Detroit’s only campground, Scout Hollow in Rouge Park on the far west side, will reopen this spring to create overnight group-camping opportunities for city youth. It has been closed for more than a decade.
The reopening is supported by The Kresge Foundation in Troy. Camping will be coordinated by Detroit Outdoors, a collaboration between the city of Detroit’s Parks and Recreation Department, Sierra Club, and YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.
The 17.4-acre site is on a secluded bend of the Rouge River in the park of the same name. Since its closing, Scout Hollow has been reclaimed by tall grass, deer, and wild turkeys.
Kresge’s $200,000 grant will allow Detroit Outdoors to renovate the area with designated campsites to accommodate large groups. The grant will also stock a “library” of camping gear – from sleeping bags to tents – that groups can borrow from for their camping adventures.
Detroit Outdoors will conduct camping leadership training for educators and youth development professionals as a requirement for use of the facility.
“This reopens a long unavailable asset to connect city youth with nature. To really learn about nature, you must immerse yourself in it. There is simply no substitute,” says Interim Detroit Parks and Recreation Director Keith Flournoy.
At roughly 1,200 acres, Rouge Park is the city’s largest and offers an 18-hole golf course (Rouge Park Golf Course). It is larger than Belle Isle (982 acres), the island park in the Detroit River, and New York’s Central Park (843 acres).
Scout Hollow covers more than 17.4 acres of mostly forest with a five-acre meadow at its heart; three camping sites at Scout Hollow will accommodate up to 30 campers each. Organizers expect to see 250 campers in the first year. They expect to serve 1,000 campers annually within three years.
While open to all youth-serving organizations, the Scout Hollow campground will be primarily focused on supporting groups from Detroit and surrounding communities.
“We have a tremendous natural asset in Rouge Park and Scout Hollow,” says Flournoy. “Collaborating with community partners like the Sierra Club and the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit with Kresge’s support allows us to leverage that asset and bring their expertise and resources into service for the youth of our city.”
Providing access to safe recreational opportunities and green spaces is a key component to revitalizing and reimagining neighborhood life in Detroit, says Wendy L. Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program, which is funding the Scout Hollow renovations.
“Connecting to nature anchors our souls at any age, but this is particularly important in the formative years of youth,” says Jackson. “We’re both proud and excited to support Detroit Outdoors in this endeavor.”
Sierra Club, a national environmental organization based in Oakland, Calif., is supporting Detroit Outdoors with a $20,000 grant. For the Sierra Club, which has been working with Friends of Rouge Park for several years, Scout Hollow is a way for communities to connect with nature in an urban environment.
“Rouge Park neighbors – and others across Detroit and surrounding suburbs – have an important relationship with this park that we are working to strengthen,” says Jackie Ostfeld, associate director of the Sierra Club Outdoors Campaign. “This will introduce camping under the stars to young Detroiters who might not otherwise have that opportunity.”
The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, which has operated overnight camps in Holly and Oscoda for decades, will lead a series of camping leadership trainings at Scout Hollow this spring and summer.
“We know firsthand that camping not only offers outdoor adventures but also teaches us to slow down. Camping helps us appreciate and respect our environment, and it provides the opportunity to learn new skills,” says Scott Landry, metro YMCA president and CEO. “Scout Hollow will connect kids in Detroit with the out of doors that exists within their city.”
Organizations that send a leader through the YMCA training will be able to reserve campsites and use the gear library. “The only things boys and girls will need to bring will be their personal clothes and a curiosity for the great outdoors,” says Landry.
The Kresge Foundation is a $3.6 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit.
Kresge’s Detroit Program collaborates with civic, nonprofit and business partners to promote long-term, equitable opportunity in Kresge’s hometown.
The strategy includes place-based efforts to revitalize neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for residents; efforts to strengthen arts and culture, early childhood development, community development, and other citywide systems of support; and efforts to bolster civic capacity and the ability of Detroiters to join, influence, and lead the city’s renewal.