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Campout reservations

The scoutmaster for our troop is adamant that it is the SPL’s job to make reservations for troop campouts. Like if they’re going to reserve a campsite or public use cabin for a weekend campout, the SPL has to take care of it. As the advancement chair, I try to stay out their business, but I am NOT comfortable with this-minors aren’t even allowed to rent campsites in my state to begin with. Additionally, I feel like it’s putting too much responsibility on the scout and their family and putting the SPL at unnecessary risk. Most reservations need to be made with a credit card and now the scout isn’t just giving their own personal information out, they’re depending on a parent to cover the cost until the troop can reimburse them. I’m not entirely certain our current SPL’s family can bear this cost right now and I had no idea it was our troop policy until the scout’s parent brought it to my attention. I am incredibly uncomfortable with the entire situation and I feel like this practice is skirting the rules we have in place for safe scouting. However, I can’t specifically find anything in the guidebooks or rules that address this. I’d like to have some information in hand before I talk to our scoutmasters about this. Can anyone offer some advice?

Our unit always has an adult leader “advising” the event youth leader. That adult leader (often our SM) makes the reservations and files the receipts for reimbursement. I’m not aware of a specific BSA rule prohibiting a youth leader from taking on this task, other than the obvious requirement that all scouting activities must comply with the applicable laws of the jurisdiction. I believe that’s part of both G2SS and the BSA’s Sweet 16 of Safety, although I don’t have either to hand at the moment. For this argument, I’m taking as given your assertion that youth are not permitted to reserve campgrounds.

Personally, I am most concerned that this unit “policy” doesn’t appear to be known throughout the unit. Regardless of whether or not a policy is “good”, IMHO it should be published to the unit at large so that everyone is aware of it. To me it is not strictly a matter of whether any given family is able to, or even desires to take on this cost, even as a transient if “immediately” reimbursed. Rather, it’s a matter of standards of practice that all policies should be known to everyone to whom they may apply, which includes any scout and their family prior to taking on the responsibility of SPL.

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This type of task falls under committee responsibilities in our troop.

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I am not in favor of this policy at all. There are some procedures that requires an adult to handle and this is one of them. Is this one of those SM’s that has what I call the “God-Complex” which means he’s an alpha male that thinks he’s a know it all?

While I certainly think the SPL along with the PLC need to select the type of camping event and where it will be held, once that decision is made they need to turn the scheduling needs over to the SM/Committee to take care of the reservations and deposit/payment.

As Advancement Chair, have you taken this up with the Committee? Sounds like an appropriate topic. Does the COR know about this?

Here’s the other issue. Will taking issue with this SM’s policy create a controversy? Sometimes people would rather not “rock-the-boat” to avoid a conflict which could lead to a long term problem. I think the Committee and the COR with the SM need to discuss this.

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I am very much in favor of this. You will find no manual that speaks against it.
Knowing how to make reservations is a life skill.
There are work-arounds for all of the problems that you’ve put forward.
The SPL should make clear that none of his/her or his/her finances will be used to front the Troop’s cost. (That’s part of Family Life … figuring out what your family can take on.)

The alternative? The SPL could resign the position, there are plenty of other ways to advance in rank.

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I’m not sure whether our COR is aware or not, that’s definitely something I hadn’t considered. We have a board meeting next week and that sounds like the best time to bring up the issue. While I don’t normally think our troop leadership adverse to reasoned discussion, I tend to always be the one saying “we have to do that another way because (rules)” or “this needs to be done this way now because of this latest update” Our SM is twice my age and has been involved in scouting for a very long time-which is great for our scouts. But he’s not super enthusiastic about change.
My take from all of this is that at the very least, we (the board and SM’s) need to all have the same understanding of the specific duties of the SPL, preferably in writing so it can be passed to each successive SPL. I really appreciate all of the insight and advice.

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An adult leader should be making the actual reservation. In many states, a youth cannot enter into a contract which is what a reservation is. If the SM wants the SPL to do the legwork to determine if the site is available, that is fine, but after that, it is up to an adult leader to actually make the reservation and pay for it. If the SM wants the SPL to have the “experience” of actually making the reservation, they should do so together. The SM can sit with the SPL while he/she fills out the form on a website with the SM’s contact information, then the SM enters credit card information. If the reservation is made by phone, the SM and SPL call together via speaker phone and again the SM provides the credit card information.

