About 70 Boy Scouts on Saturday gathered outside the Inland Northwest Council Boy Scouts of America’s Spokane headquarters to protest a plan to sell Camp Easton on Lake Coeur d’Alene in exchange for a new, more modern camp.
“They’re very, very upset,” Mark Whitt, who has been an adult leader with the Scouts for 10 years, said about the boys. “They’ve been very frustrated with this whole thing. It’s been mostly the adults planning everything. They don’t feel like they have a say. They feel powerless.”
Under the plan the council is now considering, Discovery Land Co., an Arizona-based developer, would buy Camp Easton and build a new camp on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Sunup Bay, on the lake’s west side.
J.D. Meads, 16, said Camp Easton was donated to the Boy Scouts of America by F.W. Fitze in 1929 to be used forever by Boy Scouts, and that the council should honor Fitze’s intent.
“If the council wants to uphold the values of Scouting, the only option is to keep the memory and use of the current camp alive for generations to come,” he said. “I believe that the council is not making a wise decision. It’s a good camp. The new camp will not be as good as Camp Easton.”
Scouts have used Camp Easton for more than 80 years.
“If they would sell it, I would be devastated,” said 12-year-old Scott Kennedy. “I think it’s great.”
The council foundation board made a nonbinding vote Feb. 15 to move forward with the plan to sell the camp. Whitt, who is from Coeur d’Alene, said most of the board members are from Washington.
“Every time that they make another one of these votes and say, ‘We’re just exploring our options,’ they’re alienating Idaho,” Whitt said. “The people in Idaho feel like something was stolen from them.”
Supporters of the plan say Camp Easton needs several million dollars worth of updates and repairs and they need to ensure the best Scouting experience. As part of the deal, Discovery would establish a $2.5 million endowment to help maintain the new camp and the council’s other two camps.
Supporters also say that Camp Easton is unsafe because it straddles a highway that campers have to cross.
A recent survey by the Inland Northwest Council found 61 percent of respondents favored selling Camp Easton.
But opponents say Camp Easton boasts a rich history and is more suited to Scouting activities than the new site would be.
“We’re basically trading sandy beaches for rocks, and no one can dispute that,” Whitt said. “The waterfront is by no means comparable.”
Among other issues, Whitt said, the bay the new camp sits in is windy, making it unsafe for the boys to learn how to sail, canoe, kayak and row. He said the council is being swayed by the multimillion-dollar endowment.
“We feel that’s all the council is looking at,” he said. “They don’t know what they have.”
A group that calls itself Camp Easton Forever filed a suit in Kootenai County District Court to stop the council from completing the plan. News of the swap emerged last August.
Stacey Cowles, publisher of The Spokesman-Review, is a board member of the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts of America.