PAYSON — The Boy Scout camp was falling apart. Timbers were rotting. Roofs were sagging. Overgrown brush was everywhere.
The fire marshal took one look and turned away. The building inspector, same thing.
The edict was not negotiable. Either Camp Maple Dell — a long-standing Boy Scouts of America facility located on 60-plus beautiful acres five miles up Payson Canyon on the way to Mount Nebo — gets its act together or it stays padlocked this summer.
That's when a group belonging to a committee called Friends of Maple Dell sent out a distress signal to the department of construction management at nearby Brigham Young University.
Would anyone majoring in construction management, or CM as it's known, like to build something? Or in this case, rebuild something?
Last Saturday they got their answer. More than 75 CM majors — almost a fourth of the entire major — flooded into the Maple Dell parking lot at sunrise, armed with every power tool they could get their hands on.
Tyler Holmes, a junior from Santa Rosa, Calif., typified the eagerness of the CMers when he said, "Finally, I get to use my skill saw."
The mess at Maple Dell turned out to be something of a perfect construction storm. The camp needed serious attention and the students needed a serious mess to rebuild.
"You can only teach so much in a classroom," said Mark Lords, a CM professor who helped organize the Saturday exodus to Maple Dell. "This is real hands-on experience."
Some 26 structures in the massive camp needed attention before they could lose their condemned status. Elsewhere, overgrown brush that violated every fire code known to man needed to be cleared, affording plenty of opportunity for a student to develop a close relationship with a chain saw.
"There is good therapy in a chain saw," said Lords.
Steven Frisby, a Utah County contractor and member of the Friends of Maple Dell committee, was the man who put out the call to the CM department.
Saturday morning, when the students began showing up by the van load, he nearly panicked.
"There were just so many of them," he said.
But then Frisby discovered that the students had already organized themselves into teams of 10, with team leaders assigned.
"It turned out to be a great experience for someone who wants to be a construction manager," said Frisby. "Construction sites can get out of control in a hurry."
The students worked through breakfast and way past lunch — provided by the Boy Scouts. Lords estimates collectively the BYU students contributed about 600 man-hours and ate about that many hamburgers.
"If this job had been put out to bid," said Frisby, "it would have been at least $50,000 just to fix what needed fixing, without all the cleanup."
That was $50,000 the BSA didn't have.
Besides the chance to actually build something, another reason so many construction majors showed up, said Todd Baxter, a sophomore from Baker City, Ore., and one of the 10 CM team leaders, had to do with Scouting itself.
"So many of us are Scouts, many of us Eagle Scouts," said Baxter. "What Scouting has done for us had a lot to do with why we came. It felt good to give something back."
"We all owe a lot to Scouting," added Nelson Porter, a senior from Canada and a Queen's Scout.
The job didn't quite get finished — it's a construction project, right? — but several of the CM students plan to return to the camp tomorrow to work on their punch list.
Everyone is now confident Camp Maple Dell, which welcomed its first Boy Scouts in 1947, will be open for business as usual on June 1.
But at that, the CM majors don't want to quit. Baxter said they'd like to return later this spring and build a new pavilion and maybe a new pool.
They may never get rid of these guys.
Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to [email protected]