The state Attorney General’s Office and a group of local advocates for keeping their beloved Camp Bomazeen on Great Pond in Belgrade a place for central Maine Scouts are concerned the camp could be sold even as a lawsuit over its fate is still pending.

The Pine Tree Council of Boy Scouts of America has been attempting to sell the camp property to pay off debt. The Pine Tree Council’s lawyer, meanwhile, acknowledged the council does have a purchase-and-sale agreement in place to sell the camp, to a local family which he declined to identify, but who he said plan to provide a perpetual easement over a significant area of the property for Scouting. And that, for now, while the lawsuit is pending, the council plans to keep the status quo with the camp.

The Bomazeen Old Timers and its leaders, Bruce Rueger and Scott Adams, intervened to join the state Office of the Maine Attorney General in a lawsuit the office filed against the Pine Tree Council, which oversees Scouting in the southern and central portion of the state and wants to sell the 330-acre waterfront youth camp to help pay off part of its large amount of debt and fund its ongoing operations. The intervenors contend that the council — which has had at least one buyer strike an initial agreement to purchase the property but then back out of the deal — doesn’t have the right to sell the property because it violated the terms of the deed since the spot was donated by Dr. George Averill in the 1940s as a place where Scouts could camp.

With the lawsuit filed by the state AG’s office last year still only in its preliminary stages, Rueger and the chief of the state Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division have expressed concerns that the council appears to still be attempting to sell the property.

And that would scuttle the Bomazeen Old Timers’ hopes of working out a deal with the council to acquire the property themselves so they can keep it a camp for central Maine Scouts, and potentially other youth groups.

“The council is still pursuing an effort to sell the camp,” Rueger said Friday. “The council board is unwilling to agree that Bomazeen was given to the Scouts of central Maine to be held in trust and that trust should be perpetuated forward. They don’t seem to act as if the lawsuit bothers them at all. We’d hoped to be able to 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’d like to see this property saved and used, rather than developed.”

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Linda Conti, chief of the state AG’s office Consumer Protection Division, wrote in a November letter to the Pine Tree Council’s attorney that her office had learned the council had already entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement for the Camp Bomazeen property. She argued the court should have the opportunity to rule on the claim made by the Bomazeen Old Timers that the council doesn’t have the authority to sell the property, before the property is sold. And that if the council does sell the property, Conti wrote, “in our view every penny of the sales proceeds is impressed with a trust for the benefit of central Maine Boy Scouts and is not available to pay the Council’s general creditors.”

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

The council’s legal counsel, Eric Wycoff, said Friday the property has not been sold but the council does have a purchase-and-sale agreement to sell Camp Bomazeen “to a local family who plan to provide a perpetual easement over a significant area for Scouting, but the closing date is a ways off. For the time being, while the lawsuit is pending, the Pine Tree Council plans to maintain the status quo with Camp Bomazeen.”

He said the council’s position remains that it owns Camp Bomazeen, has the right to sell it, and has the right to use the proceeds from its sale to pay down its debts and help support Scouting in the council’s region.

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 the council’s operating expenses, creditors or debt. The suit also declares that any proceeds from that potential sale be held in trust “for the purposes of directly supporting camping activities for Boy Scouts in the Pine Tree Council Region, with a preference for Boy Scouts from central Maine.”

Longtime Scouting leaders Rueger of Waterville and Adams of China, and the 300-member Bomazeen Old Timers group, joined as intervenors in the case after it was filed. They claim the charitable trust, which was originally given the camp property and with its trustees directed to oversee its use by Scouts, was never properly dissolved when the council took over control of Camp Bomazeen. They thus argue the council should be ordered to halt all efforts to sell the camp and the local intervenors should be appointed as successor trustees and be given the title to — and control of —the property.

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The Pine Tree Council seeks to have the case dismissed. The organization notes the deed specifically allows the Bomazeen property to be sold, claims the council properly gained control of the property in 2008 because no successor trustees had been appointed, and there were no current trustees. They also state the charitable trust created by the Averill 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 the council took title to the camp with the only restriction that it be for the “use and benefit of Boy Scouts of America” and that the council’s proposed use of the proceeds of a sale of Bomazeen to pay down its debt and support its operations would indeed comply with that restriction.

The council claims in court filings that it owns Camp Bomazeen free of any restrictions contained in the Averill deed and has no duty to provide notice or any opportunity for members of the Kennebec Valley District to raise objections.

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

Matt Klutzaritz, Scout executive and CEO of the Raymond-based Pine Tree Council, has said previously that leaders of the Pine Tree Council’s goal 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 the council was also selling Camp Gustin in Sabattus and Camp Nutter in Acton, to raise money for its share of a Boys Scouts of America settlement fund for victims of sexual abuse. That prompted concerns from the family of the late Charles Gustin, who deeded Camp Gustin to the Pine Tree Council in 1948, to ask the Scouting organization to reconsider selling the property.

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

Wycoff said as a result of declining numbers of Scouts and the COVID-19 pandemic, which stymied traditional fundraising efforts, the council has had declining revenues and owns more camps and real estate than it can use effectively and efficiently. He said from 2000 to 2019, the number of Scouts within the Pine Tree Council’s region decreased from 14,066 to 4,536 Scouts. He said as of the end of 2021, the council is down to only 2,478, and only 546 Scouts in the Kennebec Valley District, which is in the central Maine area. He said Camp Bomazeen is severely underused, is not generating enough revenues to cover maintenance costs, and keeping the camp open for such a low number of users is not sustainable.

Camp Bomazeen operated, with Rueger and Julie McKenney as directors, for three weekends of overnight activities and a week of day camp last summer, hosting about 200 kids for typical Scouting youth activities. Rueger said the Old Timers’ volunteers have largely been responsible for maintaining Camp Bomazeen and keeping it going in recent years.

Rueger said Camp Bomazeen can be operated self-sustainably and the Old Timers group still hopes to be able to acquire it and run it as a youth camp, open to Scouts but also other groups, but said they’ve been unable to make progress on that with council leaders. He said once the camp is sold and redeveloped, it will never return to being a youth camp.

“We didn’t really want to go to court to do this,” Rueger said. “We thought we could resolve it, but we haven’t really gotten an opportunity to sit down and present ideas for what we could do with the camp. We’re trying to save a place where kids can go and play and have fun. That’s the fundamental basis of this whole thing.”

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