October 18, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 42

Scout officials, youths dedicate camp upgrade

Resident Norm Smith recalled a Boy Scout campout in the early 1960s, when a Scout leader took him and others out to Chilkoot Lake in an old school bus.

“We tried setting up tents. It was raining so hard and it was so cold, we climbed in our sleeping bags and got back in the bus. A couple of us tried to sleep, but you could see your breath. When we woke up in the morning, there was a couple inches of new snow on the ground. Then we drove back to town.”

Fast forward 50 years.

Smith was among about 20 residents and Scout leaders Saturday who joined a dozen Venturer Scouts at a dedication of improvements at the Scout camp on Mount Riley. The facility includes a woodstove-heated cabin that sleeps about 20, a covered, campfire pavilion about 60 feet in diameter, and a large restroom facility, including six showers.

“It’s awesome that they’ve got flush toilets and electric hot water. That’s probably better than some (Scouts) have at home,” Smith said. “We’ve come a long way.”

Smith’s daughter was among Scouts who camped out Friday night at the cabin, as heavy rains and wet snow fell outside.

Saturday’s picnic and activities culminated the first phase of work to create “The Chilkoot High Adventure Base” here, serving Scouts from the Lower 48 and around the world. Scout executive Cliff Crismore of Anchorage, who came to Haines Saturday, said the next phase would include construction of a dining hall, additional cabins and storage facilities.

Under the program, groups of 40 Scouts would use the facility as a jumping-off point for activities like sea kayaking and hiking around Haines or Southeast. Four groups participated in activities last summer.

The camp is the only such facility in Southeast and one of five statewide. “The state’s big enough and diverse enough that the activities we do here may not be the same as those up north,” Crismore said.

The camp also will be open to use by the community, Crismore said.

Completion of the restroom raises total investment in the camp to $535,000, including in-kind donations. About $300,000 in legislative grants paid for construction of restrooms and a well and septic tank.

The camp is located at 2.75 Mile Mud Bay Road on 28 acres donated by the Haines Borough.

Sean Gaffney, whose International Wilderness School is partnering with the Scouts to provide activities, said the site of the camp puts it in close proximity to activities. There’s a link to the Mount Riley hiking trail and the Haines Sportsman’s range is close.

Gaffney said contractor Ira Henry worked beyond expectations to build the restroom between last winter’s record snows. “This facility stands to do community good in a couple different ways,” Henry said.

John Schnabel, who started a local trust to boost Scouting here, turned out Saturday. Schnabel built the pavilion with recycled roofing and leftover pipeline and recently secured a $5,000 donation from the Discovery Channel for the Scouts. Schnabel said he was encouraged by the Great Alaska Council’s plans for the site.

Scouts at Saturday’s cook-out participated in team-building activities in the rain. Chris Turner, 17, was among youths taking a break next to the fire in the pavilion. He said he appreciated the improvements, including no longer relying on an outhouse. “The bathrooms are clean and warm. Everything’s looking great,” he said.