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A Letter From Fred Fuller, Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 223, Algonac - 9/16/19

The sale of Silver Trails Scout Camp is not a done deal, though many people seem to think it is. BSA’s Michigan Crossroads Council (MCC) has said a Purchase Agreement has been signed and they can’t get out of it, but they refuse to let any of us registered Scouters see the Purchase Agreement. Why? As several people familiar with real estate transactions have said: “No one who has legal advice signs a Purchase Agreement without having options for canceling it.”

Here are reasons why the Friends of Silver Trails thinks this is not a done deal:

The truth about this secret, suspicious deal between the MCC and the gravel company is being exposed.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office is investigating what may be conflict of interest and/or violations of law in the deal.
Many Scouters are asking the National BSA to investigate the very unScoutworthy way MCC has operated in this situation.
Over 5,000 people have signed an online petition expressing their opposition to the deal.
An online survey is finding there is very strong opposition among Scouters to the sale.
Scout troops are refusing to participate in popcorn sales and other MCC programs to show their outrage at turning Silver Trails into a gravel pit.
Grant Township, where the camp is located, says they don’t want to see Silver Trails become a gravel mine and they currently have the zoning authority to deny it. They might get sued, but they say they are ready for a lawsuit, and Friends of Silver Trails will help them raise money for it. The Township Board has a plan to purchase the camp using a state grant, if the MCC will sell it to them.
Our County Boards of Commissioners (Sanilac, Huron and St. Clair) could be persuaded to get involved in trying to come up with a solution to this theft of local resources.
Our State Senator, State Representatives and U.S. Senators could be persuaded to use their powers to halt this deal.
Some of us remember when a Nuclear Waste Dump was proposed to be located between Yale and Capac, and everyone thought that was a done deal. But local people fought back and it was stopped. Unexpected things can happen if we are organized and persistent!

Sincerely,

Fred Fuller

Assistant Scoutmaster

Troop 223, Algonac

 

 

MCC and Silver Trails Survey Link

The Friends of Silver Trails began circulating a survey recently seeking opinions on the functioning of MCC, the sale of Silver Trails and other Scout camps, and actions people are likely to take as a result. The survey has been in circulation since August 15. The more respondents we get, especially from active members, the more meaningful the results will be. Please e-mail the survey link to everyone in your units and anyone you know who is or has been involved in Scouting. This survey is not intended just for members registered in the Water and Woods Field Service Council, but for all members across the MCC. The survey link has been posted on the Friends of Silver Trails Facebook page, but please share it and continue posting. The link is:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdL-CQdvtNRBmEZqOUVrQrYXr9kcF-8Tyj2rUctuFwhRo7I7w/viewform?usp=sf_link

 

MCC and Silver Trails Survey Results

Link to detailed results:

Survey Update August 29, 2019

As of today, August 29, there are 92 respondents so far to the survey about the Michigan Crossroads Council and Silver Trails. The vast majority of the responses are very critical of the MCC. Of the 92 respondents, 60 are active BSA members. 70% are in the Water and Woods Field Service Council. About 77% do not believe their unit is receiving better service since the 2012 consolidation. 90% have not noticed any improvements due to the MCC. 10% are undecided, but no one indicated that they have noticed any improvements due to MCC. Between 15 to 21% indicate that membership, program, and participation in their units has increased or improved, but these same respondents say that these improvements are due to their own efforts and are not because of MCC. 74% want to return to the original councils and 22% want to reorganize the MCC. Only 2 people say leave MCC as it is, but even they are unhappy with MCC.

No one is happy with the camp sales, especially Silver Trails, and the vast majority have expressed very strong feelings about this. Almost everyone is angry that Silver Trails has been offered only to a gravel company and that no one else had a chance to buy it and protect it as a camp or park. Only 23% are planning to buy any BSA fundraising products and only 13% will contribute to Friends of Scouting. According to MCC, currently, only 8% of Scouters contribute to Friends of Scouting, so on the surface, a 13% contribution rate looks like an improvement, until you realize that many of those that responded to this survey are part of that small 8% that have normally contributed. Based on personal discussions apart from the survey, there are several Scouters that have contributed for decades that no longer will. At this point, only 42% of currently registered members that responded to this survey are planning to register in the MCC in 2020.

