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Boy Scouts Of America Forging New Path In Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – There are big changes going on for the Boy Scouts of America and scouting leaders are forging a new path and forming new neighborhood troops in Utah.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will no longer charter troops beginning Jan. 1, 2020, and while some scouts are in a hurry to finish, others are just starting their adventures.

The Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts shut down its service office on the edge of the University of Utah campus Friday.

Many Utah families have been immersed in scouting for generations and BSA officials said they aim to keep it that way.

“I’m teaching scouts how to tie knots because it’s a lot of fun, ” said Richard Pollei, visiting the office. “One of their favorite ones is known as the handcuff knot.”

Pollei is busy these days teaching scouts how to tie knots as he helps get a new troop started in Holladay.

He first went to Camp Steiner in the Uinta Mountains in 1941.

“I love that camp,” he said.

He spent 32 years there as an adult leader and trained scoutmasters for 50 years. It’s a bittersweet time for Pollei as his old troop will be dissolved.

“It’s kind of sad to see that go away,” he said. “But, it’s also exciting to see new troops.”

He showed us the charter for a brand-new Troop 39 in Holladay, which was why he visited the scouting office Friday.

Eleven boys have already signed up and he expects many more to join in January when other troops are dissolved.

“The boys who are there are there because they want to be,” he said.

In January, the BSA expects a drop from 200,000 scouts statewide to 10,000.

“So, we have to redefine ourselves, reinvent ourselves, and show the community that scouting still has value,” said Mark Francis, a growth coach for the BSA. It’s his job to help scouts and adult leaders navigate this time of change.

“Scouting is still needed for young people, and if members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want to continue in scouting there is a path forward,” he said.

The council will open a new office in Sandy on Dec. 4 at 8389 South 700 West.

“Yes, the Boy Scouts of America in Utah will be smaller,” Francis said. “But, at the end of the day, we’ll be stronger. Because those who choose to stay with us and stay involved in our programs are doing it because they want to. Not because they’ve been asked to by their church.”

“We had a pack meeting last night,” said Nettie Francis, a scouting mom. “We had about 75 people there. Great feeling.”

Her two oldest boys are Eagle Scouts and her younger boys are eager to keep going. She sees scouting as a compliment to the worldwide youth programming the Church of Jesus Christ is developing.

“We love the fact that our kids are outdoors, that they’re having adventures, that they’re having leadership opportunities,” she said. “Those are opportunities we can’t underestimate especially in today’s world.”

Right now, there’s a real flurry of activity among scouts in Utah scrambling to complete their requirements for Eagle Scout. In a typical year, 2,000 scouts earn the rank of Eagle Scout in the Greater Salt Lake Council.

This year, more than 4,000 have achieved the rank and many boys have accelerated work on their Eagle projects to get everything done before Dec. 31.

The council is reviewing about 400 Eagle Scouts this month alone.

“It’s overwhelming,” Mark Francis said.

You can go to BeAScout.org to find out if a troop is getting started in your neighborhood.

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