Battle for Bomazeen: Officials fear Belgrade youth camp will be sold before lawsuit is resolved

The state attorney general’s office and a group of local lawyers to keep their beloved Camp Bomazeen on Great Pond in Belgrade a place for scouts in central Maine fear the camp is being sold even as a trial over his fate is still ongoing.

The Pine Tree Council of the Boy Scouts of America attempted to sell the camp property to pay off the debt. The Pine Tree Council lawyer, meanwhile, acknowledged the council had a buy-and-sell agreement in place to sell the camp, to a local family he declined to identify, but who he said he planned to provide a perpetual easement on a significant area of ​​the property for scouting. And that, for now, as long as the trial is ongoing, the council plans to maintain the status quo with the camp.

The Bomazeen Old Timers and its leaders, Bruce Rueger and Scott Adams, have stepped in to join the Maine attorney general’s office in a lawsuit the office has filed against the Pine Tree Council, which oversees scouting in the southern and central part of state and wants to sell the 330-acre waterfront youth camp to help pay off some of its large debt and fund its ongoing operations. The intervenors argue that the council – which saw at least one buyer enter into an initial agreement to buy the property but later backed out of the deal – has no right to sell the property because it breached the terms of the act since the The place was donated by Dr. George Averill in the 1940s as a place where Boy Scouts could camp.

With the lawsuit filed by the state AG’s office last year still in its preliminary stages, Rueger and the head of the consumer protection division of the state attorney general’s office State have expressed concern that the council still appears to be attempting to sell the property.

And that would undermine the Bomazeen Old Timers’ hopes of striking a deal with the council to acquire the property themselves so they can turn it into a camp for Central Maine Boy Scouts, and potentially other youth groups.

“The board is still continuing its efforts to sell the camp,” Rueger said Friday. “The Board is unwilling to accept that Bomazeen has been entrusted to Central Maine Scouts to be held in trust and that this trust must be continued. They don’t seem to act like the trial bothers them at all. We were hoping that we could sit down and talk with the Pine Tree Council and see if we could come up with a resolution that saves the camp and preserves it in perpetuity. We would like to see this property saved and used, rather than expanded.

Linda Conti, head of the AG state office’s consumer protection division, wrote in a November letter to the Pine Tree Council’s attorney that her office had learned that the council had already reached an agreement to buying and selling for Camp Bomazeen property. She argued that the court should be given the opportunity to rule on the Bomazeen Old Timers’ claim that the council has no power to sell the property, before the property is sold. And that if the board were to sell the property, Conti wrote, “in our opinion, every penny of the sale proceeds is appropriated from a trust for the benefit of Central Maine Scouts and is not available to pay general creditors advice”.

Conti said Friday the property has not been sold, but she believes the council is still marketing it. The council did not respond to his letter, Conti said, and “the Pine Tree Council maintains that it can sell the property in confidence and use the proceeds of the sale for any of its general purposes.”

Council legal adviser Eric Wycoff said on Friday the property has not been sold, but the council has a purchase and sale agreement to sell Camp Bomazeen “to a local family who plan to provide a perpetual servitude over an area important to Scouting, but the closing date is a long way off.At the moment, while the lawsuit is ongoing, the Pine Tree Council plans to maintain the status quo with Camp Bomazeen.

He said the board’s position remains that he owns Camp Bomazeen, has the right to sell it, and has the right to use the proceeds of its sale to pay off debts and help support scouting in the council area.

The superior court lawsuit filed by the AG’s office last year seeks to prevent the council from using proceeds from the proposed sale of Camp Bomazeen to pay operating expenses, creditors or council debt. The lawsuit also states that any proceeds from this potential sale will be held in trust “for the purpose of directly supporting Boy Scout camping activities in the Pine Tree Council area, with a preference for Boy Scouts in central Maine.”

Longtime Scout leaders Rueger of Waterville and Adams of China, and the 300-member group Bomazeen Old Timers, joined as intervenors in the case after it was filed. They claim that the charitable trust, which initially received ownership of the camp and whose trustees were responsible for overseeing its use by the scouts, was never properly dissolved when the council took control of the Bomazeen camp. They therefore argue that the council should be ordered to end all efforts to sell the camp and that local stakeholders should be appointed as successor trustees and given title and control of the property.

The Pine Tree Council is asking that the case be dismissed. The organization notes that the deed specifically authorizes the sale of the Bomazeen property, claims that the council correctly took control of the property in 2008 as no successor trustee had been appointed and there was no current trustees. They also state that the charitable trust created by Averill’s deed had failed, so the council took title to the camp without any restrictions that were in that deed.

Wycoff also filed a counterclaim against the AG’s office, asking the court to declare that the board took title to the camp with the sole restriction that it was for the “use and benefit of the Boy Scouts of America.” and that the Board’s proposed use of proceeds from a sale of Bomazeen to repay its debt and support its operations would indeed comply with this restriction.

The board claims in court documents that it owns Camp Bomazeen without any restrictions contained in the Averill deed and has no obligation to provide notice or any opportunity for members of the Valley District. of Kennebec to raise objections.

Court documents say the parties to the lawsuit met with a neutral mediator in August but were unable to reach a resolution, so the case is on track to proceed to trial.

Matt Klutzaritz, Boy Scout executive and CEO of the Raymond-based Pine Tree Council, previously said the goal of Pine Tree Council leaders was to sell Camp Bomazeen to a person or entity that would allow at least some continued use by Boy Scouts.

Last March, Pine Tree Council President Jack O’Toole told Scouting parents that the council was also selling Camp Gustin to Sabattus and Camp Nutter to Acton, to raise money for its share of a settlement fund. Boy Scouts of America for victims of sexual abuse. This prompted the family of the late Charles Gustin, who deeded Camp Gustin to the Pine Tree Council in 1948, to ask the Scout organization to reconsider selling the property.

Last December, the Maine-based nonprofit group Kita camp, which provides tuition-free summer camping for young people who have lost a loved one to suicide, announced that it has acquired Camp Nutter, a 28.5-acre camp on Loon Pond in Acton from the Pine Tree Council . Camp Kita officials said in a press release that they would continue to allow Scouts to use the facilities for many of their activities.

Wycoff said that due to declining scout numbers and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hampered traditional fundraising efforts, the council has seen lower revenues and owns more camps and real estate. that it cannot use it effectively and efficiently. He said that between 2000 and 2019, the number of Scouts in the Pine Tree Council area increased from 14,066 to 4,536 Scouts. He said at the end of 2021, the council was down to just 2,478 and just 546 Scouts in the Kennebec Valley District, which is in central Maine. He said Bomazeen Camp is severely underutilized, does not generate enough revenue to cover maintenance costs, and it is unsustainable to keep the camp open to such a small number of users.

Camp Bomazeen operated, with Rueger and Julie McKenney as directors, for three weekends of nighttime activities and one week of day camp last summer, welcoming around 200 children for typical Scouting youth activities. Rueger said alumni volunteers have been largely responsible for upkeep and maintenance of Camp Bomazeen in recent years.

Rueger said Camp Bomazeen can be operated on its own and the Old Timers group still hopes to be able to acquire and run it as a youth camp, open to scouts but also other groups, but said that he had not been able to progress. this with the leaders of the council. He said that once the camp is sold and redeveloped, it will never be a youth camp again.

“We didn’t really want to go to court to do this,” Rueger said. “We thought we could solve the problem, but we didn’t really have the opportunity to sit down and present ideas on what we could do with the camp. We are trying to save a place where children can go to play and have fun. This is the fundamental basis of all this.

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