So far, the survey results are quite clear and not surprising. The MCC has failed to live up to the grand promises as set forth in the Area 2 Project and the 2012 consolidation. While some respondents say that they could understand selling a few camps, the huge sell-off by the MCC strikes most as a disgusting attempt to prop up a failing organization, if not an outright land grab. Adding insult to injury is the lack of transparency, misinformation, and complete disregard for the many Scouts, Scouters, and other community members in the old councils where these camps are being sold.

Grant Township Meetings
The Grant Township Planning Commission meets the last Tuesday of each month, so the next meeting will be on September 24. The Grant Township Board meets on the second Monday of each month, so their next meeting is on September 9. The Friends of Silver Trails should plan to be at these meetings. We want to make our continued presence known, let the Township know that we are here to help, track their progress on updating their recreation plan and ordinances, assist in preparation for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, track their progress on meetings with the gravel company, and make suggestions on how to save Silver Trails or at least salvage what we can before it is destroyed forever.

Some of you have requested the draft letter of interest that we discussed at the last Friends of Silver Trails meeting. This letter would be submitted by individuals to Grant Township to request information about any decisions regarding Silver Trails. See the draft letter below. You can modify the letter as you like:

Greetings Grant Township Clerk,

Please add my name and contact to any of INTERESTED PERSONS / PARTIES that shall be notified on upcoming or future public hearings, use, or zoning regarding the following property:

SILVER TRAILS SCOUT RESERVATION
7140 JEDDO ROAD
JEDDO, MICHIGAN 48032

Parcels 74-21-006-3001-000 and 74-21-006-3002-000

In order to limit cost, please e-mail me at: [insert your e-mail here] 

If you have any questions or concerns, please call me at: [insert your phone here]

Very Respectfully,

[insert your name here]

 

Michigan Crossroads Council and the Sale of Silver Trails
Update August 29
The Michigan Crossroads Council (MCC) has sold 6 of 16 scout camps serving the Lower Peninsula of Michigan since the 2012 consolidation. The latest is Paul Bunyan Scout Reservation near Rose City, sold on August 12, 2019. Two more camps are for sale including Lost Lake Scout Reservation near Farwell and Silver Trails Scout Reservation near Jeddo. Two other camps, Greilick and Kiwanis, were given back to the Rotary Club of Traverse City and the Kiwanis Club of Lansing respectively. Camp Rotary near Clare is owned by the local Rotary Club. That leaves just 5 camps of the original 16 currently owned by the MCC, even though the stated purpose of the consolidation was not about selling camps.

Sometime in late spring or early summer of 2019, the MCC signed a binding agreement to sell Silver Trails Scout Reservation to AMC Mid Michigan Materials for gravel mining. This will be, by far, the most destructive sale of any of the Michigan scout camps. The sale is pending the results of core samples to test for gravel, but we have little doubt that significant gravel deposits will be found. The sale price is said to be $1.8 million dollars.

The financial condition of the MCC is unclear, but based on public information and an August 4 Detroit Free Press article, the council lost about $5.5 million dollars from 2013 through 2017, running a deficit of about $92,000 per month. At the same time, they took in about $5 million dollars in camp sale revenue. There is conflicting information as to how this camp sale revenue is allocated. The council says that it is deposited in a capital fund for the maintenance and improvement of other camps. However, the Detroit Free Press article said that a portion of this revenue is being used to pay down debt and that they recently increased their line of credit with two banks to $8 million total.

Executive compensation in the MCC and BSA in general, is exceedingly high, especially for a non-profit organization. Based on their 2017 Michigan tax return, executive compensation in the council ranged from a low of about $139,000 to a high of about $225,000. Based on their 2018 annual report, the council took in less than $15 million dollars in revenue, but spent over $15 million dollars. Of their total expense, 59% was spent just on employee compensation. The numbers are similar for previous years. To put this in perspective, the sale of Silver Trails Scout Reservation at $1.8 million dollars would provide council employee compensation for less than 3 months.

