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Fort Monroe Boy Scout troop looks to its future
Troop 31 began in 1918, is one of the oldest continuously chartered troops in the nation
By David Macauley Daily Press
9:48 p.m. EDT, July 30, 2011
The Boy Scout hut that's home to Fort Monroe's famous Scout troop, the "Moat Monsters" is in keeping with the mysterious nickname of Troop 31.
In a casemate under the damp ramparts of the old fort this labyrinth that was once a powder magazine and later a liquor store, has numerous dark passages, caged doors and hidden recesses.
But these are changing times for all groups that use the post as the Army's imminent departure on Sept. 15 approaches. And it remains to be seen if Troop 31 will retain its headquarters. However, troop leaders say they have received assurances they will remain at Fort Monroe.
Jim Clark, the committee chairman and a former scoutmaster for the troop, said Troop 31 is one of the oldest continuously chartered scout troops in the nation, dating back to 1918. Only 282 of nearly 8,000 troops have achieved the same distinction.
On a wall at the headquarters a display names 160 Eagle Scouts going back to 1932.
"We are still going to meet here inside the moat," he said. Clark said the Chapel of the Centurion on the post will sponsor the troop, taking over from the Fort Monroe Spouses and Civilians Club. Although the chapel has been decommissioned by the Army, it will pass on to the Fort Monroe Authority.
"It's going to change the dynamic. In the past this has been a kind of 'build it and you will come kind of operation' because we had the post. Now we are going to have to go out and market it a bit more," Clark said.
Troop 31 raises money by selling hot dogs at the Thursday night Music Under the Stars concerts at Fort Monroe. Although Clark thinks these concerts are unlikely to continue after the Army leaves, the Boy Scouts will be looking at other methods of fundraising.
"Some things we are able to get free from the post that we're going to have to start paying for but, by and large, it will just be a different approach to funding because we're not going to have a captive audience on the post," he said. "The demographics will change. There will be fewer people on the post."
Clark said the Fort Monroe Authority has agreed to include the troop in any fundraising efforts.
Clark says it's still the plan to meet under the moat. "We have a scout hut that's the envy of most scouting organizations around here," he said. "Most places share."
There are currently 15 scouts in Troop 31 aged 11 to 18. Clark says the troop seldom loses boys due to lack of interest. Rather their families move away.
While some of the scouts are from military families Clark says it isn't as dominated by the military as it was when he first arrived in 1995.
The troop has had a number of meeting places in its time, he said, but has been meeting at the present premises for at least a quarter of a century.
Thurman Felker, a 17-year-old scout said the building is one of the attractions of being a Moat Monster.
"The scout hut's awesome," he said. "I like it here. Everyone who has been in the troop loves it." He said the setting at Fort Monroe adds to the allure of the troop and hopes the scouts will remain at Monroe.
The scouts meet on Thursday nights at Fort Monroe. For more information about the troop: http://www.troop31moatmonsters.org
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