Defenders hope to stop selling Scouts camp to developer – NBC Connecticut
Connecticut environmentalists are hoping a last-minute deal can be struck to protect a sprawling 252-acre camp owned by a regional Boy Scout council. They want to prevent the scenic property that has been a summer destination for generations of families from being sold to a private developer.
The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization, offered the Connecticut Yankee Council of Boy Scouts $2.4 million, the estimated value of the Deer Lake Scout reservation in Killingworth. But the group’s offer is currently much lower than that of the promoter, who has offered nearly double that amount, according to advocacy groups.
The impending sale of the camp comes as the US bankruptcy court in Delaware starts a trial this week to determine whether to uphold the plan to reorganize the Boy Scouts of America, which filed for bankruptcy protection more than two years ago amid a spate of child sex allegations.
As the Connecticut Yankee Council of Boy Scouts has set a March 31 deadline to accept “higher offers than currently being pursued,” they are being urged by residents and environmentalists, as well as Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, to continue to work with The Conservation Group. A separate local organization also raises funds to protect the property.
“Their whole mission is grounded in the outdoors and rooted in the protection of natural resources. And so for them to make decisions that are fundamentally in complete opposition to that organizational value, I think that’s really hard to fathom,” said David Anderson, ground campaign manager for Boy Scouts’ Save the Sound. He said keeping property undeveloped is crucial to tackling climate change.
Blumenthal said he remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached to protect the development’s property. The Connecticut senator said he is working to find federal funds, possibly through the US Department of the Interior, but private groups and advocates are playing a prominent role in negotiations with the Boy Scouts.
“Anyone who has visited it knows that it is a truly valuable and, in some ways, irreplaceable resource for the entire state, not just this region,” Blumenthal said. “There are many people whose first outdoor experiences – camping, hiking, fishing – were there in this truly magical place and we will lose memories for the future if future generations do not have this opportunity.”
A representative of the Trust for Public Land declined to comment on the negotiations.
The Boy Scouts of America plan to reorganize in federal bankruptcy court asks the Boy Scouts and its roughly 250 local councils to contribute up to $786 million in cash and assets to help pay a fund to compensate plaintiffs of abuse.
The Connecticut Yankee Council has already turned over other camp property in Union, Conn., to the national organization, along with money from an endowment, to cover its share of the settlement fund. Proceeds from the sale of the Deer Lake Scout Reserve will be used to “improve and expand the facilities, programs and infrastructure” of two other camps owned by the Connecticut Yankee Council, according to a recent release regarding the “difficult decision” to sell Deer Lake.
“It can be painful but necessary, especially considering the situation we find ourselves in. Our Council is not exempt from the national decline of membership organizations like the Boy Scouts of America. This, coupled with the challenges of the past few years, means that our board must make major changes to survive,” reads the statement from the chairman and chief executive of the board. “Put simply, we own too many properties for the members we have today.”
Council CEO Mark Kraus declined to comment for this story.
Other Boy Scout councils in the United States have put camps up for sale to contribute to the national compensation fund. Last July, the Greater Hudson Valley Council of Boy Scouts in Dutchess, Putnam and Rockland counties listed three camps totaling 2,000 acres for sale. In Rhode Island, the Narragansett Council announced last summer that it had no choice but to put two camps up for sale.
“The only way for Narragansett Council to fulfill its obligation is to sell real estate,” the group said in an August 2021 letter. The council has entered into a long-term lease with the new camp owner, allowing Scouts to continue to provide camping for young people.
In Florida, the Gulf Stream Council sent a similar letter to families last year notifying them that a 60-acre camp owned for decades by the Boy Scouts had to be sold to cover a $1.1 million contribution to the fund. assistance to victims.
Anderson said he was concerned about the ramifications of the Boy Scouts’ decision to sell large tracts of undeveloped land, such as the Deer Lake Scout reservation in Connecticut, rather than take other steps to raise money. funds.
“I think this is unfortunately just one of many examples nationwide that illustrate a pretty big problem,” he said.