Cabin fever

Boy Scout supporters help build
winter cabin at Camp Ernst

Thousands of boys have used the facility
since it was built in 1928

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(May 2007) – Perin Scott remembered he couldn’t wait until he turned 12 years old, because he would be able to join the Boy Scouts. “I would sit at the gate of Camp Louis Ernst and dream of going in there to camp,” said the 87-year-old Madison, Ind., resident.

Camp Ernst Cabin

Photos by Konnie McCollum

Former Hoosier Trails District Chairman
Norm Eggers sees a bright future for
Camp Ernst with the new winter
cabin project there.

In 1932, Scott finally got to join the Boy Scouts and has spent the past several decades dedicating much of his life to the organization.
Scott has been in every position in scouting, from troop member to district director. He and his sons have earned the honor of Eagle Scout, the highest honor in Boy Scouts, and a highly-recognized achievement throughout the world.
“The Boy Scouts is the finest youth program on the market. It has been very meaningful in my life, with great leadership and wonderful mentors.”
Scott has many wonderful memories of camping out at Camp Louis Ernst, which is located on Hwy. 7 just north of Madison.
“I spent many years as a camp counselor out there during the summers and over 22 years taking troops out there to camp,” he said.
While he doesn’t visit the camp very often any more, Scott, along with many other former scouts who are now community leaders, have worked to raise money to rebuild the winter cabin there.
On April 28, the Hoosier Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America held a grand opening ceremony for the newly constructed winter cabin. This ceremony was held in conjunction with a District Camporee, in which hundreds of Boy Scouts participated.
Many former scouts, scouters and district leaders attended the ceremony, which included refreshments, entertainment and speeches.
Camp Louis Ernst was purchased in 1928, and the winter cabin was built in 1939. Throughout its early years, thousands of boys came through its gates eager and excited and left with many cherished memories.
The camp at one time was a thriving summer camp, but due to a lack of funds, that program was discontinued in the 1970s. It remains, however, a vibrant weekend camp for Boy Scout troops, church groups, Girl Scouts and many other organizations. Many training workshops and special events are still held out at Camp Louis Ernst.
Norm Eggers, a former Hoosier Trails District Chairman, played a key role in organizing the fundraising efforts for the new cabin.
He said that during a period of time in the late 1980s and 1990s, there was a slowdown in the use of the camp. Upset over the council not spending money at Camp Louis Ernst, many people withdrew support of the scouting program.
“Unfortunately, the council just did not have the financial means to provide for Camp Louis Ernst, but some people did not understand that,” Eggers said.
Because scouting has a strong and rich tradition in the area, community support has been very good, said Eggers. “But we need it to continue in order to continue scouting,” he said. “Scouting is not only good for the individuals involved, but it is also good for the entire community,”

Norm Eggers

Two years ago, he decided someone needed to organize the effort to raise money for the camp, so he started making phone calls. One call was to Dr. Paul Cronen, also an Eagle Scout who has continued through his adult years to be an active scouting volunteer.
Cronen, of Madison, said he was happy to help raise money for the effort. “Now that I am an adult, I understand how important scouting is and how wonderful those former leaders were who gave up their valuable time for us,” he said. “This effort is one way I can thank those leaders who are no longer alive.”
Cronen spent his youth at another Boy Scout Council in Louisville, Ky. He became active in the Hoosier Trails Council through his sons. He said scouting is about character development through an outdoor theme, and the scout camp plays a prominent role in the heart of scouting.
“The old winter cabin at Camp Louis Ernst, which was built back in the late 1930s, was useable, but it needed lots of work,” he said. Apparently, part of the floor and roof were badly damaged.
He said at first the volunteers were looking to restore the old cabin, but then the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County gave the council a $5,000 grant to build a new one, and blueprints for a new cabin were donated. “That gave us something tangible to start with,” he said.
The effort came together when the Madison High School Buildings Trade, under the direction of Dave Bear, needed a project and agreed to build the new cabin. Mary Lou Siefker, vice president of finance at the Hoosier Trails Council, said “Labor donated by the building trades has saved us 50 to 60 percent of the cost of the project. Without their help, the project would not be possible,” she said.
The new cabin is 30x50 feet, big enough to sleep 30 scouts. It will be primarily maintenance free with a metal roof and concrete siding that looks like wood. While there is no indoor plumbing, the building will be wired for electricity so anyone camping in it can bring a generator. A wood burning stove will heat the building.
Also, the council has had several auctions of Boy Scout memorabilia to raise money. Scouting volunteer Don Riley also carved walking canes made from the poplar studs of the original building to sell at the auctions. One of his canes had the Boy Scout law carved into it.
Siefker said the council still needs about $7,000 to complete the entire project. There will be another memorabilia auction at 5:30 p.m. on May 20 at the winter cabin for those interested in helping the effort.

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