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Muskingum Valley Scout Reservation celebrates 50 years

| July 6, 2017
The Muskingum Valley Scout Reservation will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an open house on Wednesday, July 12. Tours and competitions will be from 2 to 5 p.m., supper from 5 to 7 p.m. and the camp fire will start at 7 p.m. Everything is free. For information on the celebration, call 740-453-0571. Jen Jones | Beacon

The Muskingum Valley Scout Reservation will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an open house on Wednesday, July 12. Tours and competitions will be from 2 to 5 p.m., supper from 5 to 7 p.m. and the camp fire will start at 7 p.m. Everything is free. For information on the celebration, call 740-453-0571. Jen Jones | Beacon

COSHOCTON – A short distance from State Route 83 South is one of Coshocton County’s best kept secrets. For 50 years, the Muskingum Valley Scout Reservation has served boys (and girls) from all over the country. On Wednesday, July 12, they will be holding a celebration of the last 50 years and the public is invited to attend.

Shirley Dishong is 87 and has been a part of the camp for 25 years – and has no plans to retire any time soon. “I have four generations of family involved here. My daughter, Linda Udischas, has been here for 31 years. My grandsons are all Eagle Scouts and my great grandson, Keith Udischas, just became an Eagle Scout.”  Dishong said the camp is better now that they have a new dining hall. “When the camp first opened, and for many years, they bussed all of the campers to Conesville School three times a day for meals.”

Udischas is the business manager at the camp. “The biggest change in scouting over the last 50 years is a woman’s role. Now, we can be Scoutmasters if we want.  The Venturing crew is co-ed and Exploring used to be for boys only. The camp serves boys from all over Ohio and out of state.” There are five weeks of camps each summer (with a week before and after to set up and tear down) and there is an average of 800 scouts every summer. “This week, there are about 165 scouts and 50 staff members here. The troops also bring adults. I think there are about 50 adults here, too.” A Venture Crew (youth 14-21) is usually there every week, too.

MVSR Camp Director, Dominic Lehman grew up at the camp. His father, “Rev. Tim” was the director for 38 years and was made Director Emeritus three years ago when Dominic became director. “When I was a kid, other kids would ask me how I spent my summers, and I could say I was fishing, swimming, camping, shooting bows and guns, boating – they all wanted to know where I went and I could say I was at camp.” Lehman’s whole family worked at the camp together.  His parents, Tim and Therese met at the camp. “Mom was an international scout from England.”

On a tour of the camp, Lehman shared that the 550 acre camp used to be strip mines. “The power plant pretty much gave the area to the scouts in 1967 and the next year was spent getting ready for the summer of 1968.” The reservation is covered with gorgeous trees and small ponds. The river is close by, too, for access for kayaking and canoeing trips. Scattered throughout the camp are totem poles that came from all over Ohio. “They are one of our special projects. Last summer, woodpeckers moved in and we’ve tried all kinds of tricks to keep them away from our totems,” said Lehman.

Scouts who attend camp have their choice of what they want to earn badges for.  There are required badges that all scouts need to advance, plus they need a total of 24 badges. Scattered around the reservation are several areas that are specialized areas for the scouts to learn new things. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a very popular choice as the scouts get to experiment with all sorts of technology.

“We have a 3D printer and the boys can create a design and make it from the printer,” Lehman said. He showed a small key chain cut as the Superman symbol as an example of something that was made with the printer. “They can build robots, if they want. We’ll launch rockets. About anything the campers want to try, we’ll try to find a way to help them explore their ideas.”

The staff cabins have greatly improved over the years. For many years, the staff slept in tents, like the campers. Now, there are cabins that have been donated by local people, businesses and organizations. “This really helps. The staff doesn’t have to worry about all of their stuff getting wet when it rains.” Lehman said he was surprised when they cut the ribbons to officially open the staff cabins at how many people came to see them. “Some of the organizations even use the cabins when we aren’t at camp.”

In the handicraft area, scouts can try about any type of craft they want. Basket weaving, woodworking, pottery and leather making are just a few of the crafts they can learn. They also have the opportunity to play “CSI.” The boys are given a small skull and by using clay or paper mache, they recreate the face.

Lehman said, “I was in a store with my dad once and a young man came up to us.  He recognized my dad as the camp director and was excited to say hi. My dad remembered his name and they talked a few minutes. As we walked away, I heard the boy tell his parents ‘Can you believe he remembered my name?’ and that stuck with me. I make it a point to remember names because when you remember someone’s name, you make them feel special. We all need to feel special more.”  Lehman said he wants to live up to his dad’s legacy, but to also create a legacy of his own.

Because the land the scout camp sits on was once a Native American site, many arrowheads or tools are discovered. “When a boy finds one, we share it then put it on display. Nothing is taken from here. History is too important.” The scouts have an “honor society” called the Order of the Arrow and the ceremony was held on Wednesday evening. “The scouts who get picked are voted in by their peers. It’s a true honor that your peers feel you are deserving. After one of our ceremonies, a guy came up to me with tears in his eyes. He was so touched that he had just watched his grandson be inducted in the Order of the Arrow in the same place that he had been inducted so many years before.”

The week before camp starts, Lehman and his staff set up 300 tents for the scouts to use. They are welcome to bring their own gear or use the camp’s. Each tent has a floor and two beds. It takes an entire day to pitch the tents. “Some staff dread tent day and others laugh about it. We have an amazing staff here. I tell them we need to provide enthusiasm about everything we do. We are here to help the boys learn, but also to help them make memories.”

At 2 p.m. the previous Sunday, as campers began to arrive, it began to pour rain.  “The staff asked what we were going to do,” Lehman said. “I laughed and reminded them of our motto – put your packs on your backs and your feet on the trail. Meaning you can’t change what life throws at you – you can only keep on doing what needs done and have fun while you are doing it.”

In another area of the camp, scouts were encouraged to create a floating chair out of available materials. They had already made a teeter-totter out of small logs by using ropes to lash the wood together. The scouts are encouraged to brainstorm ideas and work together to find a solution to their problems. The scouts also learn wilderness survival in this area. “When they are ready, a group is taken out into the woods with only what they can carry. They build a shelter and stay the night.  While many of the boys believe this is a “secret” place that no one knows about, I can be there in just a few minutes on the gator.”

For the 50th celebration, Lehman said they are planning to have tours of the reservation, competitions, hog roast and a flag ceremony. In the evening, they will be having a large campfire. They are hoping to see many people who went to camp there and who might share their memories of camp. Songs from camp will be sung and a skit of “The best of the best” skits will be presented.

Everyone is welcome to attend the open house on Wednesday, July 12. Whether they attended camp there or just want to look around, Lehman is hoping for a huge turnout. He is asking people to bring pictures or memorabilia from their camping days to share. Everything is free. The tours and competitions will be from 2 to 5 p.m., supper from 5 to 7 p.m. and the camp fire will start at 7 p.m. For information on the celebration, call 740-453-0571.

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