Inland Northwest Council Decides
to Build New Dining Hall
While Saving Historical Elements of Finch Lodge
(the information printed in red has been added by savefinchlodge.com)
The Boy Scouts of America’s Inland Northwest Council has decided to save the historical artifacts and valuable elements of Finch Lodge, remove the existing building and build a new, larger lodge to serve upcoming generations of youth. "... constructing a new lodge modeled after Zittel’s original design is not a viable solution from a preservation standpoint. The original lodge remains standing; why demolish it to build a facsimile. Furthermore, salvaging character-defining features from the existing lodge for use in a newly constructed building does not necessarily preserve the historic building; it simply creates a false sense of history." Chris Moore, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Finch Lodge is located at Cowles Scout Reservation (CSR) on Diamond Lake. The executive board of the council was unanimous in their decision at their Sept. 21 meeting. Be careful of that word "unanimous". We understand fewer than a third of the Board's Members attended the meeting where this unanimous vote officially occurred.
The new dining hall is vital to our plans to build ‘Cub Country’, an exciting new camp for younger Scouts that will help us expand our positive impact on youth in the Inland Northwest. Cub Country will feature adventure-filled programs for Cub Scouts in the summer and support a wide variety of programs for Scouts and volunteers of all ages during the remainder of the year. The new lodge will create unique and special memories for several generations of Scouts to come, just as Finch Lodge did for Scouts in the past. A new dining hall of original design plus the oldest architect-designed Boy Scout lodge in the west would unquestionably be more effective.
The board approved the plan to proceed with designs for the new dining hall and to launch a capital campaign to raise the funds to build the new Cub Country.
Many options were considered, however, it was determined the best way for the Inland Northwest Council to serve future generations of youth in our area is through a new lodge at the current site. Why put the new "lodge" (dining hall) on the site currently occupied by Finch Lodge? This site will cost more, has safety issues and is less convenient to the proposed Cub Camp. The executive board expresses its sincere thanks to all interested individuals who have provided their input to the decision making process.
“Our mission is to provide life building experiences for children in the inland northwest,” said Bill Williams, Jr., president of the executive board of the Inland Northwest Council. “A building is not what holds the magic of Scouting—it is our great volunteers that devote their time, talent, and energy to improving the lives of children that makes Scouting come alive.” Finch Lodge provides a physical connection to 83 years worth of great volunteers who have improved the lives of thousands of children. Many of our current "great volunteers" have beseeched the board to preserve the old lodge.
“Many of us have fond memories of Finch Lodge from our days as a Scout, including myself”, said Eric Brown, task force chairman and licensed contractor. “But my greatest memories of camp are of adventure in the outdoors, fun with my friends, and the great mentors that served as my troop leaders—not of a building. The building is not the experience—it is a tool to help facilitate a great camping experience in the out-of-doors. We feel that a new lodge will best accomplish this.” Thousands of Scouts treasure Finch Lodge as an important part of many great camping experiences. They feel it is a "home" in an ever-changing world. Why betray them and deprive future generations?
“Finch Lodge has served Scouting well for over eighty years,” said Warren Heylman, long-time Scouting volunteer, board member and architect. “It was designed and constructed for summer-use only, (Actually, this "designed for summer use only" myth isn't true. Read the original news article) and for about half the number of young Scouts the Lodge must now serve. Additions and winterization efforts have covered many of the original Lodge design features. The porch is gone; the open ceiling is gone. The impressive wooden roof trusses are in good condition waiting to be uncovered. The interior balcony railing is intact and should be saved for incorporation in a new lodge. A new lodge, designed with character, as architect Julius Zittel’s original design had, will give a new generation of Scouts and Scouters great memories. A new lodge, "designed with character" is a great idea. Don't sabotage it by trying to incorporate Finch Lodge artifacts. It is time to build for the next eighty to one hundred years. Scouts of today and tomorrow deserve it.” Why do we think future generations will preserve the proposed second-hand design for 100 years? The Board is not willing to preserve the original, designed by a noted architect and built with old growth timber. Does the board expect future generations to be better stewards than they, themselves have chosen to be? Maybe we should give future generations something worth preserving - A beautiful 1923 original Zittel lodge and a 2007 originally designed dining hall near by.
