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Camp Mack unveils Alley Action Center
By: JOHN CRAWFORD Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
The Boy Scout’s Pennsylvania Dutch Council officially opened the Alley Action Center at Camp Mack over the weekend.
"The Alley Action Center is a brand new center that we developed thanks to the generosity of Albert and Virginia Alley," explained development director Duane Crouse. "They’ve given us the dollars to put in brand new archery and BB gun range, a campfire circle, a brand new pump bike course and new rest room facilities."
The need for new facilities lies in the ever-changing aims of the local Boy Scout Council for the grounds. Camp Mack is located on 1,100 acres north of Lititz and west of Ephrata on Route 501. For most of its existence, Mack served teenage scouts, but over time, the focus became Cub Scouts and the sense of scale became wrong.
"About 12 years ago we converted it, for the summer time, from boy scouts (aged) 11 through 17 to cub scouts, which are seven or eight years old up to 10 years old," explained Crouse. "Our ranges were dated. They were functional and met all the safety things but (sites) were a ways away for little legs. Our (old) campfire circle is not handicap accessible and is one of the challenges we’ve always had with parents and grandparents coming out to see their kids recognized. We could usually accommodate everybody, but it was always a challenge."
Funding became available when the Alleys approached the council wanting to help wherever they could, explained council commissioner Tim Efinger.
"Dr. Alley and his wife Ginny came to the council and said, ‘We are interested in doing a project with the council to help enhance Camp Mack,’" said Efinger. "They had the vision and the donation capability to fund it. The council leadership said, ‘What are some of the things that we need to do?’ One of our recommendations from our feedback at summer camp was our ranges are nice but they are not in a real convenient location; and while our fire circle is nice, it’s down in a little valley here. Grandparents like to be involved with Cub Scout kids."
Resolving an earlier challenge made the site selection easy. Several years ago, a gypsy moth infestation necessitated clearing a section in the middle of the camp.
"This (area) was clear cut before this project. We’re utilizing an area that was not in great shape because of the gypsy moth. It gives a more central area to run programs," said Efinger.
The archery and BB gun range provide the staples for a scout camp but the bike course may be the crown jewel of the project.
"The pump track is a unique thing," said Efinger. "There are not a lot of them around. It is something unique that the kids will be able to use, not only in summer camp. Our plan is to roll it out year-round. It was specifically designed to be used in our Cub Scout program."
When the bike course was proposed, the scout council reached out to Mike Farrington of Green Mountain Cyclery since Farrington helps maintain the bike trails in Camp Mack with the assistance of the Susquehanna Mountain Bike Association. He also issues the permits for individuals looking to use the bike trails.
"About two years ago, the scouts came over and said, ‘We want to build a BMX track in the activity center we’re building,’" recalled Farrington, who ended up suggesting the pump bike course. "Unless you’re going to run races up here, it’s probably going to be a little wasteful. How about a pump track? The idea behind a pump track is that you don’t pedal much. Once they get used to it, they can "pump" their way around the track when they practice it."
"There are actually three courses," said Farrington. "The main one is the one kids were riding today. The outer one will be the (course) as they get more comfortable on the smaller one. The real little one probably won’t be used as much. You will be able to create your own track. You want have to one set track all the time. You will be able to ride over here and (keep going) over there."
While all activity centers were busy, the track had almost constant use through the afternoon.
"It turned out great," said Farrington of the course. "The kids used it all day today. I got to watch some of the kids ride it and it’s perfect."
Weblos Scout Danny Kline came down from Lebanon County to spend time with a friend and was on the BB gun range the adult tour came past.
"I came up here (to the range) so I could fire the guns and (the arrows)," said Kline. "It was good."
Danny’s reaction was just what the doctor and Mrs. Alley hoped to accomplish when they looked for a project to promote.
"We want to encourage Scouting," said Ginny Alley. "One of our stumbling blocks (for scouting) is recruitment so we were hoping that the investment in the Cub Scout camp would help improve the enrollment. They would come here, have a great time and go home to talk it up with their friends."
Dr. Albert Alley agreed.
"Needless to say, I am just thrilled with the way it worked out," said the Eagle Scout and ophthalmologist. "It is such a wonderful facility and something the kids will be able to use. Ultimately, I think it is going to the scouting program a little bit of a boost in the area — somewhere where the kids could come and enhance their scouting experience."
According to the initial reviews: mission accomplished. More CAMP MACK, page A14