WASHOUGAL — This place used to be filled with laughter, longtime friends and a rocking karaoke scene.
But no one seems to be singing “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” anymore.
The Camas-Washougal Moose Lodge at 389 E St. closed in September, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will reopen.
“The goal is to make them a viable operation so they can reopen their social quarters again,” said Bob Isom, territorial manager for Washington and Northern Idaho Moose. “We’re working with them on a financial plan to help them succeed.”
Isom wouldn’t go into why the lodge got into its situation in the first place.
“We don’t look back; we’re looking forward,” he said.
The local Moose chapter’s website is inactive, and the group’s Facebook is all but silent, leaving unanswered questions of “What happened? Doors padlocked?”
The local Loyal Order of Moose leadership also did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Columbian.
A note in the Moose’s newsletter from September told of a dire financial state discussed at an August meeting.
“Members were advised that as a result of not being able to meet all of our financial obligations to various entities — federal, state, vendor, Moose International and member — we will be forced to close the Lodge on Sept. 15, 2015,” wrote Joe Blaumer, governor of the local chapter.
According to IRS records, the Moose lodge lost its nonprofit tax-exempt status in May this year after failing to file a federal Form 990 for three consecutive years. No date was posted for an exemption reinstatement.
Clark County records show the lodge did not pay property taxes in 2015 and that the Moose owes $4,187.
Isom said selling the building is “one of the considerations” to get the group back on track.
Only the “social quarters” have closed, he said, as the building is still used for meetings.
In Blaumer’s note, he wrote that as of Aug. 30 the group needed $95,000 to proceed with a loan to keep the social part of the lodge open.
City officials did not return calls for comment on the lodge’s closure.
A discussion on the Moose Lodge 1042 Facebook page hints at some unconfirmed financial trouble.
“My heart goes out to those trying to correct the problem, but it just may be too late,” Shannon Nickelsen wrote on the Facebook page. “What a shame.”
Though no cause is known for the Moose lodge’s woes, membership in many fraternal organizations seems to be going the way of print newspaper readers — fewer, older, less engaged.
A heavily cited article on civic participation, “Bowling Alone,” shows a connection between civic engagement and success in democracy.
“The quality of public life and the performance of social institutions (and not only in America) are indeed powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement,” writes author Robert D. Putnam. “Researchers in such fields as education, urban poverty, unemployment, the control of crime and drug abuse, and even health have discovered that successful outcomes are more likely in civically engaged communities.”
Groups such as the Camas-Washougal Moose chapter, the Federation of the Eagles, the Elks and other apolitical animals often function as charities as well as support, discussion and recreation groups among members.
When those groups fade, so, naturally, does their positive impact on the community.
“The vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past several decades,” Putnam wrote.
The Moose lodge moved in 2012 to its location in Washougal after years along Lacamas Lake.
The old Camas lodge was replaced with the city-owned Lacamas Lake Lodge in 2014.