ITHACA, NY — Local municipalities and Finger Lakes lawmakers are banding together and asking New York State for help to preserve Camp Barton, a 138-acre Boy Scout camp along the western shore of Cayuga Lake. It encompasses the outlet of Trumansburg Creek, the lake shore, mature hardwood forests and Frontenac Falls.
The property is owned by the Baden-Powell Boy Scout Council and has been effectively preserved for almost 100 years under the direction of the council. But it’s also one of the area council’s few assets that could help it contribute $ 1.4 million to the $ 850 million settlement the Boy Scouts of America struck with tens of thousands. of people who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Scout leaders. and members of the national organization.
“Our share is $ 1.4 million out of a budget of $ 1.1 million,” said Brad Grainger, board member, former chair of the Baden-Powell Boy Scout Council and a resident of the region. ‘Ithaca. Grainger was one of the primary points of contact between Baden-Powell Council and municipalities seeking to preserve Camp Barton as a natural resource, which includes the village of Trumansburg and the town of Ulysses in County Tompkins; and the town of Covert in Seneca County, where the camp is located.
Grainger has said Baden-Powell Council needs money soon to cover what it is forced to deliver to the Boy Scouts of America. However, he indicated that the regional council is sympathetic to the desire of the surrounding municipalities to see the well preserved.
“I would say we’re more than nice,” Grainger said. “I would really like that to happen. “
The mayor of the village of Trumansburg, Rordan Hart, said the total value of the Camp Barton property is likely to be between $ 3 million and $ 4 million, which places it well outside the purchasing power of Covert, Ulysses and Trumansburg. This is why they are pushing for the attention of Governor Kathy Hochul.
A petition urging Hochul to protect Camp Barton has accumulated more than 3,300 signatures. Tompkins County Lawmaker Anne Koreman has expressed support for the effort. New York State Assembly Member Anna Kelles and Senator Pamela Helming wrote a joint letter to Hochul, asking him to allocate funds to preserve the “environmentally valuable property” and enable its management for the good public.
The Finger Lakes Land Trust has also been closely associated with the effort. The organization managed to get Hochul’s attention to secure and preserve ownership of the Bell Station along the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake.
With the declared cooperation of all parties involved, it would appear that protecting Camp Barton would be a slam dunk. However, how much of the 138-acre property that ends up being preserved will depend on how quickly New York State gets involved, if at all.
To cover its dues with the Boy Scouts of American, the Baden-Powell Council is considering selling the property’s most valuable plots: the one adjacent to New York State Highway 89 and one of the few plots of land. undeveloped along the shore. from Cayuga Lake. The two plots are between 40 and 50 acres when combined.
There is a great deal of concern that if the land is developed along the shoreline, it may have an impact on the surrounding ecology. Covert does not have sewer and water utilities, which would mean septic systems would have to be installed. The property also includes a gravel aquifer from which Trumansburg draws approximately 50% of the water used in its public water system. Although the village’s use of the aquifer is protected by an easement, Hart said, “Hey, we’ve already seen developers suing municipalities to try to break 50-year-old easements. So, it would be nice to avoid this potential headache.
Hart said: “At the Bell Station property a few months ago – if we get enough real interest to get the governor’s attention then maybe we can get things done in a short time. time.”
What the three municipalities hope is that New York State buys the entire property, but contracts with local governments to manage the land as a park. The approach would save the state annual management costs, and the idea has precedents with Camp Beachwood in the town of Sodus and Camp Onanda in the town of Canandaigua.
If things go as hoped, Ulysses and Trumansburg already have a “recreational partnership” in which Covert would be integrated to manage Camp Barton. Grainger said Baden-Powell council would like to maintain access to the site and even consider entering into a management agreement with surrounding municipalities.
Grainger declined to say how soon Baden-Powell’s council would need confirmation of state involvement before being forced to move forward with the sale of the most valuable parts of the property of Camp Barton, saying he preferred not to negotiate with the media.
“We have a financial obligation greater than our annual budget,” said Grainger, “and the state is a big, heavy bureaucracy. […] At the moment we haven’t put the property up for sale, but we can’t wait forever.