Your Lake, Your Newspaper

Restoring Scouting to Silver Bay

Restoring Scouting to Silver Bay May 30, 2024
Scouts rendezvoused at Silver Bay on April 27 to restore the historic Council Ring. Photos courtesy Silver Bay YMCA
Scouts rendezvoused at Silver Bay on April 27 to restore the historic Council Ring. Photos courtesy Silver Bay YMCA

The Boy Scouts of America has been called the largest environmental organization in the country, and its handbook a conservation best seller.

Both were launched 114 years ago on Lake George, at Silver Bay YMCA, the retreat and conference center on northern Lake George.

In 1910, the YMCA invited representatives of boys’ groups from across the country to convene at Silver Bay and create an experimental camp devoted to the teaching of outdoor and leadership skills.

Ernest Thompson Seton, who wrote the Boy Scout Handbook, designed the Scouts’ uniform at the site.

Joining Seton was Dan Beard, another writer, editor and illustrator who was also a friend of the vigor-worshiping Theodore Roosevelt.

At the end of a wooded trail above the lake, the groups set up camp and built an amphitheater they called the Council Ring, where the Boy Scouts of America came into being around the blazing fires.

A few weeks ago, approximately 51 scouts, members of an upstate New York-based Order of the Arrow “lodge” made a pilgrimage to Silver Bay to help restore the site.

The project came about somewhat serendipitously, said Silver Bay marketing & media specialist Austin Porth and communications specialist Talia Perrea, its organizers.

“As a former Scout, the fact that Silver Bay hosted the first training camp for Scout leaders has always held some significance for me,” said Porth. “Showing Talia around the campus, we noticed that the Council Ring was in pretty rough shape. It was restored in 1947, and in 2010 it was the site of a centennial celebration, but since then, it has received little attention.”

According to Porth and Perrea, the poor condition of the site provided Silver Bay with an opportunity to “rekindle” its historic relationship to Scouting.

“I reached out to the leaders of the New York State Boy Scout Councils, who put us in touch with the Order of the Arrow, a Scouting Honor Society, and by January 24 we had a service project scheduled for April – with our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be snowing that day!” said Perrea.

According to Walt Lender, Silver Bay’s vice-president for development, the Scouts first removed the deteriorating wood benches that were installed in 1947 in preparation for their reconstruction.

“All the labor was done by the Scouts, a group which included girls, adults and kids as young as 12,” said Porth.

With the exception of special events, such as the 2010 centennial celebration, the Boy Scouts of America’s relationship with Silver Bay has been more or less dormant since 1914. But Porth said he hoped it would be revitalized by the Scouts’ reintroduction to Silver Bay this year.

“We would love to see more scouts at Silver bay, and not just because of scouting’s historical associations with Silver Bay,” said Austin Porth. “We offer so many activities that relate specifically to scouting – archery, boating, arts and crafts – that we’re perfectly positioned to host annual meetings of scouts.”

Porth said Silver Bay would be an ideal place for both local encampments and week-long jamborees, which bring troops together in one place from throughout the country. “I view the project to rebuild the council ring as the first step in rebuilding Silver Bay’s relationship with Scouting. We began a relationship with the Boy Scouts more than 110 years ago. Let’s foster that,” he said.

Support Local Journalism

We cover the Lake George watershed – the news, the people, the issues and, of course, the fun stuff. Please consider subscribing so that we can continue to bring you stories of Lake George – whether you're on the lake or just wishing you were.

Subscribe Today