Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Dying Wind at Rock Hill Camp

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake, and morally straight.
-Scout Oath (or Promise)



The entrance to the 450-Acre campground is partially hidden on the crest of a hill along State Route 739 in Dingmans Township, County of Pike, Pennsylvania. We first arrived here in 2006, hired by a New York developer to conduct soils testing for a proposed 180 lot subdivision. After unlocking the main gate, we drove in on an old gravel lane- muddied in the low spots, eroded on the steeper slopes, crowded by branches, large boulders, and overwhelming silence.

We journeyed for almost a mile before we reached the camp buildings. A few were boarded up, but many were wide open to the summer wanderer, the squatter, the young lovers, the boisterous teenagers, and profit scavengers.

Here was an invitation to all trespassers: Explore here to ease your boredom of life. We have abandoned this camp. Kick down the doors, smash the windows, our oath has no residual force. Be irreverent, immorally crooked, enjoy the pleasure of your contempt. We have left this community behind. It is hidden and unclean. We have too many camps and too few scouts. We must turn a hard ground into a revenue stream. Let it fall, let it flow.

Remnants of childhood memories lay scattered around the buildings, like trash, like Rome in ruins. We drove on, passing by outhouses, sleeping sheds, and empty fields of baseball and rifles. The dirt and gravel lane ended on top of a small plateau. From here, we looked out over a most beautiful majesty. We had found the lake.

On the subdivision maps, wetland biologists identify it as a "Glacial Bog". Upon these waters young boys once fished, swam, camped, and watched innumerable falling stars trace fine lines in reflection across dark waters.

Inside the dilapidated guard tower, lifeguards wrote their names in permanent ink- as if that alone would guarantee serenity forever. But land can die as youth fades. When there are no more scouts sent to explore, the campgrounds will decay, they will die.

Then the vultures descend and pick clean more than just the bones of man's construction, but all Nature that stands pristine before the rotting cabins. The Scouts have gone away and the woodlands are lost without them.

The woodlands are lost.

We hear the land's lament with every test hole we dig, with every gallon of water we pour. We know the sound of bulldozers, we are intimate with macadam roads, we nod approval at fence-wrapped detention basins, we follow trucks of concrete and block, we listen to rock and roll radios of the house-framers, we chuckle at the slick-talk of the macabre Realtors. The economy wants all of this- banker's greed, builder's profit, home owner's dream, built on the foundation of a natural destruction. All roads lead to the glacial bog.

The woodlands gasp for breath, branches reach for the sky, in search of light, in search of voice, of defiance. This is Rock Hill Boy Scout Campground, where the laughter of a thousand young Jersey boys dance in the prescinded wind. Their child-ghosts sit around campfire stones, telling old tales of honor, reverence, respect, and community. Their voices are carried high on burning embers of our own youthful memories. This is Rock Hill Estates and we are the vultures descended.











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