Finch Lodge was designed by architect Julius Zittel and built in 1923. It was the original dining hall at Cowles Scout Reservation located on Diamond Lake. Due to its poor condition today, Finch Lodge is now only used on a limited basis for small groups. "On June 21, 2006, Tim McCandless wrote, "We regularly deal with conflicts in our office of different groups wanting to use the same lodge (Finch or Carbon) on the same weekends. Out of 10 weekends possible since mid April, Finch has been used on all 10 weekends .... We turned away multiple units that wanted to use a lodge at Cowles this spring because they were already booked." It is not useable as a full-scale dining hall and not large enough for our projected needs. The council needs a winterized building with a commercial kitchen and a seating capacity of 350 and necessitating an increase of approximately 3,400 sq. feet. OK, lets build one in a more sensible location.
The executive board spent seven months evaluating the options including having the building reviewed by a civil engineer, a structural engineer, three architects including two specializing in historic renovation, a camp design specialist, three contractors, including one specializing in historic renovation, and a professional estimator. The actual facts: Only 3 of these wrote any kind of report for the Board to review. All were asked to evaluate the feasibility of weatherizing and expanding the old lodge for use as the main dining hall. There is no report of any kind evaluating the rehabilitation of Finch Lodge for seasonal use. (Many professionals with various credentials have wandered through Finch Lodge over the last 2 years and given their opinions. Those with direct ties to the Board tended to stress necessary repairs, while others, not directly connected to the board, have focused on the lodge's good structural integrity and argued the feasibility and importance of preserving this wonderful Scouting treasure.) The executive board also solicited and reviewed feedback from volunteers, donors, parents, Scouts and community members. A wide diversity of input was received and clearly no decision would please all persons. There is no question that this input overwhelmingly supported the preservation of Finch Lodge.
The council’s executive board is made up of 50 individuals representing all geographic areas of the council. The group includes many Eagle Scouts; current and former Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Venturing and Exploring volunteer leaders; parents and grandparents of Scouts; individuals that attended Camp Cowles as youth, parents and adult leaders; those who ate their meals in Finch Lodge and in some cases worked on staff in Finch Lodge and slept in Finch Lodge. Many members of the board have served as pack, troop, and crew leaders. Several are currently active as unit leaders. Voting members of the board include the volunteer district chairman from each district. They all share a commitment to the youth of our communities and a passion for shaping the future by developing leaders with character today. Less than a third actually voted on this issue. Regardless of their impressive sounding credentials, judging by the overwhelming inflow of letters and emails supporting preservation, and the grumbling at meetings after the decision, these members are very out of touch. They grossly misjudged the strength of feeling on this issue.
Key factors in the decision were:
• The majority of building professionals reviewing the building conclude that accomplishing our facility goals will be done more economically and more completely with a new building rather than renovation and expansion. Sounds good to us, too.
• The current site is deemed by most to be the best site for the dining hall for the new Cub Scout camp. Who are "most"? What are their reasons? How much information did they gather? How thoroughly did they think the situation through?
• Finch Lodge is currently a safety hazard. This is obviously a gross exaggeration. Surely, the Council is not knowingly endangering any of the groups that have been paying to rent the Lodge. If we leave it standing, not only must we build a new building, we must fix up and maintain the old building. This is much cheaper than demolition, incorporating old architectural elements into a new building and building regrading, re-enforcing and paving the access road. Also: Many Scouters are eager to donate money and labor to repair and refurbish Finch Lodge. Others have pledged donations because of its historic importance. We know of at least one specific grant that is available. The Council will not get any of this money if the lodge is bulldozed. If the plan is to use it seasonally, the lodge will take relatively little to maintain and keep safe. Less than sanding, plowing and fixing potholes on a year round access road.
