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Screven County now the new home of a Scout camp
This year marks the 100th anniversary of scouting and it also marks the first year of Screven County as an official scout camp site.
The scout council closed on a parcel of property off Poor Robin Road and Highway 21 that will become the newest camp site for the 14-county council. The property is 380 acres with a 45-acre lake in the center.
Scout officials say facilities will be constructed on-site as it will have a full-time park ranger. The Screven County location, unofficially named the Black Creek Reservation, will replace the Blue Heron Camp in Riceboro.
Boy Scouts of America is an organization that is well known for its morally based program and respect to others. It also is well known for attracting several hundreds of scouts and scout leaders to its camps during the summer and on weekends while schools are in session.
Officials say that summer camp programs for scout typically draw between 600 and 800 youth. That translates into an immediate economic impact to Screven County and its businesses.
“That is wonderful. That is great. This is an honor for our county,” said Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans of the news the scout council closed on the property at 4 p.m. Aug. 13. “It can be a hub to numerous scouts and scouts from other states.
“I want to offer my help to this,” Evans said. “It is an awesome opportunity for Screven County.
“With what scouting stands for the whole thing is just awesome,” she said. “We are so blessed in Sylvania and Screven County. We were chosen for this opportunity for a reason. This is a tremendous opportunity and who knows all the possibilities that are available.”
Stan Sheppard, the county commission chairman, said he and some of the other commissioners have met with the scout council officials.
“We think it is going to be big,” Sheppard said. “This brings our land into focus. It showcases our land.
“I hope they will be good neighbors and they haven’t done anything to make me think otherwise,” Sheppard said.
“We are excited about them. It is a good location,” Sheppard said. “We welcome people from around and we hope they will like our accommodations and want to come back. Boy Scouts of America has a great reputation. We whole heartedly support them."
The local Cub Scouts Pack 391 are one of the local agencies that receives funds from the United Way.
“This can be a great asset to Screven County,” Cathy Kight, executive director of the United Way of Screven County, said of the new camp.
“The United Way of Screven County is proud to provide local support to such an honorable organization as the Cub Scouts. The development of an in-county camp reservation only heightens the importance of Pack 391,” Kight said.
The local pack also is under the umbrella of the Screven County Community Collaborative.
“This is an awesome opportunity for the youth of this county,” said Ramona Stewart, executive director of the collaborative. “This is an opportunity to develop groups like the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts locally. It may open the doors to do that.
“The Community Collaborative looks forward to working with the scout council,” Stewart said. “Kids in scouts learn life lessons that are needed like respect for others and how to treat other people. We need more of that.
“We’d like to see more take advantage of scouting,” she said.
Max Thompson is the Cub Master for Pack 391.
“I think we will be in a position to feel a real impact from the new Scout camp located here in Screven County,” Thompson said. “We have already increased the number of boys participating in Cub Scouts this past school year.
“At the end of this coming school year, we will have at least three boys bridging from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts,” Thompson said. “The visibility of our growing pack has already been seen in parades here in town, the Smores booth at the Christmas Extravaganza, and the Rivers Alive program.
“Pack 391 even had its own Broc Autry compete as a finalist in this year’s Coastal Empire Council Pinewood Derby race in Savannah.”
Thompson said the addition of the new district executive Will Britt of Statesboro will help expand the role of scouting in the Ogeechee District.
“The easy access to the new Scout camp for boys from all three districts in the Coastal Empire Council should help to increase visibility and interest in scouting,” Thompson said. “Screven County has a great opportunity to really make the new camp and scouting a real part of Screven County life.
“This camp will be a place where the meaningful activities that are used to achieve the aims of scouting -- citizenship training, character development, and personal fitness can take place.”
Thompson said an open house and first Den meeting will be Sept. 11 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the school building at the First United Methodist church in Sylvania.
Boys who are 6 years old or in first grade are welcome to join. Adult participants also are welcome.
Although she does not to what extent it will impact the economic base of Screven County, Development Authority executive director Gayle Boykin said the benefits of the camp will be seen.
“I am excited to hear that this is going to happen,” said Boykin, who heard the camp was a possibility.
“We’d like to make Sylvania a destination site for people who may have never come here,” Boykin said. “This is a way to showcase your community.”
Boykin said motels, restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations will benefit from more traffic to Screven County.
“It certainly is a positive sign. We look forward to this new development,” she said. “It is always a good thing to have a good organization come. This is a win-win.
