Greater Pittsburgh, Laurel Highlands Boy Scout councils merge

Scouting officials say this summer’s merger of two Western Pennsylvania Boy Scouts of America councils will strengthen programs and give members access to more camping facilities.

The merger will enable the Laurel Highlands Council, which serves about 26,000 Scouts, to reallocate thousands of dollars it was spending on administration into programs for kids, a Boy Scouts area director said.

“As we merged, the opportunity for things for kids to do has been greatly expanded,” said Mike Surbaugh, executive with the Laurel Highlands Council.

The state on July 1 recognized the council’s incorporation. It combined the Greater Pittsburgh Council, with about 21,000 Scouts, and the Penn’s Woods Council, with about 5,000 Scouts from areas east of Pittsburgh, Surbaugh said.

Neither council was in financial distress, Surbaugh said.

“It was just one of the most beautiful times to merge because there was no crisis facing it,” he said.

When the councils were separate, they paid duplicate, professional staffers. Some staff members got new job descriptions, Surbaugh said.

Though all paid staff members were offered positions, one resigned, said Trip McMillan, a Boy Scouts area director in the northeast region.

The merger means the Boy Scouts can implement distinct programs created for city youths in Pittsburgh — such as Cub Scouts 123, which teaches values to young people — in areas such as Johnstown, McMillan said.

Scouts in different councils will be able to use other camping facilities and to put on larger events — such as the councilwide camping event scheduled for September, Surbaugh said.

Volunteer committees formed bigger committees, he said.

Jim Crawford, a volunteer president with Laurel Highlands Council, said the larger council should make it easier to find volunteers who are willing to stay in administrative positions, and it will bring together people with different backgrounds and experiences to develop programs for kids.

Scouting mergers are not uncommon. About 35 years ago, roughly 400 Boy Scout Councils existed in the United States. Now, there are fewer than 300, McMillan said.

The Greater Pittsburgh Council formed from a merger of Allegheny Trails Council and East Valley Council in 1993, Surbaugh said.

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