Seventy years ago, Houston Boy Scouts were the recipients of a 2,046-acre wooded paradise. Philanthropists George and Susan Strake donated their property, which was nestled in the backwoods of Montgomery County at the intersection of I-45 and Loop 336. The scouts named it Camp Strake.
Shane Burks, marketing director of the Sam Houston Area council for southeast Texas scouts, said the property was used by Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts for their primary resident camp.
“In the 1950s it was really far from downtown Houston,” Burks said. “So it was a place where scouts could get away from the bright lights and big city of Houston.”
Camp Strake hosted Boy Scouts ages 11-18 and the younger Cub Scouts for their Cub Adventure camps. It was where the scouts earned merit badges and participated in outdoor scouting activities, such as camping, archery, canoeing and swimming. The property includes several lakes, including Grand Lake, which was used by the scouts the most.
“That might have been the only place that some boys could go swimming,” Burks said. “For its time, it was a state-of-the-art facility.”
In addition, Camp Strake was a training ground for scout leaders and council executives. Boy Scout staff conferences were held there as well, Burks said. Every weekend Camp Strake held local or national training.
Camp Strake was sold in 2013 by the SHAC to Johnson Development Corp., which is building Grand Central Park, a master-planned community that will be home to residential and commercial development when complete.
Eagle Scout Rafael Martinez worked for the scouts as a leader from 2010-14. He now has a new role as land manager with Johnson Development and lives on the property. He said the population expansion has led to the need for the development on the property.
“[The development] is part of the growth,” Martinez said. “We need it with so many people moving here.”
There will be an emphasis on preserving green space within the development, he said.
“We can preserve a lot of the green areas,” Martinez said. “[There are] five lakes that are going to be utilized for the community.”
The name Camp Strake follows the Boy Scouts’ relocation to a 2,816-acre spot in the Sam Houston National Forest near Evergreen, Texas. Thomas Varnell, CEO of the SHAC, said the urbanization of the previous location of Camp Strake was the impetus for moving. The new land does not have the threat of city noise and lights because it is surrounded by a national forest.
“For the longest time [the past Camp Strake] was just a great place for scouts to go camping and come back to Houston with great memories of their time in the wilderness,” Burks said.