Camp Rotary

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 History of Camp Rotary

The camp is run by the Lake Huron Area Council

Boy Scouts of America

Visit their Camp Rotary Page

And funded in part by Rotary Club of Saginaw’s  Camp Rotary Foundation 

                           (For more pictures of Camp Rotary, visit our Photos link at the top of our home page)

History tells us that Lake Beebe was from early times used by the Ottawa, Potawatomi and Chippewa Indians as camping and fishing grounds. During some periods they used the area as a more permanent site. These tribes did not use teepees but lived in dome-shaped lodges covered with wood bark.

Lake Beebe, a beautiful spring-fed lake approximately 30 acres in size with towering pines in the surrounding acreage, lies just northeast of Clare, Michigan and is centered in a 1,000 acre tract. The story of its  acquisition and development as an ideal setting for a Boy Scout camp is almost like a fairy tale. It is a story of many Saginaw Rotarians and Boy Scout leaders exercising great foresight and work in bringing us what is now a  nationally recognized camp.

In 1924 the camp at Lake Arnold became inadequate for the growing area Boy Scout Council. Members of The Rotary Club of Saginaw, including Arthur O. Cook, and Max Heavenrich, became aware of this problem and with Boy Scout executives began to look for a new site. Beebe Lake, located on a 400-acre site, was inspected. The search team was particularly impressed with the beauty, location and adaptability of the place. 

With funds from The Rotary Club of Saginaw, in 1925 the site was purchased for $3,000 and deeded to Wallace Craig Smith, Martin W. Tanner and Ted Suss, all club members, as trustees for the club. It was then leased for $1 a year to the Boy Scout Council.

The Boy Scouts moved into the camp at the end of August 1925 and immediately began improvements to make the grounds suitable for a Boy Scout camp. A mess hall was built, a bathing beach was prepared and a new dam raised the lake level by four feet.

In 1932, an additional 40 acres was purchased, and in 1950 another 40 acres, making the total 480. Improvements by the Scouts also continued,  often with funds from our Rotary club. In 1952 Dr. Thomas J. Carney willed funds for the construction of Carney Health Lodge. In 1956 Frank N. Andersen provided funds for Andersen Chapel, constructed overlooking the lake (pictured at the top of this page). In 1959 Deer Lodge was erected from funds furnished by R. Perry Shorts. In 1957 the Valley Trails Council of the Boy Scouts entered into a new 15-year lease with the trustees of Camp Rotary, again at $1 a year rental.

A most exciting event occurred in 1964. The trustees of Camp Rotary obtained a one-year option on 583 acres of land contiguous to the camp, for a purchase price of $23,320, giving us an opportunity to double the size of our beautiful camp.

Our Rotary club now had the substantial task of raising the needed funds. The club's incoming president, Thomas M. Murphy, was selected chairman of the find-raising campaign. In order that contributions to the campaign be deductible for tax purposes, it was necessary to form a charitable, (501 (c) (3) organization. This was done effective July 30, 1964. The corporate form selected was a membership organization, with the members of our Rotary being the members of the corporation. The board of trustees and officers elected were the Camp Rotary Trustees, William Brydges, Max Heavenrich, Jr. and John Currie. The real estate of Camp Rotary was transferred to the new charitable corporation (Camp Rotary Foundation) and the campaign began.

The first contribution was from Rotarian R. Perry Shorts, a long-time friend of the Boy Scouts. His substantial gift gave impetus to the fund drive, and early in 1965 -- with contributions large and small from 95 percent  of our club members -- the goal was reached. The option was exercised and the property was acquired by the foundation.

In 1970 Bill Brydges died and William H. Palmer was elected to succeed him. Max Heavenrich resigned in 1971 and Thomas M. Murphy was elected as his successor.

1971 marked the fruition of a regional Scout effort to add to the capital plant at Camp Rotary. A half-million dollar dining hall and administration building was dedicated in mid-year. Meanwhile the Scouts had reorganized to include the area up to Alpena. The new council was named Lake Huron Council. Camp Rotary became the major site for the enlarged council.

In 1972, the Kresge Foundation granted the Scouts $30,000 for the erection of three shelter cabins. These cabins came just in time for use in our Rotary District Youth Leadership conference, now an annual event which was started that year.

A new, much-needed Reception Center was built in 1974 funded by the Saginaw Rotary club. That same year Frank Andersen financed the repainting and reroofing of the chapel and refurnishing the chaplain's quarters.

During these years there was increased activity in the Winter. Camp Director Marv Valentine suggested that the winterizing of Deer Lodge would enable the camp to better meet the needs. With a $11,000 contribution from Frank Andersen, this was done.

As a result of some successful wells not too far from Camp Rotary, the oil industry became active in the area and began leasing various sites. In 1981 and 1982 we were paid $115,000 by the oil industry. Unfortunately no wells were drilled and prospects for further payments vanished. However, at that time interest rates were very good and wise investment of these funds resulted in significant growth of our investments.

Continued wise use of these funds became a major concern of the trustees,  and meetings were held with our club's board of directors to set a policy. It was decided that except for emergencies at the camp only income would be used and principal would be preserved.

Under the various leases between the Scouts and first the Rotary Club of Saginaw trustees and later the foundation, real estate taxes on Camp Rotary were the obligation of the tenants (the Boy Scouts). However, consistent with our club's practice from the time the camp was first purchased to help the Scouts in operating and maintaining the camp, the Rotary club paid all the real estate taxes. From the early years their taxes amounted to but a few hundred dollars annually.

By the early 80's, increases in the taxes made the amount too great for our club to handle. An informal agreement was entered into between our club, the Boy Scouts and the foundation for each entity to pay one-third of the camp's real estate taxes. Since 1983 the foundation's share to the present time has totaled $49,121. This same amount has been paid by our club also in those years.

The foundation informed the Scouts of the above-noted decision to use income from its funds for capital improvement, and later it was decided to help in the maintenance of Camp Rotary. From time to time the Scouts have called to the attention of the foundation emergency and non-emergency projects. From 1983 to the present the foundation has furnished $83,065 for these purposes. 

Among foundation assistance are:  A new roof for the main building. A new dock. Canoe repairs. A new bridge. Extensive tree spraying for the gypsy moth plague. Correction of a sanitation and well problem. A new sewage system for the main lodge. Assisted in funding the COPE course. Walk in cooler problem. Purchase of a van.

The year 1980 marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Rotary Club of Saginaw -- one of the oldest Rotary clubs in the world. In celebration, our club decided on a most ambitious and worthwhile project --  the construction of a nature center at Camp Rotary.

Under the capable direction of member Carl Hubinger, and with almost 100 percent support from the members, our club furnished funds, material and labor to complete this project. 

Contributions from our club totaled $25,000 in cash, another $20,000 in materials and hundreds of hours of labor from club members. Work crews of usually about eight members spent eight weekends, working Saturdays and Sundays, boarding at the camp and performing most of the labor needed for the construction of the nature center. 

Upon the 1993 death of a long-time Rotary club member, Max Heavenrich Jr., the center was formally dedicated The Max Heavenrich, Jr. Nature Center in recognition of his outstanding contributions to our club.