Thousands of Boy Scouts spent Saturday morning clearing, cleaning and preparing a vast area of land for a massive encampment next year.
The 66-acre site, Camp Sunrise, is located on the Boy Scouts of America’s Camp Cowles on Diamond Lake near Newport, Wash.
About 2,200 Scout leaders, Scouts and their families pitched in Saturday, clearing the area of debris, stumps and some trees in just a few hours.
“It’s amazing how much work they accomplished in such a short amount of time,” said Lon Gibby, vice president of marketing for the Boy Scouts of America Inland Northwest Council. “We were having a hard time just making sure the kids had things to do because they were finishing up so fast.”
They’re preparing the site for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Aaronic Priesthood Encampment, in which more than 4,000 LDS Scouts from all over the Northwest will flock to Camp Sunrise for a week of scout activities from July 30 to Aug. 4 next year.
“It’s a good opportunity to go out and camp in the wilderness,” said Nick Sager, 14, of Hayden. “I like doing the campout and just hanging out with the other Scouts.
“With no parents,” he added.
The theme of the 2012 encampment is “Catch the Vision,” and church leaders say they want to instill in the Scouts a vision of their potential and inspire them to take a greater faith in God and Jesus Christ.
“We want young men to learn to turn to the Lord when they have difficult challenges in their lives,” said Brian Pitcher, president of the Spokane Valley stake.
But before the encampment can occur, infrastructure needs to be installed at the campground, including a road, power and a well, which will all be donated by the LDS church. When finished, the site will feature an amphitheater, several large gathering areas, and 18 campsites.
“This formerly was an area used for hiking,” Gibby said. “It was just a day-use type area. Now it can be utilized for camping and other activities.”
Much of the 990 acres Camp Cowles is located on was donated by the Cowles family, which owns The Spokesman-Review.
There hasn’t been an encampment of this scale in the area since a 1984 event at Farragut State Park, north of Coeur d’Alene. The new site’s location and size will allow Scouts from all over the Northwest to enjoy it, Gibby said.
“It’s kind of central for all the stakes in the area,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to have a facility that can handle an event of this size in this area. There were no places that could handle a group this size in Eastern Washington.”
Gibby said having the Scouts do the work on their future campground gives them a sense of ownership and pride while offering them a chance to bond.
“They’re all so excited to come back to this area next year,” he said. “I think it ties them all together.”
Once the Scouts’ service project is complete, future groups will continue to use the campground for many years to come.
“This area now can be used for other activities long after the encampment is over,” he said. “It’s a beautiful piece of land.”