Scramble is on to develop, preserve Boy Scout campgrounds across country

Acres of land could go up for sale to pay bankruptcy settlement or legal fees

Land owned by Boy Scout troops across America could soon be up for grabs. (Getty)
Land owned by Boy Scout troops across America could soon be up for grabs. (Getty)

They’re all out scouting the land.

Developers, politicians and preservations are eying thousands of acres of land owned by local Boy Scouts councils across the country that could potentially be sold off to fund a $2.6 billion bankruptcy settlement designed to pay off victims of child sexual abuse.

The Associated Press is reporting preservationists and politicians such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal ((D)-Connecticut) are sounding the alarm that if the government doesn’t do something to protect the lands where generations of kids have learned to camp, swim and canoe, developers will snatch them up and pave them over.

“I am emphasizing to my colleagues that there is a clear urgency here,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who thinks there may be federal funds available to help save Scout properties. “We have no time to waste.”

In Connecticut, the Scouts’ Yankee Council is considering a $4.6 million offer from developers for Deer Lake, a 252-acre property near Long Island Sound that has campgrounds, fishing holes and hiking trails. The council has already turned down offers from two conservation groups but is talking with one that has put forth a revised bid.

Sen. Blumenthal is hoping money from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund can be used to help pay for the Connecticut camp and the other Boy Scout properties across the nation.

And plenty could soon become available.

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Evidence in the bankruptcy trial shows local Boy Scout councils own nearly 2,000 properties valued between $8 billion and $10 billion, Timothy Kosnoff, an attorney who represents more than 12,000 claimants in the bankruptcy, told the AP.

Kosnoff said the Scouts would need to sell much of that land to pay off the settlement or continue their fight in court.

“I can’t predict how long it will take for all these properties to be liquidated, but I think it’s inevitable,” he said.

Boy Scout councils in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have all sold or announced plans to sell camps.

In New York, the 96-acre Boy Scouts’ Camp Barton on the west shore of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region has been targeted for preservation by local towns and New York state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, who are negotiating with the Baden-Powell Council of the Boy Scouts to buy the land. A nearby 41-acre parcel already was sold by the Scouts to private entities.

About a decade ago, the only Boy Scout camp in New York City — the 140-acre William H. Pouch Camp on Staten Island, which features hiking grounds, campgrounds, areas for tents and swimmable Lake Ohrbach — was saved from development when portions of it were purchase by the city and state, and a conservation easement was created to make another portion of the land part of that borough’s Greenbelt.

[Associated Press] — Vince DiMiceli