According to a statement made at the Venturing Officer's Association in August of 2013, there will NOT be a Venturing Camp at Camp Naish in 2014. What are Venturer's supposed to do? Well, the handful of Scouts that took part the past couple of years, and anyone they can round up, are going to be encourage to seek out High Adventure options for 2014. That's right, let's drop the local Camp that the average person can afford ($150) for a High Adventure Program that will likely cost over $500.
Understand that this is not a matter of providing a better program. This is about money. The Boy Scouts of America in the Heart of America Council are not going to push a program for a handful of Venturing Scouts when they can use the same resources and facilities to host a much larger group. In recent years, the facilities at Camp Naish have been opened to camp groups from the YMCA, the LDS Church, and local ROTC unit. The desire to bring in these larger groups is enough that they are talking about closing one of the Boy Scout Sessions at Camp Naish so that they can bring in another, likely larger group. And the camp fees keep going up.
In 2012, the Venturing Camp was overrun by the local ROTC, who brought in a significantly larger group and the Camp was expected to redesign their program on the fly to accommodate the ROTC demands. What happened was the Venturing Camp program being obliterated, the Venturing Scouts shunned by the ROTC at the command of their adult leaders, and the Venturing Scouts and some volunteers walking away saying "never again."
in 2013, after being told that Venturing Camp would be a mini-camp weekend, a lot of people decided to seek out other programs. So when it was decided that there would be a five day Venturing Camp, a lot of Scouts were already booked someplace else, and those who weren't were unaware of the changes that had been announced at the Roundtable level, but not on a level wide enough to bring in available Crews. Then again, the camp was overrun by a special group, a contingent from Israel. According to reports from those on staff, there were a whole three youth show up for the Venturing Camp, and they were locked into the tourist program that was put on for the Israelis, and had to either pay additional fees for special events of be left out, even expected to leave camp and come back.
Did anyone listen to the youth who voiced their opinions about what they wanted for a Venturing Camp? Its very unlikely. In fact, the opinion of those I have talked to is that the Heart of America Council and Camp Naish do not wish to provide Venturing with a reasonable camp experience.
What do the youth want? They want a Camp that is about them, that is designed for their age group, that provides them the opportunity to take on some of the harder elements of the Ranger and Bronze Awards. They don't want to do a version of Bear or Webelos Camp. They are wanting to be able to take on COPE, to take on the shooting sports were they can shoot handguns and rifles. They need Land Navigation, and Water Sports at a higher level. They need to feel like Young Adults, not older kids, and when you leave the program in the hands of people who specialize in running Bear and Webelos Programs, you're going to fall short of the mark. In fact, you really need to find a Program and Camp Director that is specifically focused on Venturing, not just playing at it.
But in an environment where the Scouting Organization is more focused on the bottom line, financially, instead of the bottom line, youth; and as long as Venturing is not a significant part of the Heart of America Council, then Venturing is going to be on the outside of the Camp Program at Naish.
So, what do we do?
St Louis is only four hours away for most of us. They have a Venturing Camp program held in Farmington Missouri called Swift Base. Their program cost $250 in 2013.
There are programs for Venturing Scouts up in the Omaha area, and I'm certain if we look a little further out, we will find great programs in other councils that are happy to support their Venturing Programs.
But for Heart of America Council ... Venturing is cute, but not a program that they are going to seek out the right solutions to make the program work here.