Local Boy Scout camp goes up for sale

Mike Forster Rothbart | The Daily Star Shelters at Camp Henderson, a Boy Scout camp in Maryland, sit empty Thursday afternoon.

Camp Henderson is closed. There have been no Boy Scouts sleeping in the cabins or swimming in the lake since 2019. Now, the 652-acre Boy Scout camp on Crumhorn Lake in Maryland will be sold, the Leatherstocking Council of the BSA announced Thursday, March 17.

“This unfortunate conclusion was made after over seven months of careful study of all the Council properties in terms of attendance, needed maintenance, operating costs, and ability to continue resident camping operations,” Leatherstocking Council President Matthew Dziedzic wrote in a message to scout leaders.

Dziedzic attributed the decision to financial and maintenance issues.

Boy Scouts of America declared bankruptcy in 2020, and a trial on the group’s reorganization plan began Monday, March 14, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. A large portion of the local Leatherstocking Council’s endowment will be sent to the national organization as part of the financial restructuring, Dziedzic wrote. The money will go to the BSA’s Sexual Abuse Compensation Fund, a multi-billion dollar settlement “to equitably compensate survivors.”

“Further, the financial resources required to address the extensive maintenance needed for the camp and the dining hall are not available due to the Council’s required contribution to the National BSA,” the letter said.

The local council had filed an “Intent to Operate” request for Camp Henderson and the council’s second camp, Camp Kingsley in Ava, north of Rome. The permit for Henderson was denied by the national organization, which cited falling attendance, the number of camp weeks offered, financial viability and needed maintenance.

“Camp Henderson requires approximately 10 times the needed maintenance improvements to maintain national standards than Camp Kingsley does. Currently, Camp Henderson has ongoing and unresolved dining hall issues that make it inoperable,” stated an announcement posted on the council’s homepage Thursday.

Ray Eschenbach, executive director of the Leatherstocking Council, explained the situation in more detail during a phone call Thursday afternoon.

The council recently had a $2 million capital campaign to build a new dining hall, but “then the campaign fell short,” he said. “The council made a very large investment and also took a loan on that building. So you know, we’re carrying debt” and the building still is not completed.

“These decisions are so hard, and there are so many emotions tied to it,” Eschenbach said. “I got a picture of my son standing in front of the Camp Henderson sign — it was his first camp, long-term camp experience.” He described how it was hard to “tell your own sons that, you know, the board’s had to make this decision, because we got to be able to stay operational, be sustainable.”

The local group, which covers six counties including Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie, has 1,500 children participating in scouting programs.

This is “quite a decrease” from 2019, when there were more than 2,800 kids involved.

“Our Cub Scout program, you know, really suffered, because … our younger kids had Zoom burnout,” Eschenbach said. “They want to be active, they want to do other programming.”

In time, Eschenbach said he expects membership levels to bounce back but predicted it will take several years.

“We got to keep running the program for young people and having a positive impact on their character. People want to move back face to face and get outdoors again,” he said.

Mike Forster Rothbart, staff writer, can be reached at mforsterrothbart@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. 

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