The U.S. House of Representatives voted Monday to support of U.S. Congressman Dan Boren's HALE Scouts Act, H.R. 473, by a voice vote. The Act would allow Indian Nations Council Boy Scout, Inc. to expand the Hale Scout Reservation (Camp Tom Hale) through a land purchase. The land purchase would provide an additional 140 acres of U.S. Forest Service land located in the Ouachita National Forest immediately adjacent to the existing Camp Tom Hale facility.
"As a result of the recent enhancements by the Indian Nation Council Boy Scouts to Camp Hale, a renewed emphasis on wilderness and the outdoors has flourished," said Boren. "Attendance has grown strongly in recent years, and now exceeds the maximum number of available campsites and program areas. The HALE Scouts Act will provide the Boy Scouts with the additional acres and facilities necessary to accommodate more campers and allow a larger array of activities at the camp."
"Since being chartered by Congress over 100 years ago, the Boy Scouts of America has prepared tens of millions of our youth to become participating citizen and future leaders of our great nation and only by everyone working together like today for the common good of our youth, families and communities can we continue to build and grow this great nation," said Bill Haines, CEO of the Indian Nations Council. "Because of Dan Boren's leadership in sponsoring this bill, thousands of youth and families will benefit from the passing of this bill at no expense to the tax payers."
In 1963, the Indian Nations Council acquired 480 acres from Ouachita National Forest to establish Camp Tom Hale. The Camp continues to this day as an adventure camp, providing thousands of Scouts and adult leaders each summer from around the country with a wide variety of activities, advancement, and learning opportunities.
In 2007 attendance was 110% of the participation levels in 2006. Nearly 20,000 merit badges were earned in 2007, and over 1,300 rank advancements were completed by scouts attending the camp. Attendance in 2010 was 113% of the 2009 participation, with over 6,800 Scouts attending camp during one of its nine sessions.
Beginning in 1997, the Indian Nations Council Board adopted a strategic plan that included a major $3.5 million expansion and renovation of the camp, including "brick and mortar" improvements like horse stables, a new dining facility, a leadership training center, facilities for nature training, a 28,000 gallon water storage and delivery system, a complete waste disposal lagoon system, and many other program enhancements.
According to Indian Nation Council's testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, funding of more than $400,000 has been approved by the Indian Nations Council Board for the land purchase. They have also planned the immediate construction of infrastructure and facilities to camp 180 additional scouts per week once the acquisition is complete.
The HALE Scouts Act, and the subsequent land purchase, has been a cooperative effort between Boren's office, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Indian Nations Council, Inc. of the Boy Scouts of America. The HALE Scouts Act will now head to the Senate for consideration.