“When you are dealing with the scout council, you know it is good. They help raise children into responsible citizens,” she said.
Jason Williams, owner of Plantation Properties and Land Investments in Statesboro, worked with the scout council members to secure the property that is priced at $5,000 an acre.
Williams found the council the Screven County property with its lake in November.
“The lake doesn’t have tree stumps and it is deep,” Williams said. “The land rolls down to the lake. It is beautiful. I’ve never found a place set up like this.
“It is mostly pine with the lake,” Williams said. “That is one reason that it was really attractive to them.
“I wanted to be a part of this,” he said.
Tom Cardiff of the scout council said facilities will be build on the site in phases, but the council plans to use the new camp as soon as possible.
“We were looking for three years,” said Cardiff of the council’s search for a location like the one they located in Screven County. “We are excited to find this location. We are going to develop a scouting reservation for Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Junior ROTC and others.”
Cardiff said Camp Blue Heron averaged 2,500 scouts a year, mostly during the summer and weekend campers.
The council covers 11 counties. That’s 8,500 scouts and 5,000 Adventurers.
Plans are to hold an open house soon to invite the community to the camp.
The camp has 100 acres of wetlands, which includes the lake, and approximately 300 acres of usable land.
Cardiff said the plans are to construct an eating facility, swimming facility, archery, rifle range, shotgun range, camping area and aquatics area on the property.
The dining hall, Cardiff said, is expected to hold between 300 to 400 scouts in an air-conditioned setting.
“It will be the keystone to the entire property,” said Cardiff, who added that he would like this camp to also be used by the community later on for events like retreats and team-building.
A 50 to 60-foot tower also will be built eventually, he said.
First, the camp must get infrastructure, power and water access. Next, he said, the lake will be cleaned out for swimming.
A permanent ranger will be on site as a house is build for him and his family.
The first large-scale event at the new camp may be the “Father and Son Freeze Out.” The January event is exactly as it sounds. Dads go with their sons into the woods for a very chilly camping experience.
The event typically draws between 600 and 900 campers.
Cardiff said the expansion of the camp will be done in either three or four phases
“Down the road, we plan to even build camping cabins,” he said. “We try to do as much with the community as we can.”
Cardiff said that scouting has seen growth for the three consecutive years.
“Scouting is alive and well,” he said. “We hope to have this camp for the next 50 to 60 years.”
Currently, the camp is being called Black Creek Reservation because it sits on Black Creek, but Cardiff said that for a donation to the effort someone can re-name it.
Everett Prostrollo officially will move over from Blue Heron to the Screven County camp in October.
Prostrollo’s family already has moved to Sylvania and his daughter is enrolled at Screven County High School.
“People in Screven County are very friendly,” said Prostrollo, who has visited rather often. “Sylvania reminds me a lot of the town I grew up in in South Dakota. It’s a town you can raise your family in, a town with a lot going for it.”
Prostrollo is an Eagle Scout and a career scouter.
“People ask me, “How can you be the father of two daughters and be in scouting?”
“My answer to them is ‘I do it because I love scouting.’ I do a little of everything. I help in the kitchen. I help clean up,” he said.
Prostrollo retired in 2001 from the U.S. Air Force and started the next day with the Boy Scouts. As of March 2010, he will have been a camp ranger for three years.
“All the land is a clean slate,” he said of the new camp. “The property is like a blank sheet of canvas. We can build the camp to modern status. All scout camps have their own persona. That is the ‘wow’ factor.”
Along with scouting, Prostrollo said the camp will work with the Junior ROTC program and youth challenge.
Since facilities have yet to be built, he said some creative ideas must be developed.
“It is going to be out-of-the-box thinking until you get facilities,” he said. “How do we provide for sanitation? We will have to get out of our comfort zones.”
Prostrollo said the community is getting something special.
“Screven County can get excited,” he said. “We are going to be spending money on gas and groceries, and at hardware stores. We’ll shop at pizza places and at McDonald’s.
“We’ll pick up program items from thrift store and we’ll stop and get ice,” he said. “Inevitably, it will help boost the economy.”
Prostrollo said he has been a scoutmaster before, as well as a committee chair, and he has helped train scoutmasters.
“I am all for scouting,” he said. “I have the perfect job. I am outside and I get to work with my hands. I am a trained carpenter. I am the property manager. It is a great job to be in the outdoors.”
Prostrollo said he explains the value of scouting this way --
“It is easier to build boys than to repair men.”