Delivering a New Vision for the
“Where to Go Camping” Guide

As a young man, recently elected as my Troop’s Senior Patrol Leader, one of the first tools given to me was a brand new copy of our council’s “Where to go Camping” guide. Our annual planning meeting was a few weeks ago, and it was up to me, as chairman of the Patrol Leader’s Council, to determine where and when we would go camping for the next year.

This guide was an invaluable tool, but it had a couple of profound design flaws:

  1. It was difficult to determine where, exactly many of the destinations were located. We were a large council (20+ counties in northern and central Alabama), so some of the most interesting destinations could easily be 3 or 4 hours away. How can we narrow that down to what’s with, for example, just an hour of us?
  2. Some of the information was simply out of date, including basic things like contact info. If the author of the book was too busy, inactive, or otherwise unavailable, updates to the guide might not happen for years, meaning most information was unreliable, at best, without some independent verification.

Since then, and for nearly 20 years, I have wanted to completely recreate the concept of this guide, from the ground up. As technology has advanced and become more prolific, that vision has become clearer and more focused.

At the same time, it has become much larger in scope and scale than I could have possibly imagined when I was a rookie SPL trying to plan a dozen or so campouts for me and my friends.

Today, I have a strong, well-defined vision for what I am calling “The Where to Go Scouting Guide”, located online at WhereToGoScouting.org. The site will hinge on two interconnected features:

  1. The format will shift from a printed book to a collection of individual web pages, tagged and interlinked, to create a specialized “Wikipedia for Scouting.” In fact, it runs the very same free, open source software as Wikipedia. These pages will be created and maintained by a network of trusted contributors (primarily Scouts, Scouters, and council employees) from across the country.
  2. Each page in this collection will be “geotagged” with a specific latitude and longitude, which will then be used to populate a data layer for Google Maps, Google Earth, or any other geospatial software which supports the KML file format.

The first feature will solve the problem of outdated information, but it will also let us provide far more information than was ever possible in a reasonably-sized printed document. Imagine if you had the ability, with just a few clicks, to see every trail and campsite at Philmont, or determine the capacity and amenities for individual campsites at your local Scout camp or state park.

This will also create room for photos, “insider” tips, and an entire collection of miscellanea that either wouldn’t fit or would be incredibly difficult to organize in a printed guide.

The second solution, then, answers the question of “What can I do nearby?” You will be able to, in an instant, review and filter sites that are geographically near you. When you find something interesting, you’re just a click or two away from the most comprehensive guide available for that particular site.

You’ll be able to answer questions like:

This project is easily well beyond the scope of what any single person could do, even for a single council or district.

That’s where you come in. I need your help.

I’m looking for a team of dedicated Scouts and Scouters to help me get this thing started. I’m looking for people who are interested in identifying and taking on “projects” for the site. Perhaps you could document your local Scout camp. Or you could tag and catalog all of the campsites at Philmont. Or maybe you have something totally different in mind. It’s up to you. (If you're looking for Wood Badge ticket items, I've got plenty of work for you! ;))

This is a really massive project, with lots of inherent risk. If I don’t find an audience or build a good team to help develop content, it could become just another “ghost town” of a site on the internet.

If we all work hard and work together, however, we could completely change the way Scouts and Scout units find things to do together. We could build a single, central, comprehensive take on the “Where To Go Scouting” guide and, in doing so, would enhance the Scouting program in units across the country.

I can’t do it alone. I need your help.

If you’re interested in joining the team and helping execute this ridiculously ambitious vision, send me an email and I’ll help you get started.

In Scouting,
Chris Brightwell
chris@wheretogoscouting.org