The financial situation with Silver Trails in the years since the 2012 consolidation has also been somewhat unclear because the public has not been able to review details, the accounting for camps is a complicated mix of material and program expenditures, and the MCC has controlled use of and investment in Silver Trails for 7 years. What is clear, is that the former Blue Water Council had an endowment fund of at least $1.5 million dollars, a portion of which was dedicated to Silver Trails. This fund was taken by the MCC upon consolidation in 2012 and co-mingled with other funds. The fund is never mentioned by the MCC when they talk about alleged financial deficits for Silver Trails. Whether all or a portion of the endowment fund was dedicated to Silver Trails is beside the point. Annual dividends from that fund could have been used to off-set the costs of running Silver Trails. MCC statements about the condition of buildings at Silver Trails have been exaggerated. Most are in very good condition. The Rotary Lodge has a new metal roof and working kitchen. The George Flott Nature Lodge has a relatively new roof. To our knowledge, other infrastructure is in good operating condition.

On top of all of this, the promises of the 2012 consolidation have not been fulfilled in our opinion, those being increased membership, more efficient delivery of the Scouting program, better program, and increased assistance to units. Since 2012, total youth participation declined by about 12,000. We don’t have details prior to 2014, but from 2014 through 2018, the total number of Scouts declined by about 9,000 and total adult participation declined by about 2,000 to 3,000. There are now far more paid employees in the Michigan Crossroads Council than there were in the former 9 councils of the Lower Peninsula, taking over half of the total council income in salaries and other compensation. No unit leaders we have spoken with have experienced significantly improved program or improved assistance to their units as a result of MCC and the consolidation. The sale of Silver Trails has clearly demonstrated even the lack of basic communication and transparency in the MCC.

The Friends of Silver Trails began circulating a survey recently seeking opinions on the functioning of MCC, the sale of Silver Trails and other Scout camps, and actions people are likely to take as a result. The survey is divided into two sections, the first for current BSA members only, and the second for former BSA members and the general public. This separation provides more meaningful results. With nearly 100 respondents to-date, about two-thirds of them current BSA members, the results are overwhelmingly clear. No one has experienced any improvement in unit service, membership, program, or participation that they can attribute to the MCC. If anything, unit service is now worse than it was under the former councils and a clear majority of respondents favor returning to the original councils. A minority favor reorganization of the MCC, and only 2 people favor leaving the MCC as it is. All but possibly one or two comments are very negative toward the sale of Silver Trails and other Michigan camps. While there is not a clear consensus on individual actions, almost all of the respondents intend to either stop donating to Friends of Scouting, stop buying fundraising products, limit use of MCC camps, or a combination of these actions. Roughly one-third of current members are not planning to re-register with the MCC, and another one-third is now questioning whether they will re-register.

The Friends of Silver Trails is not expecting that the MCC will retain ownership of Silver Trails Scout Reservation. We understand that there have been membership and financial difficulties in the Boy Scouts of America in recent years, and particularly in Michigan. However, we believe that much of this difficulty has been created by the MCC itself and the failure of the consolidation plan. The MCC has had 7 years to prove itself, the last 4 or 5 years under favorable economic conditions. Our main contention with the council is how they have sought to sell Silver Trails. They did not notify St. Clair County, Grant Township, a land conservancy, or any other prospective buyer that could have purchased Silver Trails and kept it as a camp or park with one of the most beautiful natural settings in the region. Instead, Silver Trails was offered only to a gravel company with no forewarning.

