GORE — When Camp Rock Enon opened in 1944, World War II’s Allied invasion of German-occupied western Europe had just begun.

There wasn’t much to the regional Boy Scout camp in western Frederick County — just a lodge built from salvaged materials from an old resort hotel that had burned down on the property, a new lake made from a small dam on Back Creek, and 840 acres of timberland for campers to roam.

“By the middle of the week, we were running around in the middle of the night through the woods,” despite being warned about the presence of timber rattlesnakes, 89-year-old Roger Perry reminisced about his first trip to the camp in 1944. “It was very rudimentary.”

Perry was among the roughly 180 people who attended a 75th reunion of Camp Rock Enon on Wednesday.

Walter “Skeeter” Knee, former treasurer for the City of Winchester, was a camper at Camp Rock Enon during its early years. He said the scouts would eat their meals in the lodge’s screened-in porch, where cooks from Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal served them chicken dinners on Sundays. Live chickens were delivered every Saturday.

“The shower was a piece of work,” Knee added. It consisted of a gravity-fed water tank with pipes that were heated over a wood-fired pit. “That was good for about the first ten people.”

About 340 scouts are camping at Camp Rock Enon the week. The property at 292 Rock Enon Springs Road is owned by the Boy Scouts of America-Shenandoah Area Council. The council, headquartered in Winchester, serves a nine-county area in Virginia and West Virginia. By summer’s end, about 1,400 scouts will have visited the camp, which is used year-round. Camp Rock Enon is where scouts learn a variety of outdoor and survival skills. They also can take merit badge classes on economics, technology, arts, fitness, health and science.

Since its founding 75 years ago, more than 250,000 scouts have spent more than a million nights at the camp. The property on which it’s located was purchased from the Glaize family for $8,000. Before the camp was established, the Rock Enon Springs Resort & Hotel operated on the site. It was a popular destination for tourists from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Jason Steadman, council president and Martinsburg, W.Va, resident, said visiting Camp Rock Enon takes him “back in time,” and he thinks of the foresight and optimism it took to open the camp during the largest armed conflict in human history.

“We look forward to the next 75 years,” Steadman said.

Ron Oats, Boy Scouts of America southeastern regional director, called Camp Rock Enon a “legacy” camp. He traveled from his Dallas office to be at Wednesday’s reunion.

In addition to celebrating Camp Rock Enon, the event was a time to reflect on the benefits of scouting.

Gerald Crowell, camp nature director and a retired state forester, said Boy Scouts provides families accessible, affordable options for character development, leadership skills, adventure and education. “You cannot go wrong.”

Oats added that the organization works hard to be inclusive. Through it’s Family Scouting outreach program, for instance, it began accepting girls last year.

“Scouting is relevant no matter what your background is, no matter what your family looks like,” Shenandoah Area Council CEO Stuart Williams said. The “end result” of scouting is a well-developed set of life skills, he said. “We are building high-performing citizens.”

But Camp Rock Enon has some financial challenges related to its upkeep.

“We have things to fix,” Dave Griffin, the council’s legal counsel, told those at Wednesday’s gathering. “Pick a project. This is your home, this is your camp. We need your assistance.”

People can support the camp through its Adopt a Project program to help maintain facilities such as roads, pavilions and campsites. More about those projects is available at sac-bsa.org. Donations also can be made through a brick paver project by purchasing a personalized engraved brick for $75 to $250 to pave a new walkway around the camp’s flag poles. For more information, call 540-662-2551.

— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at ocastiglia@winchesterstar.com

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