Members of Boy Scout Troop 692 gather March 3 in the lodge at Camp Curran near Canyon Road for their weekly meeting. Pacific Harbors Council of Boy Scouts of America plans to close the camp.
A recent decision to close four Boy Scout camps spanning from Hood Canal to East Pierce County has left a bad taste in the mouths of some local families.
Two groups have formed, one in Federal Way and one in East Pierce County, to find a way to keep their respective camps open. They are waiting to hear from the Pacific Harbors Council of Boy Scouts of America, which governs the region.
The council voted at the end of 2015 to close the camps — Kilworth in Federal Way, Curran between Parkland and South Hill, Delezenne in Elma and Hahobas on the eastern shore of Hood Canal near Tahuya.
Delezenne closed Feb. 1, Kilworth and Hahobas March 1. Curran remains open while the council decides what to do with the property.
The Tumwater Service Center is also slated for closure. The council plans to sell the property.
The council will keep its remaining camp, Thunderbird on Summit Lake near Olympia, open.
Financially, “we can’t continue to do what we were doing,” said Scout Executive Ralph Voelker, who estimated the four camps to be closed lost $200,000 annually.
“Instead of splitting our resources between the five properties we’ll be able to focus on one property,” he said.
Lack of public information about the closures and reports of plans to harvest timber from some of those properties has fueled concern and frustration among Scout supporters.
“This is really heartbreaking when you have people in positions that they’re in and you don’t feel they are trustworthy,” said Lynne Long, whose children participated in Scouting activities at Camp Kilworth.
“None of us were involved in the discussions.”
Camp Kilworth had been used as a Boy Scout camp since 1934, when Tacoma businessman William Kilworth and his wife, Augusta, deeded the land to the Scouts.
“We really need a camp to preserve the integrity of our Scouting community in this area,” Long said.
In Pierce County, Boy Scout Troop 629 is intent on maintaining and operating Camp Curran.
Camp Curran was given to Troop 629 about 70 years ago. In the 1970s, Boy Scouts of America determined a troop couldn’t own property and took over the land, according Scoutmaster Rex Welter.
Despite being owned by the Scouting organization, Camp Curran has remained the home of Troop 629, which holds weekly meetings there.
If the camp closes, the troop will have nowhere to go, Welter said.
“We’re definitely in a hard spot right now,” he said. “There’s always that probability, too, that we could even end up having to dissolve and send our boys to other troops.”
To learn why the camps are being closed, Scout supporters have looked to council meeting minutes. The documents cite financial losses, a desire to market the properties as soon as possible and a plan to use money generated from timber sales to offset the deficit.
Camp Kilworth supporters worry the council is looking to take established trees from the 25-acre property, Long said.
Voelker said that is not the case.
The property will be logged, he said, but only to remove alder trees that a forestry professional identified as hazards because they are at the end of their life and at risk of falling.
One alder fell last year, narrowly missing a car, Voelker said.
“This is intended to make the camp safer,” he said. “The plans to do the (timber) harvest were made two years ago at the request of volunteers.”
Voelker estimates the council could receive $20,000 for the timber, which will be used to offset losses at the camp.
Elsewhere, timber is being harvested to help bring in income for the council, Voelker said.
Logging is going on at Camp Hahobas, a 600-acre property on the shore of Hood Canal that was home to the council’s annual summer camp programs. The council expects to receive $300,000 to $370,000 from the camp’s timber sales.
“We have plans to harvest anywhere we feel it helps the forest and generates the revenue needed to offset costs,” Voelker said. “When camps are losing this kind of money, we have to pay for that.”
The council uses a professional forester for guidance on maintaining a healthy forest, he said.
Despite the council wanting to actively market its property, some of the land won’t be an easy sell. Camp Kilworth, for instance, is restricted by a deed that stipulates the land be used only for Scouting activities.
The deed established by William and Augusta Kilworth states that, if the land ceased to be used by the Scouts, it would revert to their control or their heirs.
Now, if the council relinquishes the land, it will go to trusts for William Kilworth and his second wife, Florence.
The Kilworth deed was legally tested in 2009, when the state Court of Appeals, Division Two, overturned a 2007 ruling by a Pierce County Superior Court judge.
The judge had ruled that the council could sell the camp to the City of Federal Way for $3 million. The appellate court ruling blocked the sale.
Robert Casey, an attorney for the trusts, said it was too early to speculate what would happen with the property.
“My clients haven’t thought about it, and we haven’t been told what the (council’s) plans are,” he said.
Casey is expected to meet with council representatives in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, nearly 500 people have signed an online petition to keep Camp Kilworth open; another group is working to create a Friends of Kilworth nonprofit with the hope it could maintain the camp.
Parents and supporters of Troop 692 are also looking to form a nonprofit to take over the maintenance and operation of Camp Curran. They sent a letter of intent to the council at the end of January.
They are waiting for a response while the council decides how to proceed.