by Brian Manning
HUERFANO — The new amphitheater dedicated Sunday at the Spanish Peaks Scout Camp is a space where campers can participate in scouting activities, but it’s more.
It was built to honor former scout Ray Black who attended this camp. Black loved the outdoors and enjoyed camping here. He belonged to Troop 168 in Dodge City, Kansas. When he passed away in 2010, his mother donated $30,000 in his memory to build an amphitheater and help the camp.
The dedication ceremony was held on Sunday at the new amphitheater. While hundreds of scouts looked on, the Council Executive John Hogg and Camping Committee Chairman Wade Selfridge cut a rope with a scout knife rather than just cutting a ribbon with scissors.
The camp opened in 1966 and has been growing ever since. They have 385 acres and more than 1,000 campers this year. The camp offers 11 camp sites with running water from pure natural springs. The camp has cabins, tents, a mess hall, infirmary, trading post, chaplin and support offices.
They have a staff of about 40 who supervise the activities. The camp is run by the Santa Fe Trail Council Boy Scouts. The Camp Director Matt Connell is a fulltime teacher from Kansas who spends his summers running the camp.
The staff welcomes a new group of campers every week and gives them a comprehensive safety orientation which includes a strong emphasis on bear safety and the importance of the buddy system so that they will always travel in pairs. Every evening at dusk, all staff and campers retire the colors in a very respectful ceremony.
The scouts participate in mountain climbing, rappelling, backpacking and studying to earn merit badges. Many of them climb the East Spanish Peak which is 12,683 feet in elevation. Some climb both peaks.
The generous gift from Ray Black’s mother supports an important institution that builds personal fitness, strong character and good citizenship through their programs.
As a former Boy Scout myself, I can say from experience that this fine institution has changed little since the 1950s.