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4802 South 19th Street
Tacoma, WA, 98405

253-682-2217

Letter to Scouters about Camp Hahobas

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February 27, 2019

Dear Scouters,

I wanted to take a moment to update you on the status of Camp Hahobas.

After several years of weighing our options, the decision was made to enter into an agreement with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) to transfer ownership of all but 122 acres to a government agency while guaranteeing the preservation of the land through a conservation easement.  This agreement has been realized.

It is with mixed emotions that I write this.  Mixed because this allows our council to inform you that we are debt free for the first time in more than 20 years and have substantially increased our endowment fund while regrettably sacrificing a cherished asset where many of us have fond Scouting memories.

As we began to research our ability to use government funding to place Camp Hahobas into a conservation easement, we learned that we had to use a broker that had been approved by state and federal government agencies to help shepherd the process.  Two were available to us, the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. Because we used TPL as our broker for this transaction, it means the public, including Scouts, will be able to access this land forever!  It also means that the land will never be developed and will remain a wilderness area. This is a permanent deed restriction.

The Council rejected an offer that would have developed the property into a community of houses.  We liked the preservation option a lot better, it felt more in line with Scouting values.  The conservation option did not decrease the value received by the Council.  We received the same value as if the property was sold for development.

The new owner of the land will be the State of Washington, Department of Natural Resources and the Great Peninsula Conservancy.  Also partnering on this project is the United States Navy and the Trust for Public Land.  Each of the four groups put funding into the project to make it happen.

We will be retaining 122 acres of the property including most of Robbins Lake, the area around the trading post and all the way to the rifle range.  We still need to work out the details, but you can expect that the property will be available for weekend camping at some point soon.  We have been using the property from time to time, but on a very limited basis.  We will not have water or power available at this time, so the camping will be primitive.

I am often asked where the money will go.  First and foremost, we were able to pay off all debt.  When we started this journey, the debt was just over $1,200,000.  At the start of February, the debt was $660,671.  Today it is zero.  A significant portion of our debt was payment back to our endowment fund. That means the money in that fund will now be used as donors intended and the interest from the investment used to assist in funding the operation of our council.

The Board of Directors has decided where the additional proceeds will be invested.  Most will go to our endowment fund.   In addition, a group of board members has been asked to determine the best use of the assets that will not be put into endowment.  They will make a recommendation to the full board and they will make final approval as to what will happen.   It is expected that a portion will go toward improvements at Camp Thunderbird.

An increase to our endowment fund is a wonderful thing.  It helps us secure our future.  But it will never replace our need for Friends of Scouting.  Our annual fundraising drive is what allows us to support the annual operating costs for our two service centers, Camp Thunderbird and our team of employees that assist units with training, recruiting and program services.  Our future will only be as bright as our ability to tell our story and partner with you to fund our programs.  

How blessed the Pacific Harbors Council is to be filled with volunteers that are experts in many fields.  Thank you to Bill Rogers for your steady hand on the wheel during this 2 ½ year journey and for touring camp with more than 50 different groups that were interested. Thanks to Bob Tice for guiding us through many of the title issues.  Fred Herber guided us through complex environmental issues and negotiating with different government agencies.  Mark Crawford is the glue that held our group together for the past two years.  Mark, your advice has been a lesson in leadership and how to get things done.  This has been an emotional and difficult journey but one that has seen the Board of Directors and our whole council show amazing perseverance to achieve a common goal, to guarantee Scouting in our community for the next 100 years.

As a community of Scouters of the Pacific Harbors Council, what should you see as a result of this transaction?  

  1. A new staff member.  Assistant Scout Executive Duc Button. 

  2. Some immediate upgrades at Camp Thunderbird. A volunteer group is working on the priority list.  We expect you to see work on the HVAC for Dale O, new signage, campsite upgrades and hopefully some more flush toilets soon.  Expect to start to see changes this spring and summer!  The bigger projects will take longer and we will send you some more information in the next few months.

  3. A master plan for the development of Camp Thunderbird as a premier Cub Scout Camp, training center and weekend Scouts BSA destination is underway.  We were close to completing this, but with changes in the program we need to take another look.

  4. Staff able to focus on better service rather than economic survival.

I mentioned that I have mixed emotions about this note to you.  Having spent 11 summers on camp staff I am not willing to celebrate that we had to lose this asset in order to stabilize our Council.  I am very excited to be able to tell you that we are debt free and on much stronger financial footing.   

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

Sincerely, 

Ralph Voelker
Scout Executive
ralph.voelker@scouting.org