Media Coverage

Blue Water Healthy Living – June 8
Silver Trails Scout Reservation To Be Sold For Gravel
https://bluewaterhealthyliving.com/silver-trails-scout-reservation-to-be-sold-for-gravel/

Blue Water Healthy Living – June 10
Saving Silver Trails
https://bluewaterhealthyliving.com/saving-silver-trails/

The Times Herald – June 10
Silver Trails To Be Sold For $1.8 Million If Gravel Is Confirmed
https://www.thetimesherald.com/story/news/2019/06/10/what-does-future-hold-silver-trails/1330790001/

WPHM
Don Shepard, Rob Wilson Interview – June 11
https://www.wphm.net/episode/june-11-don-shepard-rob-wilson/

WPHM
Bill Collins Interview – June 11
https://www.wphm.net/episode/june-11-bill-collins/

The Times Herald – June 20
Mid Michigan Materials Still Evaluating Silver Trails Property, Vice President Says
https://www.thetimesherald.com/story/news/2019/06/20/mid-michigan-materials-silver-trails-scout-reservation-sale-gravel/1498361001/

The Times Herald – June 26
Boy Scouts Scheduled Informational Meetings Regarding Silver Trails
https://www.thetimesherald.com/story/news/2019/07/26/informational-meetings-held-discuss-silver-trails/1825858001/

Detroit Free Press Article - August 04
Michigan Boy Scouts Selling Off Campgrounds To Balance Books
https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/08/04/boy-scouts-michigan-campgrounds/1868668001/

WPHM
Scout Camp Sale To Be Discussed Wednesday – August 5
https://www.wphm.net/2019/08/05/scout-camp-sale-to-be-discussed-wednesday/

WPHM
Don Shepard and Sean Henneman Interview - August 5
https://www.wphm.net/episode/august-5-don-shepard-and-sean-henneman/

The Yale Expositor – August 7
Letter To The Editor
How Our Leaders Have From The Scout Law Concerning The Silver Trails Sale “Endeavor”
YESilverTrailsLetterPage1.pdf
YESilverTrailsLetterPage2.pdf
YESilverTrailsLetterPage3.pdf

The Yale Expositor – August 14
Letter To The Editor

YELetter8-14-19.pdf

The Yale Expositor – August 14
Article

YESilverTrailsArticle_081419.pdf

The Yale Expositor – August 28
Letter To The Editor

YELetterSteinhoff_8-28-19.pdf

The Times Herald – August 8
Local Boy Scout Community: Silver Trails Sale Is 'Going To Hurt Scouting'
https://www.thetimesherald.com/story/news/2019/08/08/local-boy-scout-community-silver-trails-sale-going-hurt-scouting/1952882001/

Sanilac County News – August 14
Plan To Sell Scout Camp Runs Into Buzz Saw
https://sanilaccountynews.mihomepaper.com/articles/plan-to-sell-scout-camp-runs-into-buzz-saw/?fbclid=IwAR3zaZgDthsCICaK0-XpgFJDg2HizQUFaM7Nds3Y_0aCcIyrrdmCzbTJS7I

The Morning Sun – August 18
Legendary Lost Lake Among Boy Scout Camps For Sale To Balance Books
https://www.themorningsun.com/news/local/legendary-lost-lake-among-boy-scout-camps-for-sale-to/article_fbaa8748-bf75-11e9-9859-d7f2874df0b1.html

Oakland News Online – August 18
Legendary Lost Lake Among Boy Scout Camps For Sale To Balance Books
https://oaklandnewsonline.com/legendary-lost-lake-among-boy-scout-camps-for-sale-to-balance-books-the-morning-sun/

Monroe News – August 21
Boy Scout Camps In Michigan For Sale
https://www.monroenews.com/news/20190821/boy-scout-camps-in-michigan-for-sale

Everything Blue Water TV - August 26
Local Boy Scouts Still Hope to Change Future of Silver Trails
https://ebw.tv/news-boyscoutssilvertrails/

Thumb Land Conservancy Blog Post - 2015 March 15
https://thumbland.blogspot.com/2015/03/michigan-scout-camps-billcollins.html

Friends of Silver Trails Contacts
If you have any questions, please contact the Friends of Silver Trails. Send us an e-mail message to get on our e-mail distribution list.

Rob Lester
810-841-3140
rlester1967@sbcglobal.net

Terry Hoy
810-990-4997
terry.hoy16@gmail.com