AKCHO has been viewing with concern the uncertain future of Camp Kilworth, a 30-acre site on the shore of Puget Sound, near Federal Way. In 2018, the Washington Trust for Historic Places added Camp Kilworth to their list of most endangered places. The buildings, including the iconic Rotary Lodge, are vacant and in danger of demolition by neglect. Since the Boy Scouts ceased operations there in 2016, the buildings are not heated or maintained. Camp Kilworth is just one of many properties that the Boy Scouts of America have vacated across the country, as the numbers enrolled in scouting have declined.
Because of a stipulation in the original 1934 deed, if the property is not used for scouting, ownership reverts to the Kilworth Family Foundations. On April 11, the Tacoma Council of the Boy Scouts of America formally relinquished control of the property to the two foundations who will jointly own the site.
It is uncertain what the foundations will do with the site. The Friends of Camp Kilworth & Alumni Association hope to see the site remain as open space for the education of youth. The formation of a non-profit organization is in progress. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation mentions finding the right stewardship arrangement as key to the preservation of Camp Kilworth.
In January 2019, the City of Federal Way issued a proclamation naming the camp as an important part of Federal Way’s history and encouraging the foundations to remember the original donors’ vision to serve the youth of South King County. It remains to be seen if the city is willing, or able, to give aid of a more tangible nature.
As the population increases and becomes more urbanized and densely packed, the need for a place for youth to experience the outdoors becomes even more important. But, at the same time, population growth makes the property more valuable for other uses. This surge in property values endangers many historic sites in King County.
This could be an opportunity for Camp Kilworth to transition from a site for boys only to a site for the education of youth of all genders and backgrounds. Want to make a difference? Indicate how you’d like to be involved on the Camp Kilworth website, http://campkilworth.com/get-involved.