There are ways the Scout can gain the experience while being within state laws and not taking on the financial responsibility for the costs. Remember, even if immediately reimbursed, there will be costs to the family if they carry a balance on their credit card.

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@edavignon, I agree 100%. The only thing I would add is sort of obviously but two-deep leadership needs to be observed with regards to an adult leader (that’s not a parent) making the reservations.

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My advice to everyone is to be very slow to counter a seasoned SM. Rather than enthusiastically proclaiming, “You have to change.” Try to enthusiastically say, “Great! How do we help the SPL succeed given X, Y, and Z?”

It may be that the local parks have a very good working relationship with the troop. The rangers could be scouters. Council camps may have a means of honoring SPL requests and confirming later with the SM or a troop committee. (We had one Ranger who upon arrival would not talk to us adults unless we brought the SPL.) Dictating how things should be done from this side of the internet ignores one significant boots-on-the-ground reality: it’s a big country.

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Dry good suggestion, although I have not done this for a camp outing I have if we are on a road trip and stop for gas or food buy and have scouts with us I lot of times hand one of the younger scout the troop debit card and let them pay gives them experience using plastic. No different then teaching the scouts to have to count the money after a fund raiser but all under adult supervision.

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I agree with your approach. I think it is fantastic experience for the youth. It is really important to not just decide where a group wants to go, but also to figure out how to make that happen, including understanding the cost of such an adventure.

Having said that, it is not fair to ask a Scout family to bear the cost, waiting for a troop to get around to reimbursing the family. I agree the activities chair should then provide the troop credit card to make the actual payment.

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I think you are overly concerned about this issue for the most part. There isnt anything particularly burdensome about being asked to make 1 reservation a month. And if you look at all the various actions involved in making a reservation, every single one, outside of pro a credit card, is included on one merit badge or another. Even your concern about “giving out contact information” isn’t any real issue since there isn’t anything particularly private about someone’s address. Most students are going to have their addresses published in school directories, and even if they dont, by 14 or 15 they are signing up state IDs and driving permits which puts them in DMV databases.

And to be clear. Two Deep Leadership wouldnt be an issue either. The only rule that might be involved would be “No one on one contact” if the SM is talking to the scout about things.

The one area I do find unacceptable would be expecting the scout’s family to front the funds for the reservation. The troop should get a “Troop Debit Card” and have the SPL use that.

As far as not being able to “sign a contract”, all that means is they cant be legally bound by a contract. There isnt anything that says a minor can’t sign an agreement, it just isnt worth anything should it go to court.

Scouting is supposed to be accessible to everyone. That’s a pretty privileged viewpoint you’re coming from. The scout’s parents wouldn’t have contacted me if there hadn’t been an issue. Additionally, advising another scout leader to do something that is legally questionable because “it won’t hold up in court” also isn’t the best advice I’ve ever heard. Respectfully, I’d recommend you rethink this.

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It’s pretty obvious there isn’t going to be a consensus. The first point of the BSA “Sweet 16” from the GSS has the closest guideline to this topic.

  1. Qualified Supervision. Every BSA activity should be supervised by a
    conscientious adult who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility
    for the well-being and safety of the children and youth in his or her care.
    The supervisor should be sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled in the
    activity to be confident of his or her ability to lead and teach the necessary
    skills and to respond effectively in the event of an emergency. Field knowledge
    of all applicable BSA standards and a commitment to implement and follow
    BSA policy and procedures are essential parts of the supervisor’s qualifications.

The adults can be as “hands off” as they want but if something goes wrong it’s on the Unit for allowing it. Are you going to assume his parents or guardians know how to make reservations to be that supervisor and know what questions to ask about the facility that might negatively impact the event? Just keep one hand on the steering wheel if this is an allowed policy.

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What does scouting being accessible have to do with expecting an SPL to make a reservation? The only aspect of doing so that could be inaccessible to anyone is the ability to pay a deposit, and I already agreed that expecting the family to front the cash was a problem; but it is a problem easily resolved by the troop obtaining a Debit Card to be used for reservations.

