Mar. 25—SABATTUS — Pine Tree Council President Jack O'Toole told scouting parents this week that the council is selling Camp Gustin in Sabattus and Camp Nutter in Acton to raise money for its share of a Boy Scouts of America fund for victims of sexual abuse.
"The BSA is in the middle of a financial restructuring to compensate victims of abuse," O'Toole wrote. "We have been informed that we will be responsible for a very large cash contribution to go into a 'victims fund.' To put it into perspective, the amount the council will need to contribute will be much more than the total amount that Pine Tree Council has raised in a year."
Scout Executive Matt Klutzaritz on Thursday declined to say how large that contribution is.
Camp Gustin and Camp Nutter are the smallest of the Pine Tree Council's four sizable properties. Just over a decade ago, the council spent a year weighing whether to sell Gustin before deciding to keep the camp and increase its use. At the time, it brought out hundreds of former campers rallying to save the retreat.
Klutzaritz said the hope now is that it might be bought by someone who would continue to allow Scouts access.
"We don't have a lot of cash being a nonprofit to say hey, 'Here's a check,' but we have assets, so we have to look at liquidating some of those," he said. "However, if we work on this now, we might be able to control our destiny a little bit by maybe being able to try to find somebody who'd be interested in the property who would allow us to keep Scouting there. Sometimes, you get somebody who just loves it and loves that property and has the means and says, 'You know what, I'll buy it.'"
The 85-acre Camp Gustin on Loon Pond Road mostly sees day camp and weekend use. It was deeded to the Scouts for camping by Charles W. Gustin in 1933, according to the Sun Journal archives.
If Scouts do lose use after its sale, they can go to the larger Camp Hinds in Raymond, which some local Scouts already do, Klutzaritz said.
Camp Gustin and Camp Nutter are being appraised for a sale price.
"We'd like to start talking to people now," he said.
O'Toole wrote in his letter to parents that he anticipated a partial payment to the national group would be due near the end of summer.
Earlier this month, the Boy Scouts of America, which filed for bankruptcy in 2020, proposed setting up a victims fund of at least $300 million. A year ago, National Public Radio estimated the group was facing roughly 300 lawsuits from former Scouts who said they'd been sexually abused.
"Obviously, some bad things happened to people over the years and we need to help them out," Klutzaritz said. "Local councils all across the country are being asked to join in on this settlement. We need to do what's right and participate in this victims fund but at the same time, we still need to be able to provide Scouting, so we feel we can do that with what we'll have after this."
The Pine Tree Council ended 2020 with 4,000 Scout members and he anticipates that dropping by 30% more.
"With the pandemic, a lot of (troops), especially our younger packs, haven't been meeting for a year," Klutzaritz said. "We'll probably be more streamlined in what we have and what we do."