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 History of Camp Stearns (Heritage)

by Andy Wangstad

First few years of camp...

Note: Camp Stearns in this article refers to the original camp Stearns several miles west, Camp Heritage is what is known as Camp Stearns today.

Camp Heritage was used for general Boy Scout camping for its first few years. There was quite a bit of controversy about it, as the council has sold off several small camps (Camp Cedar - south on Cedar Avenue just a few miles south of the river - couldn't pick it out today! - but it was my favorite), The Lock Estate (next to GSA Camp Locksley - I believe it's a Salvation Army camp today) and Minomen (sp?) - A very small camp in Fridley on the river.

With these camp sold, troops were eager to begin camping at the new, much larger facility near Annandale. The council couldn't sell Camp Stearns because it was given to the council "for the use of local Boy Scouts" and they were unsure of title.

But - troops couldn't use Heritage because it was going to be a new style camp, with concrete lined latrines and water - we were used to digging our own latrines each weekend (can you imagine - yes, we dug latrines each weekend.... trying to find a different spot) Anyway, everyone got very frustrated until Bob Johnson of Mustang district took the bull by the horns and organized work parties to build latrines and he raised money to do it.

The original goal was to have a central parking lot and have everyone backpack to their site. Yes, we were to go from a council of "trailer" campers to backpackers! The slogan was "A Pack on Everyone's Back by '72." Well, we got close, but never quite went totally to backpacking.

Webelos Scouts weren't allowed to overnight camp at first, and then it was allowed with their affiliated Boy Scout Troop. We were pioneers in establishing a resident camp for Webelos Scouts and 1975 was our first effort.

That first year we used tents from Many Point - and it was just awful... the mosquitoes drove us nuts. We ordered Voyageur tents with mosquito netting the next year and that worked much better.

There was no beach or swimming facilities at Heritage, so we bussed the campers over to Lake Sylvia (and Camp Stearns).

There's a long story about some negative publicity we received at the time (false, as it turns out.... I knew that but not everyone did, especially the United Way) and I got a call about this "wonderful white sand beach" that the council owned that the station wanted to rent for a "beach party." They couldn't believe that we swam only 40 boys at a time.... the caller stammered, "Thatís not how the article make it sound." I replied, "Don't believe everything you read in the papers!"



Last Update Saturday April 01, 2023 05:32 PM

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