Camp Shands History
The Baden Powell Scout Reservation was purchased in the 1960's with a plan for it to be the home for the new summer camp of the North Florida Council. The Council's main summer camp at that time, Camp Echockotee in Orange Park, had become surrounded by development as the city grew. On a quiet night, Echockotee campers might even hear the sounds of traffic and radios coming from nearby houses that had encroached on the once isolated camp. There was also Camp Francis Johnson off Blanding Boulevard (FL 21), but it too would soon suffer the fate of surrounding development.
Scout volunteers Thompson Baker and his business associate William Shands were instrumental in acquiring the land that became the Baden Powell Scout Reservation. Mr. Shands was a State Senator and candidate for governor of Florida.
In 1965, two years before Camp Shands opened for summer camp, the Baden Powell Scout Reservation had its central lodge constructed, and named it the Meninak Lodge. The building served as a central meeting area with limited cooking facilities, storage, and a trading post. The building was a gift from the Meninak Club of Jacksonville, Florida.
The first summer camp program began in 1967, where a portion of the camp was dedicated to William Shands, who also had hospitals in Jacksonville and Gainesville named in his honor.
The early campers did not have a dining hall or tent platforms to ease their stay. The Taylor Dining Hall was built in 1980-81 and platforms made their appearance about the same time. Prior to the dining hall, campers ate in their sites, preparing their own meals with the help of patrol kitchens that were checked out from the commissary. Young Scouts were often sent back to the commissary for a "left handed smoke shifter" allegedly missing from the patrol kitchen (the equivalent of a "snipe hunt" quest for the unaware). Of course, resourceful staffers in the commissary made up some "smoke shifters" and sent the young Scouts back to camp to turn the tables on the pranksters.
From the establishment of the camp in the 1960's through the 1970's and 80's the infrastructure and facilities at the camp slowly grew. In 1978 and 1983, Echockotee Lodge of the Order of the Arrow built an obstacle course and council rings for Section Conferences hosted at the camp. Additionally, the Order of the Arrow was involved with building the rifle range, ecology building, handicraft building, dining hall, and the waterfront shelter.
In the early 90's, our Project C.O.P.E. program was established, thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the Florida National Guard, and the Telephone Pioneers of America. To this day, it remains one of the most pristine in the Southern Region.
During Thanksgiving of 2008, a fire broke out in Levy’s Prairie, which is adjacent and in the remote portions of the camp. The fire smoldered for many years with smoke become a major problem during the winter of 2011 and 2012. The fire was extinguished due to the heavy rains from Tropical Storm Debby in the summer of 2012.
In 2011, some members of the North Florida Council Executive Committee had a new vision for Camp Shands, which included adding new screened-in pavilions to each campsite, a new staff lodging area, and a state-of-the-art aquatics center. During this process, the North Florida Council was required to complete a Special Use Permit by Putnam County. Although the initial permit was denied in June of 2014 after neighbors raised much opposition, an agreement was reached after working with a Special Magistrate and approved in December of 2014. Through this process, plans were made to relocate the shooting sports facilities, council ring and OA dance arbor. Construction began on the first phase of improvements shortly after the groundbreaking ceremony at the 2015 Spring Fellowship. Through of help of the Every Boy Deserves a Chance initiative, Camp Shands partnered with Echockotee Lodge to raise $50,000 to help sponser a campsite pavillion.
Camp Shands is an attractive and appealing camp destination hosting a large number of national, regional, and council training events. Our staff training is always a priority and the camaraderie is second to none (to match our facilities). We look forward to a bright future for the Baden Powell Scout Reservation.
Visit CampShands.org for more information.