Local Boy Scouts camp could be sold for settlement cash

·4 min read

Jul. 12—A decision to sell a Boy Scouts camp southeast of Joplin could be made by the camp's governing body later this week.

The governing board of the Ozark Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America will meet on Thursday to discuss selling the Frank Childress Scout Reservation to an interested party.

Set on 180 acres at Interstate 49 and Route V, between Joplin and Diamond, the camp features a year-round multipurpose building, swimming pool, dining hall, stocked trout pond, hiking and biking trails, and themed features such as a pirate ship, Old West fort and an old mine.

The camp was not on the market for sale, said John Feick, scout executive for the Ozark Trails Council. But because each local council will be expected to pay a share of a large settlement for victims who were molested by scoutmasters or other leaders decades ago, the council will consider an offer it has received.

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Opinions about the Frank Childress Scout Reservation and its proposed sale can be sent to PR@scouting.org.

"None of our properties are on the market, but we have received an offer," Feick said. "All councils are contributing dollars toward the survivors trust, and our council is faced with a significant aspect of that. We will be discussing options on more than one property."

The board of the Ozark Trails Council includes 31 members from its seven districts. Eight of those board members are from the Joplin, Neosho and Pittsburg, Kansas areas, Feick said, in a proportion that closely follows youth membership.

Meanwhile, volunteers with the Frank Childress Scout Reservation properties committee hope the sale is not made. Without the property, it would be difficult for local scouts to access a significant part of the scouting program, they said.

"The scouting program's biggest lessons are delivered through its outdoor program," said Eric DeGruson, chair of the properties committee. "Camping is the core of the programming. That's where they learn self-reliance, leadership and other skills. If we were to lose the camp, the nearest camp set up to do that type of program is in Marshfield."

Across the country

Many Boy Scouts councils across the country are in the same position. The Grand Canyon Council, which governs most of Arizona, plans to sell its main summer camp near Payson and part of a Phoenix facility in order to meet its share of $7 million toward the settlement.

Last week, a bankruptcy judge set a July 29 hearing on a proposed $850 million settlement agreement the Boy Scouts of America have with attorneys representing about 60,000 victims of child sex abuse.

The organization in February 2020 sought bankruptcy protection, moving to halt hundreds of lawsuits by men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders. The filing was intended to try to reach a global resolution of abuse claims and create a compensation fund for victims.

But attorneys for the Irving, Texas-based organization have been unable to reach agreement with all the parties involved in the case to allow the 111-year-old organization to continue operating.

The amount facing the Ozark Trails Council, and whether any of the settlement plaintiffs were members of the council, were covered under a confidentiality agreement, Feick said, and could not be shared by the council. Feick said Thursday's meeting will be difficult.

"We've been transparent about what's coming, and gone out of our way to notify members that we will be considering this," Feick said. "I know this will be a challenging issue in however we fund the survivors' trust, and the best way we can raise the money we'll be required to pay in."

DeGruson said local volunteers are hurriedly considering options to retain the property for scouting use, and they have reached out to a volunteer group working to reopen Camp Mintahama, a former camp in Newton County used by Girl Scouts, for advice.

"Right now it's a waiting game, but we're trying to put pieces in place quickly and see if we have the opportunity to come up with the money to essentially buy the land," DeGruson said. "While we have known this might happen, we've had only about three weeks to respond to this buyer."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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