The Pacific Crest, Oregon Trail and Crater Lake councils operate seven Scout camps in the Oregon Cascades and on or near the coast. All except for Camp Makualla will welcome resident campers this summer.
The Pacific Crest, Oregon Trail and Crater Lake councils operate seven Scout camps in the Oregon Cascades and on or near the coast. All except for Camp Makualla will welcome resident campers this summer.
“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

And, as it turns out, resilient.

During the pandemic year’s shutdown, Oregon’s Scout troops and councils found a way forward.

Scott West, chairman of the Archdiocese of Portland Catholic Committee on Scouting, said young Scouts managed to earn camping badges over the past year.

“We did a lot of camping at home,” West said of his own Stayton troop.

They pitched tents in their backyards or shelters made of blankets in their family rooms — anywhere there wasn’t a bed or couch involved — and slept at least a bit rough on Friday and Saturday nights.

The home-based campers planned a breakfast, lunch and dinner for their families. They submitted their menus to their scoutmaster for approval and then, during the meal preparation, got photos to show they had actually done the chopping, mixing, frying, boiling and grilling.

A third requirement was to plan some kind of activity with the family, maybe a chore or project that involved everyone.

Many Scouts pulled through with improvisation, but the pandemic hit the organization hard. Harder, said Jim Westfall, executive of the Crater Lake Council, than did the 2020 bankruptcy that came as the organization faced some 300 lawsuits over sexual abuse.

“Most of those cases were 30 to 40 years ago, some 70 years ago,” said Scott Imprecoven, Scout executive of the Oregon Trail Council in Eugene. “It might have had an impact on membership, but as far as moving ahead, COVID was worse.”

West said that the annual Scout Awards Mass takes place about this time of year. Typically, between 70 and 120 Catholic Scouting awards are given. This year, it’s 27.

“The Cub Scout program was hit especially hard,” West said.

Parents of the younger children may not have seen the benefit of adding yet another Zoom meeting for their kids. The Stayton Cub Scout Pack folded, and it wasn’t the only one to do so.

Older Scouts, on the other hand, saw less of a decline.

“Several programs actually picked up more kids,” said Westfall, adding that the challenge now is to get more people involved.

Westfall thinks the fact that the Boy Scouts are now the Scouts, welcoming both girls and boys, is going to boost membership. “We need to be more and more about serving families,” he said.

Bringing back the camps also will help.

West, up in Stayton, said his Scouts had gone camping as a troop in September and October. The main differences for those weekends were that families couldn’t carpool to the campsite and that each camper had to sleep in his or her own tent.

He’s looking forward to the troop going to Camp Baldwin this summer. So far, 17 Scouts in the Stayton troop and six adults have signed up.

Opening the camps again will help get Scouting life back to normal. Six of the seven Oregon Scouting camps in the Cascades and on the coast will be open this summer. The camps are where the Scouts earn many of their merit badges that advance them.

Camping will be a different experience, though. That’s not because there will be girls at the camps. That already happened in 2019, and Imprecoven didn’t think the girls changed anything. “They’re doing the same thing the boys are doing,” he said.

Girls did bring about facility upgrades — individual shower stalls, for instance.

It’s the masks, social distancing, single tents and cohorts that will make this summer’s camping different. Campers will go to the dining hall strictly in their cohort, for instance, and then on to different activities.

Because Scouts usually attend camp as a troop, their cohort will be their friends from home.

“Camp is a pivotal part of the Scouting program,” said West.

He thinks the entire Scouting community is eager to get camping again — camping, that is, in forests, not in backyards and family rooms.

West’s youngest son and daughter both applied to work at Camp Baldwin in the Mount Hood National Forest. “There’s a lot of hope right now,” he said.