Boy Scout troops sell campgrounds


2003-04-21

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - With more land than it needs, the state Boy Scouts of America organization is selling off some of its Connecticut campgrounds.

The sales mark a change in the Connecticut Rivers Council's strategic plan, which calls for "genuine assets, not liabilities," said Harry Pokorny, the council's executive director.

"It's always difficult to sell these camps because of the emotional attachment to them," Pokorny said. "It's, 'This is my camp. This is the camp I went to.'"

The council last month finalized a $560,000 sale of the 130-acre Nahaco camp to the towns of Woodstock and Eastford. Later this month, the council is expecting to close a $1 million deal to sell the 34-acre Camp Wakenah in Salem to Livingston Morris of Glastonbury.

The Salem camp hasn't been used as a scout camp for more than 20 years, Pokorny said, and it was used only occasionally for the scout's adult leadership training program.

The sale of the Salem camp was difficult for the council, which found itself caught in a bidding war between Bob Kaufman, owner of Bob's Discount Furniture, and Morris, who is in real estate.

About a year ago, the scouts had planned to sell Camp Wakenah for $100,000 to the town of Salem to use for recreation. Morris and Kaufman later submitted bids.

Kaufman proposed a $900,000 purchase price to create a camp for children with disabilities. But the council's executive board voted 26-1 to sell the land to Morris for the $1 million price, and he plans to make it into a family retreat, Pokorny said.

The decision raised eyebrows of some town officials.

"(We) knew we couldn't afford that kind of money," said Salem First Selectman Peter Sielman. "It's obviously very beneficial to the scouts to get that kind of money. We were kind of surprised they didn't sell the land for the handicapped camp, though."

Pokorny said the proposal to use the property as a disabilities camp was a late change in the $900,000 proposal, and it would have been considered if it had been proposed sooner. Kaufman said that the proposal came after the council had accepted Morris' bid.

"It seemed logical to keep it as a camp, but unfortunately it didn't happen," Kaufman said. "I don't want to bash the Boy Scouts. Things happen for a reason. It was a good project. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work, but I felt like I was dealt with fairly."

Paul Messier, chairman of the council's Mohegan District, cast the lone vote against the plan to sell the camp to Morris.

"When these things happen, you would rather see it stay as a camp, not for personal use," he said. "I wanted to table it and bring all the parties together and review both proposals."

Pokorny said a large portion of the money from the land sales will be invested as a part of a capital endowment fund, with the council spending the interest earned from the investments. The fund will provide money for capital improvements and maintenance at the council's remaining camps, he said.

 

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