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Boy Scouts, developer land swap off

Plans are under way for a tunnel to improve Camp Easton safety

The Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America said it has ended discussions with a developer over the proposed swap of the historic Camp Easton on Lake Coeur d’Alene for another property across the lake.

Legal action spurred by the proposed land swap could continue, however.

Inland Northwest Council CEO Tim McCandless and council president Barry Baker posted a letter on the group’s website Wednesday that said the deal is off and that the council will launch a capital campaign for improvements to Camp Easton, including building a tunnel under Highway 97.

Discovery Land Co., the developer of the Gozzer Ranch housing and golf course development near Camp Easton, had proposed swapping Camp Easton for property on Sunup Bay, on the west side of the lake. Discovery also pledged to build a new Boy Scout camp there and to establish a $2.5 million endowment for maintaining the facility.

A nonprofit group, Camp Easton Forever Inc., sued to halt the exchange, saying the land for Camp Easton had been donated to the Boy Scouts in 1929 with the intention that it be used forever for that purpose. A Kootenai County District Court judge dismissed that suit, but the group said it would appeal the judge’s ruling to the Idaho Supreme Court.

The appeal will go forward, said Scott Reed, attorney for Camp Easton Forever.

“We want to make sure that the Boy Scouts in Spokane don’t try to sell that property to somebody else,” he said.

News that the deal with Discovery is off doesn’t protect the camp in perpetuity, he said. “It isn’t a Camp Easton Forever, but it’s a Camp Easton for now.”

Baker said the Scouts council also wants to settle the issue: “We still want to make sure that in the future we have the right to sell the camp should we think that is in the best interest of the council.”

McCandless said Discovery Land Co. decided to end discussions as it became clear to both sides that the proposed deal would be complicated to pull off.

“When we went into it we didn’t know if it would be possible,” McCandless said. “It became evident that it was not going to work. We ended the discussion on good terms.”

The letter posted Wednesday said the council now will focus on upgrading Camp Easton. It is launching a fundraising campaign for that purpose.

Safety at the camp was one of the council’s stated reasons for entering into negotiations to swap the camp property, because Camp Easton is split by Highway 97 and Scouts must cross the highway to get to the waterfront.

“Funds raised will be used to construct a tunnel under Highway 97 to connect both parts of our camp,” the letter said.

Baker said the council estimates it will need $400,000 to construct the tunnel, and that will be the first priority for the capital campaign.

Other projects would follow, including “better staff housing, improved camp headquarters and new program features,” according to the letter posted on the council’s website.

Ron McIntire, executive board member of the Scouts council, said in the letter, “Now that the decision’s made, we need everyone who supports Camp Easton to step up and donate …”

Both the executive board and foundation board of the council voted to approve the swap, and 61 percent of respondents to a Scout survey supported it.

Spokesman-Review Publisher Stacey Cowles is an executive board member of the Inland Northwest Council.

Opponents of the deal said the two properties were not comparable. The property on Sunup Bay doesn’t have a sandy beach and is windier than the waterfront at Camp Easton, they said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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