July 23, 2002 11:00 pm

It's too early to say exactly how much damage was done to the Wallowa Lake Boy Scout camp after Thursday's mudslide.

What's known is that a flash flood brought a huge wall of mud and trees down on the camp, destroying the dining hall, displacing several vehicles and disrupting the camp.

THE WALLOWA LAKE facility was not a full-fledged Boy Scout camp, capable of providing hundreds of youngsters a summer adventure in water sports, archery, compass reading and the other activities that are part of a traditional camping experience.

But the camp near Joseph had special uses for the Blue Mountain Council of the BSA, which serves Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon from its headquarters in Kennewick, Wash.

THE CAMP could be used as a staging area for high-adventure activities in the nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, for helping turn boys into leaders and as a site for two- or three-night campouts.

It was being put to good use last week by Webelo Cub Scouts and their parents from the Tri-Cities, Wash., and Heppner areas. The young people and staff were in the dining hall only minutes before the wall of mud came crashing down the hillside, fueled by heavy rains in the mountains above.

A parent outside the dining hall saw conditions changing on the hillside and alerted the group. Everyone quickly exited over a foot bridge to escape harm.

THE DINING HALL was a critical component of the Boy Scout camp. Officials will have to work with advisers to determine what will be needed to rebuild the dining hall, clear the mud and debris from the area and ensure that the facilities are safe from future slides.

Rebuilding the Wallowa Lake camp should be everyone's priority. County, state and federal agencies should step up and do what they can to assist in the process. Individuals, benefactors and corporations also should willingly share generously of their resources.

It would be wrong to deny Boy Scouts the opportunity to learn and grow at the Wallowa Lake camp.


The quick action of adults to move youngsters out of harm's way at the Wallowa Lake Boy Scout Camp Thursday is a good reminder for all of us to be aware of the changing elements of nature.

WHETHER IT'S A MUDSLIDE on a hill, a fire that's starting to spread in the forest, avalanche danger on a high mountain or an undertow in the Pacific, nature can deliver serious blows to the unsuspecting. People need to keep their eyes open to their surroundings to do what they can to protect themselves and others from sudden peril.