The Viking Council has long been known for its long term camp and its support and encouragement of long-term, independent camping. Summer Camp 1995 at Voyager Bay was a premier example of that philosophy in action.
Thirty-five years ago a visionary Scoutmaster of Troop 123, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Edina, MN, saw the importance of independent camping. Under his guidance Troop 123 raised money and bought 90 acres of forest and swamp on Lake Washburn near Outing. MN. They developed a camp and a number of the current adult leaders in Viking Council camped there as boys.
However, as time passed and troop leadership changed, the camp fell into disuse. Since a Troop is not a legal entity, Voyager Bay was the property of Shepherd of the Hills Church. The camp had not been used for about fifteen years and the current Church council members did not recall the history of Troop 123. They saw more property in their holdings which was unused and they proposed that it be sold since it was now valuable as lake home sites. Troop 123 was still active but much smaller and was not doing long term, independent camping at Voyager Bay.
When the property was listed for sale, Chris Sellner, Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 123 and son of the Scoutmaster who led the Troop in purchasing the property, became concerned and began talking to some of his scouting friends. The result was that FIVE TROOPS from THREE DISTRICTS joined together to rebuild the camp and operate it for two weeks in August of 1995.
A total of 186 Scouts, 56 adults and many siblings spent two weeks at a wilderness camp that offered almost every imaginable skill and merit badge. It is one of the finest examples of teamwork and cooperation ever seen in Viking Council. There were 176 Rank advancements by Scouts at Voyager Bay. 462 Merit Badges were completed in addition to many partial completions. For everyone at Voyager Bay, it was an event of a lifetime.
The Church Council of Shepherd of the Hills Church visited the camp while it was in session in 1995 and they were so impressed that they voted to stop the sale of the property and also voted to spend $10,000 to improve roads, the well, toilet facilities and lighting.
The synergistic event began when Chris Sellner, Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 123, shared his concern over the potential sale of the property for summer homes. Scoutmasters Mike Zastera of Troop 370 in Eden Prairie, MN and Barry Jenneke of Troop 339 in Richfield, MN had spent time at Voyager Bay as scouts. They enlisted the interest of Norbert Gernes of Troop 347 in Eden Prairie, MN and Scoutmasters Mark Kuhl and Dennis Petersen with Troop 254 of Hopkins, MN.
Scouts and leaders visited the camp in the winter of 1994-95 to scrutinize the land and determine the best location for various activities. Work was divided among the Troops and a gigantic task was under way. The beach, which was overgrown with little trees and weeds, was cleared and prepared for use. A boat dock was built for fishing and water ski boats. A buoy was put in place for the sailboat. Brush was cut, trees fell and a rifle range/shotgun range and archery range appeared. Campsites were cleared and outhouses were put in place and prepared for use. An aging A-frame was repaired and prepared for food storage and cooking. The well, with its hand pump, was tested and readied to provide water for hundreds of campers. Many weekend campouts, by many scouts and leaders, prepared the camp for the historic two-week summer camp. Donations from everywhere provided most of the materials and equipment to prepare Voyager Bay to live again.
The five Troops discovered that by sharing their vision and pooling their efforts, almost any needed resource was available to them. No one worried about how much time or effort was given, but all worked together toward the common goal; and, as always happens, great things can be accomplished when people dont worry about who will get the credit.
When Voyager Bay opened in August 1995, the camp was a beehive of activity with the ski boat running from dawn to dusk, along with the fishing boats, canoes, sailboats, scuba lessons, and all the waterfront activities. The rifle, shotgun, and archery ranges never rested. When one walked into the camp you could hear and feel the activity and excitement. The Scouts met on the trails were excited and usually dirty. Their faces told the story; not only of an excellent camp, but also of the pride they had in knowing that they had built this camp with their own hands.
Adults experienced and trained in rock climbing and rope courses helped the older Scouts set up some low level rope courses. This activity has increased over time.
All of the adults in camp played significant roles in making the camp function. Moms and Dads were the shotgun, archery and rifle range masters. Moms and Dads supervised the waterfront, food preparation and storage, and taught many, many merit badges. Some adults who were skeptical during the planning stage gave the camp rave notices. Families had concerns about living in tents, lack of showers and the presence of mosquitoes and bears. Rather than discomfort, they turned out to be adventures everyone will long remember.
All food had to be secured each night, and sometimes even in the day, to keep it from the raccoons and black bears that regularly patrolled the camp.