TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The efforts of Finger Lakes municipalities and the Baden-Powell Boy Scout Council to preserve Camp Barton has captured the pivotal interest of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. However, the Baden-Powell Council announced on Sunday in a newsletter that it will be listing a 41-acre parcel of land in the camp that stretches along State Route 89. This is in order to fund the council’s required contribution to a developing $2.7 billion settlement.
The 138-acre boy scout camp is just north of Taughannock Falls State Park in Seneca County. It features a scarce slice of undeveloped Cayuga Lake shoreline, woodland, and the charismatic Frontenac Falls. The property’s future became uncertain with a $850M settlement reached between the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and tens of thousands of allegations of childhood sexual abuse by scout masters and members of the organization (not necessarily locally, but nationwide). The Baden-Powell Boy Scout Council, which has an annual budget of about $1.1 million, is forced to sell Camp Barton in order to meet a $1.4 million financial obligation assigned by the BSA as a part of the national organization settlement and bankruptcy process.
With uncertainty coloring the future of Camp Barton the Baden Powell Council, the Towns of Ulysses and Covert, and the Village of Trumansburg, began to work to capture the attention of the state and its deep pockets to preserve the land.
Now, with State Park’s attention, it seems a local-state partnership is on the table, which is the most realistic and ideal scenario the scout council and municipalities had hoped for.
Trumansburg Mayor Rordan Hart said that State Parks is “interested in purchasing the park, but not managing it.”
The success of the effort will hinge on the three municipalities coming to an agreement to manage the property. Hart said such a park would likely have a similar operation budget to Taughannock State Park, which is somewhere between $300 to $400 thousand a season.
The park would have to at least be revenue neutral, said Hart. But he stressed that this entire venture is contingent on all the municipalities being involved past just making an agreement, which still needs to be worked out.
“It’s like starting a business,” said Hart. “If you don’t want to be in that business then it doesn’t matter how successful it could be.”
Hart added that initial conversations between the Village of Trumansburg and officials from the town governments of Covert and Ulysses have gone well. The management structure for the three municipalities would be based off an already-existing one held between Ulysses and Trumansburg, which funds year round recreational programs.
The NYS Office of State Parks wrote in an email to the Ithaca Voice that it is, “interested in exploring whether a local-state partnership could be feasible in preserving a portion of Camp Barton as a public resource.”
“This is working out better than I expected,” said Brad Grainger, a board member and former president of the Baden-Powell Scout Council. Grainger has been serving as one of the main points of contact between the scout council and municipalities engaged in protecting the camp.
The Baden-Powell Council wants to maintain access to the camp for future groups of scouts, and would consider participating in a management structure.
Before the state became involved in the preservation of Camp Barton, the Baden-Powell Council was openly considering selling the portion of lakeshore in the camp to help address its financial obligations. Grainger said that at this time the state seems “sufficiently interested,” and the council is not looking to sell the lakefront parcel.
On Feb. 15, the Town Boards of Ulysses and Covert and Trumansburg’s Board of Trustees will be meeting with State Parks officials and representatives from the Baden-Powell Council to discuss a local-state partnership. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Trumansburg Fire Department and is open to the public.