CALISTOGA — Soon a number of services provided by the local Boy Scout Troop will either go by the wayside or be carried out by the younger Cub Scouts due to a drastic decline in participation in the storied club in Calistoga.
“Calistoga’s going to miss their scouts. There’s no one to do flag services, pick up Christmas trees and other services,” said Calistoga Troop 18 Scoutmaster Peter Prager.
Fingers point to varying reasons for the decline, but the drop-off seems to start with students in the junior high school range.
Prager said some of the disinterest comes from having to wear the Boy Scout uniform and telling the boys they can’t have their cell phones with them at all times.
“They say, ‘What do you mean I can’t take my cell phone?’” he said.
In contrast, St. Helena Boy Scout Troop #1 has never wavered, according to longtime Scout leader Jon Dodge, who said that there are about six Calistoga boys who have joined the St. Helena troop as a result of the decline.
“They’ve really dwindled to nothing,” he said of the Calistoga troop. Dodge thinks the way troop leaders changed frequently for a time may have had an effect.
In Napa, the Boy Scout program is “just holding its own,” but participation is probably down 10 percent from 20 years ago, said Tom Schneider, a district director for the Mount Diablo Silverado Council that serves Napa County.
Today kids have more competition for their time, Schneider said. In a town like Calistoga, “once (Scouts) and Little League were the only things around,” he said.
The influx of Latino immigrants, most of whom do not have a scouting tradition, has created hurdles for scouting nationwide, Schneider said.
“We were once an Anglo organization,” Schneider said. Boy Scouts has rewritten its materials to eliminate cultural bias and is recruiting bilingual leaders in many communities, he said.
“We’re trying to redevelop ourselves to be more multi-cultural,” Schneider said.
Dodge attributes some of St. Helena Troop 1’s success to downplaying badges and the Eagle Scout achievement, preferring to focus on adventures, fun and challenges.
“We seem to produce an Eagle Scout about once every three years … we take to heart the Scout oath and the Scout law and the outdoor experience,” Dodge said, but they don’t push much of anything else.
To show how much fun a troop of boys can have, Prager said Calistoga leaders have tried to do things out in the community where other boys can see the activity in progress. The pinewood derby is one example where boys can see the race and all the boys and adults engaging in an action-filled outdoor activity.
They have also considered starting a Venture Crew group, a division of Boy Scouts for both males and females ages 14 to 20, hoping that by opening up a group to both genders it might grow the organization.
“Where the girls go, so do the boys,” Prager said.
“We’ve really tried to get other youth interested. The Scouts have done a lot for the town of Calistoga and it will be missed,” he said.
Among the services that the Boy Scouts perform include the Christmas tree sales at the Napa County Fairgrounds. Scouts would make deliveries of fresh trees as well as pick up discarded trees after the holiday.
The scouts also perform flag carrying duties at such events as Memorial Day celebrations. Cub Scouts were called upon to do the service at this year’s ceremony in Pioneer Cemetery.
Among the other services the Boy Scouts provide include picking up e-waste, collecting food for food pantry programs, and learning emergency training practices.
For more information on Boy Scout Troop 18 go to CalistogaTroop18.org.