Looking Back on 2021 and Forward to 2022 in BSA Outdoor Programs

By: Andrea Watson, Director of Outdoor Programs and Properties

When 2020 finally ended, I think each of us looked forward into 2021 with a great deal of hope and optimism. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging and the bankruptcy still unresolved, there has certainly been intense challenges in 2021. But there have also been some uplifting moments.

Here are a few things that inspired the Outdoor Programs and Properties team this year:

  • Camps reopened and we changed lives! Hundreds of camp directors and their staffs jumped through what felt like thousands of hoops to ensure that every Scout had the chance to participate in a summer camp experience. By the time camps reopened in summer 2021, most of our camp leadership had been working straight through with little break since March 2020. Yet there was no sense of exhaustion or frustration – just the hope that the lives of the Scouts coming to camp would be positively impacted. And they were! Record numbers of Scout went to camp in 2021 – stay tuned in January for more on this.
  • Collaboration amongst councils and within the larger camp community across the country continued beyond just what we saw in 2020! Councils and camps saw beyond geographic borders and collectively worked to serve Scouting with camping programs and even non BSA camping programs. For many, this even included collaborating on shared summer camp programs.
  • Swiss Cheese was the theme of 2021. Councils built an even deeper foundation of risk management and risk analysis as they determined how and when they could open camping programs. We learned about and quickly implemented ideas like “cohorts” and used phrases like “nonpharmaceutical interventions” regularly. We learned quickly what hot topics vaccinations, testing and face coverings were and we persevered through the debates.
  • Councils discovered new ways to continue to deliver Scouting’s mission outdoors despite constantly changing, extremely difficult obstacles. Council camping programs pivoted nearly every element of outdoor program delivery to make sure as many Scouts as possible received a safe, outdoor experience. We took the opportunity COVID-19 presented and reinvented how we built camp programs. A debt of gratitude is owed to the hundreds if not thousands of staff and volunteers who made this happen.
  • Camps and councils’ outdoor program teams found new ways to reinvent how we serve youth at camp and in the outdoors! Many of these new ideas will continue into 2022 and beyond. We loved hearing about the new camp schedules, unique program areas and the outside the box ways you trained staff.
  • We held the largest National Outdoor Conference on record in the BSA – proving once again that the outdoor experience is at the core of the Scouting programs. Over 1,000 people gathered for two days to learn how we can serve youth and their families outside.

Thank you for inspiring us throughout these difficult times and we are all grateful to serve alongside you. We wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons and we look forward to building upon Scouting’s premier outdoor program legacy together in 2022. The future of Scouting is bright!


Pictured: (left to right) Brian Gray, Ollie Burks, Dave Cornell, Myla Epley, Tom Pendleton, Matt Parks, and Andrea Watson