And there is nothing “legally questionable” about a scout making a reservation to camp any more than there is with a scout calling to order a pizza. A minor’s signature being “Not legally binding” has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the scout having provided it is “Legal”. All i was pointing out was that its “not legally binding” simply means the campsite cant sue for payment and the scout cant sue for performance. A minor can certainly still sign something as an acknowledgement of an agreement.

For that matter, if the SPL simply does what I do and makes the reservation in the name of the troop and only acts personally as the point of contact, it pretty much wipes out the whole issue. If ever I get a location that really wants a formal contract, I simply forward the document to the Treasurer or CC and they sign and send it back to me so I can send it along with the registration.

If a reservation is involved for a camp-out, that means you are calling an organized agency that specializes in providing a camping. In that circumstance, I think it’s reasonably safe to assume the basics of safe camping are provided for in one way or another because if they weren’t, the place would be opening itself up to significant liability by allowing guests. Any other significant issues that arise upon arriving at a camp-ground should be able to be dealt with on the fly between the SPL and SM; that’s where “Qualified Supervision” plays a role. And of course, the worse case scenario is that the scouts arrive, find out that some really strange critical issue exists and they abort the trip. Then the PLC and SM can discuss the issue and decide if it’s something that should be considered when searching locations in the future.

If we are going to think about a “backwoods” camping trip where the scouts will be going to a National Forest or Federal BLM properties, I would agree that the SM should be providing more direct oversight, or at least a comprehensive review of the hiking plan and proposed camping locations to make sure water of some kind is available or that the area wasn’t just hit by a massive forest fire 3 months ago.

You are making a lot of assumptions and that’s your prerogative. I not as confident that the people taking the reservations are adept as you are. I am a “trust but verify” type of person when it comes to such matters. I simply disagree with putting this burden on a Scout that could be as young as 12-13 years old. Sometimes when making reservations, an experienced adult will catch “red flags” in the process to further investigate where an inexperienced Scout may just go forward and make the arrangement.

Everyone has a different comfort level and that’s fine. When can respectfully agree to disagree.

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Yes, I’m making assumptions, though I think assuming that a business designed to provide a set of services, actually has those services, seems like a pretty safe one. But is the difference between our viewpoints really a philosophical one or is it a “This is how we’ve always done it” one. I mean, your argument for why a scout shouldn’t handle making a reservation is just as applicable to virtually every activity scouts engage in. I can buy food safer than a scout can because I’m more likely to see clues that a food seal is broken or to notice that the expiration date has passed. I’m more likely to cook safer than a scout because I’m more aware of how hot is “too hot” for grease and likely to start a fire and if a flare up occurs, I’m probably going to react faster and more appropriately. And don’t get me started on using axes and hatchets…

The average adult is ALWAYS going to be more able to react to circumstances and problems on the fly than the average scout; that’s what experience does for you. But isn’t the whole educational mentality of the scout program effectively supposed to be “people learn by trying and learn even better by failing”? In the end, the only things I think scouts “shouldn’t do” are things that have a significant level of risk of immediate harm or things they are specifically barred by either law or official policy from doing.

Now, this doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some areas where we, as adults, simply say "Yes, I know you guys could do it, but I don’t have the 3 hours it will take to supervise you vs the 30 minutes it will take me to just do it. But in those situations it’s important to keep in mind that the adults are taking on the task because it’s more convienent and less complicated, not because the scouts couldn’t or shouldn’t do it.

P.S. WilliamC, I don’t actually expect to convince you of anything with my response. But sometimes I respond even to someone who has likely made up their mind, so that everyone else out there who is reading along at home can see my reasoning and make their own decision on the issue. I don’t want you to think I’m just trying to beat you over the head with new arguments until you submit. And I want you to know I very much appreciate your calm and reasoned approach to the discussion.

@ErikLitts

Trust me when I say that I am not so inflexible that my mind can’t be changed or be proven there is a better way to do something. That’s the purpose of a discussion board. There are always going to be issues where people of good conscience can disagree on an approach when the BSA Guidelines leave room for individual interpretation. I’ve discussed many ideas discussed here with my Troop leadership and some of them have been implemented successfully.

I’ll concede this point. I would be willing to allow a SPL to take on this task if he is at least 16 which is in most case the legal driving age with a valid License and has completed the Personal Management Merit Badge to have a better understanding on some of the adult tasks as I like to put it. Even then It’s case by case on the maturity of the Scout.

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