Eleven years ago, two Boy Scout councils — the Chisholm Trail, which included Brown County, and the Comanche Trail — merged to form a new council called the Texas Trails Council. It is based in Abilene and consists of 18 counties including Brown.
"Growing pains" slogged the new council, and two years ago, it operated under a provisional charter, scout leaders said. The council was within months of having its charter revoked and being merged, and was more than $140,000 in debt.
In 2013, the Texas Trails Council was awarded what the Boy Scouts of America call Gold Status — the highest status for a council. It has paid off that $140,000 debt. And, scout leaders were recently notified by the regional commissioner that the Texas Trails Council, with 14 percent growth, led the nation in membership growth last year, scout officials said.
"This is my fourth year," local District Executive Doug Moore said. "Last year was the most productive year we've ever had." He said the council recruited 775 new boys last fall.
Council Executive Mark Conrad said a council is graded based on a council performance recognition program called Scouting's Journey to Excellence. There are five areas in the Journey to Excellence: finance, membership, program, unit service and leadership, Conrad said.
The council currently has 2,502 members, he said.
"I think there was just a lot of turmoil within the ranks of the council," Conrad said of the council's earlier problems. "I think we had been experiencing growing pains." Conrad said past council president Steve Ellis "helped pull it together."
"I'm very pleased," Conrad said. "Like all organizations, we're trying to grow and find out what our weaknesses are."
The council had a "debt reduction event" to eliminate the $140,000 debt, Conrad said.
During the past two years, scout officials said, the council has largely completed major renovations at Camp Billy Gibbons and Camp Tonkawa, its two Scout camps, and has acquired a new building for the council office along with funds to renovate it.
Moore agreed that the council had earlier experienced growing pains. "When you take two councils and merge them, there are legitimate growing pains."
Referring to the turnaround, Moore said, "The biggest thing was the community coming together and getting behind scouting."
Speaking of the Gold Status, Moore said, "It's very hard to come by. They don't just hand it out. It's been a pretty prestigious thing for our council to achieve."