properties to deteriorate throughout the years, which has now put us in a position where we need to make significant improvements or changes. This should come as no surprise.  Whether it is deteriorating buildings, lack of adequate facilities, or minimal utilization, we need to be proactive in making a change.
 
Where do we want to go?  Honestly, this is up to you!  We must ask ourselves, “What do we want? What do we need? And, What do we value?”  Do our camps, in their existing condition, provide the educational and outdoor experience that our Scouts deserve? Are we giving our chartered partners and their adult leaders the tools they need to execute Scouting’s mission?  Although very difficult, we truly believe if we disconnect our emotional tie to some of our properties, the answer is “No.”  We would like to start the thought process of: “At the end of the day we are here to provide Scouts and Scouters, throughout the Voyageurs Area Council, relevant and vibrant programing which continues to promote and ensure quality Scouting in our region for generations to come.”
 
How should we get there?  This is a very challenging question. We am confident that by working together we will find a way.  We have already taken the first few steps by challenging our properties committee with this effort as well as seeking a third-party assessment.  Our obstacles are that we don’t know what we don’t know. Right now we don’t know what our stakeholders want and need.  We do know that we need information from you and information from experts. 
 
In the last VAC- Executive Committee Meeting the committee appropriated “reasonable resources” to provide factual data on each property.  What this means is that we will be retaining counsel to review deeds and leases.  This also means that we will be reaching out to industry professionals and asking for a Comparative Market Analysis for each property, so that we can try to determine the current market value of each.  This DOES NOT mean that our properties are for sale.
 
In an effort to be fiscally responsible and reduce our liability, we expect to see a recommendation to sell some of our properties. In the event this were to take place, we would recommend that the board designate proceeds for property preservation and growth, ensuring a strong annual budget for camping and outdoor programs. We cannot put ourselves in this position again.
 
You have our word that this will be a transparent process, and the decisions that are made will come of no surprise.  Over the next several months, we will be meeting with the properties committee and will allow for ample dialog with our board of directors to discuss this specific matter.  This fall, we will conduct “Town Hall Meetings,” in each district, specifically designed to hear your wants, concerns, needs, which will help us make educated decisions.  We have also set up an e-mail address, VAC.Key3@scouting.org, to allow you an outlet to share your thoughts on each camp, and give you an opportunity to answer the questions posed above.
 
We look forward to this being an exciting time in the Voyageurs Area Council and are confident that our outcomes will provide our youth with the best Scouting experience there is to offer.
 
Yours in Scouting,
 
 
Nicholas E. Minardi
President
 
 
 
David M. Johnson
Commissioner
 
 
 
David A. Nolle
Scout Executive/CEO

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