After almost 100 years as Boy Scout camp, Camp Steiner to get new life as High Adventure Base Camp

May 21, 2024, 12:30 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2024, 12:52 pm

HEBER — Historic Camp Steiner will be getting new life, thanks to a Utah family and the efforts of many others.

Shad Stevens, Board President for the Sunrock Foundation, will turn the once Boy Scout camp into a High Adventure Base Camp.

Camp Steiner means a lot to Utahns, many of whom participated in Boy Scouts there, earning merit badges, hiking the scenic trails nearby, and jumping in the freezing mountain lakes.

“For 94 years now, it’s been traditionally, Boy Scouts that have been going up and using the camp. It’s been phenomenal,” Stevens said. “We have heard from a lot of people of the history, the memories, the traditions that are involved in this camp and worked a lot with the past Camp Steiner staff and learning from them what this camp has meant.”

Boy Scouts of America has leased the property of Camp Steiner from the U.S. Forest Service for almost 100 years.  It covers three lakes and over 80 acres of mountain property.

“It’s under what’s called a special use permit. So the Forest Service deemed certain areas to be able to use, and that was what was established in the 1930s,” Stevens said. “The BSA renewed a 30-year special use permit repeatedly until this point.”

Stevens knows how much this camp means to the people who attended.

“Scouting was a big part of my life….” Stevens said. “A lot of really fantastic fun memories, a lot of meaning, a lot of time around the campfire where I really decided who I was and what I stood for.”

He was even aware of the legends of Hyrum, a ghost who legend says haunts Camp Steiner.

“Yeah, Hyrum and I had a conversation on our first visit up there, just kidding,” Stevens laughed.

“Stewards of the mountain versus owners of the mountain”

Stevens has over 25 years of scouting history.

“I grew up in it. I was a very young Eagle Scout. It was my life as a young man. I got my Eagle Scout when I was 13 years old and then I served in Order of the Arrow and with other organizations, served on junior leadership training camps and a lot as a young man,” he said. “Then after I got married and came back, I immediately became a scoutmaster  and served in scouting for 20 years as a scout leader in one capacity or another.”

Then, last year, he heard Camp Steiner was available to lease.

“We learned last year that the BSA was not going to renew their special use permit with the Forest Service,” Stevens said. “So we started looking into it and creating a foundation that was able to acquire it and our goal is to be able to use it in a similar way that the BSA did.”

Camp Steiner sits in the rugged Uinta Mountains.

His first time experiencing the camp was last summer.

“Last year and my wife and I went up and toured it and just immediately fell in love with what’s there and knew that this was our future,” Stevens said.

Stevens explained that the property was under strict stipulations so it can only be used for certain purposes. Developers can’t come in and build whatever they want.

“It has to be a nonprofit and so we were able to acquire the camp with the same intention of using it mainly for youth, but we’ve also added families so that they can use the mountain as well. We have signed a 20-year special use permit with them.”

Camp Steiner cabin (Photo: Stevens Family)

Since many of the buildings at Camp Steiner -including the original three-sided cabins- are on the national historic register, there are even restrictions on maintenance.

“There’s more than 30 buildings on property. There’s a three sided bunk houses called Adirondacks. And all of these buildings are on the historical registry. So we are now stewards of these buildings and work with the historical society to maintain them, update them, keep them safe, keep them looking that they fit the mountain,” Stevens said.

The restrictions also apply to any new builds on the property.

“Any new buildings need to fit to look similar of what’s there. They need to be, look like the right time period and the right type of building materials through the historical society. So we have to do everything in partnership,” he said.

Stevens isn’t taking on the project alone, restoring the camp is a family project.

Stevens Family at Camp Steiner. (Photo: Stevens Family)

“My wife is the business manager for the camp. We have two little boys that will end up living on the mountain, up there all summer,” Stevens said. “…it just means a lot for us.”

They recognize the land is not theirs, it’s for everyone to enjoy.

“It’s more of stewardship. We don’t own the property. We purchased from the BSA the equipment and everything that they had on there so we can immediately begin to provide experiences this summer,” Stevens said. “So we’re kind of stewards of the mountain versus owners of the mountain.”

Restoring the camp

The camp is in need of a lot of care. Heavy winter snows, vandalism, and years of disrepair have taken their toll.

“The campus sat empty for five years since the BSA has inhabited it. So there’s a lot of repair. There’s a lot of deadfall trees. There’s a lot of maintenance on the buildings. There’s a lot of cleanup,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of those type of things that this first year will be focused on.”

The camp will be open to the public this summer in what Stevens calls a “soft-opening,” where guests and volunteers can help with clean-up and repairs around the camp and stay for a discounted price beginning on July 8.

We are inviting groups to come up, youth groups. “We’re inviting families, but we’re asking them to come willing to help a little bit. You know, to help do a little bit of trail grooming, a little bit of cleanup, service projects. Um, at an extremely reduced price. We’re just doing $10 per person per night when they come.

Guests can visit Camp Steiner for a more official open house on July 27.

“The plan is July 27 will be an open house and we’re inviting families, friends, anybody driving up the Mirror Lake Highway, who just wants to pop in and wondering what this old camp looked like to come in and see what it’s about. You know, come go fishing for the day,” Stevens said. “And then, that morning, we’re actually going to open registration for the 2025 season.”

The future of Camp Steiner

Stevens is excited to offer a full camp experience for families, youth groups, kids, and teens.

“In 2025, we plan to have everything in place. By that point, we’ll have a full staff, we’ll have full programming,” Stevens said. “We’ll have a full functioning archery range that will be open. We’ll have our waterfront, we’ll have our climbing wall, and then we’ll have a whole bunch of different games and activities that are available to families and groups. And, you know, hiking, it’s right in touch with all kinds of lakes. The lofty loop lake trail is connected basically to our camp so families can take off hiking and camping right from our our campgrounds.”

In addition, Sunrock Foundation will be putting in a full ropes course. The only thing that won’t be restored is the gun range, because of the environmental impact.

Since there’s no revenue coming in yet, the foundation will need help raising funds to restore the camp.

“We are in need of financial support to be able to get this up and running so we are seeking donations,” Stevens said. “We have a goal of $300,000 this year, which is a minimal goal to repair these, some of these buildings that have to be repaired in a special way because they’re historic.”

You can donate on their website thesunrockfoundation.org.

For those interested in volunteering their time or resources, you can email Stevens or his wife Kati Stevens, directly at shad.sunrockfoundation@gmail.com or kati.sunrockfoundation@gmail.com.

“Because it’s a community, it’s a public property still, we are hoping that the public kind of steps up and, and helps us get this camp up and running so that we can continue the traditions and the memories for the next 100 years,” Stevens said.

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After almost 100 years as Boy Scout camp, Camp Steiner to get new life as High Adventure Base Camp