Inclement weather, permitting causes delays to new Camp Strake construction

February 25, 2019

Ask officials at the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America when they plan on opening their new state-of-the-art facilities at Camp Strake in Coldspring, Texas and they can only guess.

Mother Nature has dealt the project several delays and continues to wreak havoc on the project with a significant rainy season.

The project was originally slated to open in May of this year, but that’s completely off the board. The SHAC is now targeting late-December to debut the new facility.

“That was really an early projection, but for the last seven or eight months, since September of 2019, we’ve been pretty much predicting December 2019 for the opening,” said a frustrated Sam Houston Area Council Chief Operating Officer Thomas Franklin.

Unfavorable weather conditions delayed the initial groundbreaking and site clearing following the Memorial Day flood of 2016, which brought 16-17 inches of rain to the area within a 24-hour period. Then Hurricane Harvey clobbered the Southeast region of Texas in August of 2017.

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“We’re still waiting on a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a lake,” Franklin said.

The 28-acre lagoon-type water reservoir is the center-piece of the Scout camp.

The permit was filed almost three years ago but delays because of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pushed the necessary paperwork down the workload by the Corps.

“It’s not that the land is underwater, it’s just wet,” he said. “When you’re trying to pour concrete, we just haven’t had a lot of dry windows to get work done.”

Programs that were previously scheduled at the new campground will now be moved to other facilities until enough work can be done and the camp opens.

“Our hope is that we’ll be able to open for our winter camp — which is after Christmas this year — but we can’t make a final decision until we know more about the weather and permit,” Franklin said.

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All bets are off on the rain, he stressed.

The COO said he continues with negotiations for the permit and hopes it will be resolved within the next few weeks.

“They’re working with us the best that they can, but they have limited personnel restraints. We believe we’re the next thing on the stack,” he said.

The Corps was not affected by the recent government shutdown since they fall under the leadership of the Department of Defense, but Franklin said the Harvey response was a significant blow.

The Boy Scout executive said they have already excavated as much as they could without the permit in hand. The dirt has been utilized for hiking paths, a berm for the arena and shooting ranges that utilize a berm.

“We’ve been able to use all of the extracted dirt on site for construction purposes,” he said.

The total budget for the camp, which includes the site acquisition and construction, totals near $65 million.

Gensler Architects in Houston is designing the project.

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Forney Construction is managing the project and is using several local major contractors, including Custom Quality Homes in Coldspring, KDW, and W. T. Byler Company in Houston is building the infrastructure on the project.

The new camp is located near the community of Evergreen, between New Waverly and Coldspring, and is about 75 miles from Houston. Scouts and Scouters will find it an easy route using Interstate 45 or US 59.

The 2,816-acre parcel is partly surrounded on three sides by the Sam Houston National Forest and is protected from urbanization and encroachment in the future. The site will also have easy access to the Grand Parkway once completed.

Franklin said they only plan to develop approximately 450 of the 2,800-plus acres.

“The additional land will act as a barrier and for future expansion,” Franklin said.

The addition of girls to the camp site will not in any way affect business as usual.

“We’ve been serving girls in programs at other facilities for decades,” he said. “We will have both boys and girls at this facility and will build rest room facilities with individual stalls that can be used by boys or girls,” he said.

The three homes for resident rangers are near completion and much of the infrastructure is complete, but the final pieces of the puzzle will depend upon Mother Nature and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Nothing will replace the coming joy of serving Scouts.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property and we’re excited to be in San Jacinto County. We’re ready for the weather to clear up so we can open,” the COO said.