“Our goal is to put in place a premiere camp for boys and their families as soon as possible.” said Greg Bever, executive board member. “Unfortunately, we do not have unlimited resources available to restore and maintain Finch Lodge. Does anyone believe it would take "unlimited resources" to restore and maintain Finch Lodge? The council will undertake a fundraising campaign to make the needed improvements to our camps and that includes building a new lodge. To renovate Finch Lodge to the extent necessary to prevent further deterioration and to ensure its long-term preservation would be very ambitious and outside of our mission as an organization. This is another exaggeration. Renovating Finch Lodge for use spring, summer and fall is not all that ambitious. Does the Council's mission prevent it from being a responsible citizen of the Northwest and a good steward of National Boy Scout tradition, history and heritage? Such an effort would detract us from our charge to serve youth now and in the future.” It's difficult to maintain the credibility necessary to build character, citizenship, life skills, and leadership in youth when the community sees you disrespecting history, heritage and tradition by bulldozing an irreplaceable, structurally-sound Scouting treasure. Especially when there is a better dining hall site up the hill and closer to the road!
The council is embarking on an exciting plan that will greatly increase our capacity to fulfill our mission of building character, citizenship, life skills, and leadership in youth. The new Cub Country will play a key role in expanding Scouting programs and better supporting current programs year-round.
“There is a misconception that Cowles Scout Reservation is being turned into a Cub Scout camp.” States Tim McCandless, Scout executive. “That’s not true. The master plan is to build a Cub Scout camp in the Finch area that will occupy less than 90 acres of our 900+ acre property. The beauty of CSR is that because of the size of the property, there is the opportunity to do so much—have Cub Country, high adventure programs, the volunteer training center, and much more. Once Cub Country is complete, CSR will be able to host 2 major Scouting programs simultaneously without them interfering with each other—something not easily done today. CSR will be used and experienced by all levels of Scouts: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers and adult leaders.”
Once complete, Cub Country will host major Cub Scout camping programs for several weeks in the summer and on selected weekends in the fall and spring. However, it will be used for a variety of Scouting programs and events year-round such as camporees, Klondike Derbies, training programs, unit activities and much more.
The future for CSR is exciting--building of the new Cub Country, development of high adventure programs for older Boy Scouts and Venturers, and expansion of our volunteer training center. CSR will indeed become a "destination for adventure" for Scouts of all ages and their leaders and parents. note: A rehabilitated Finch Lodge would be an invaluable asset that no competing destination would be able to match.
Now that the decision is made, it is time for all of us to work together to develop the best possible plans that will result in awesome character and leadership development programs for our youth. We would appreciate your input into this process. Our input is simple. Make the best use of limited assets. Finch Lodge is an irreplaceable asset that can help with recruiting and retaining kids while providing some much needed income to the council. Preserve Finch Lodge and build a well-designed dining hall up the hill and closer to the road. How can the Council's mission require spending more money to get so much less?
A Cub Country task force has been formed to help guide the program and facility plans.
Stay tuned for exciting developments at CSR!
Note: Advocates for Finch Lodge preservation have stumbled at times when hit by carefully crafted surprise announcements such as this one. Early on we got caught up in correcting seemingly outrageous exaggeration and error. We allowed the council to define the discussion and were slow to see some major questions. The council has professional consultants and considerable experience in selling ideas. They will, however, repeatedly run into facts and economics and get bogged down by the depth and breadth of Finch Lodge support. Sadly, they are squandering limited council resources trying to ram through a plan detail that makes no sense given the facts on the ground. We sincerely recommend that they tweak their master plan just enough to incorporate a refurbished Finch Lodge. Their wasted resources could then be combined with the resources currently being used to prevent the irreversible mistake and we could all work to develop and implement "awesome character and leadership development programs for our youth."
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