Revered Scout Camp For Sale; Unspoiled Wilderness at Risk
By DARLA M. YOUNGS
One of the largest undeveloped tracts of land remaining in Otsego County is the focus of ongoing preservation efforts by the Otsego Land Trust and a group of private citizens.
Camp Henderson Scout Reservation on Crumhorn Lake in the Town of Milford is currently for sale, collateral damage resulting from of a flood of sexual abuse lawsuits which led the Boy Scouts of America to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of 2020.
In its online “Camp Henderson Update 2022,” BSA Leatherstocking Council—which owns the 668 acres of forests and wetlands housing the former Boy Scout camp—refers to the sale of the property as an extremely difficult and sad decision.
“As a result of the national bankruptcy case, the Leatherstocking Council will be selling the Camp Henderson Scout Reservation to help offset what it must pay as part of the proposed multi-billion dollar national settlement with abuse survivors,” the report reads.
In the fall of 2021, officials filed an “Intent to Operate” Camp Henderson as a summer resident camp which was later denied, further forcing Leatherstocking Council’s hand. The motion to sell Camp Henderson was made and passed by the Leatherstocking Council Board of Directors on February 24, 2022. Sale of the Cedarlands Scout Reservation in Long Lake, New York had already been approved. The asking price for Cedarlands is currently $4.38 million.
“Financial viability is…a key factor, but the other factors such as poor camp attendance, camp condition, and the denial to operate played a much larger part” in the decision, the 2022 Leatherstocking Council report reads, citing an outstanding dining hall debt and the large investment required for extensive necessary maintenance among other strikes against retaining Camp Henderson.
“The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to offer Camp Henderson for sale offers a major opportunity for a collaborative effort to protect and conserve significant natural resources in perpetuity,” said Otsego Land Trust Executive Director Gregory Farmer. “The entire property has high conservation value that can help build climate resiliency in the region, strengthen the tourism economy, and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.”
The Camp Henderson property—with a 10,000-square-foot dining hall and other camp amenities—directly fronts Crumhorn Lake. It includes 63 acres of federal wetlands, more than 11,000 feet of frontage on New York State Department of Environmental Conservation classified streams and is immediately adjacent to the Susquehanna State Forest. The property is currently listed at $6.9 million, with no constraints as to how it can be sold, subdivided or used.
Otsego Land Trust, an accredited, not-for-profit organization based in Cooperstown, proposes using funds from the New York State Environmental Bond Act to acquire the entire 668 acres as a trade land property.
“The Land Trust would develop a management plan to protect the natural resources of the property and allow for the subdivision and sale of discrete parcels subject to a conservation easement in perpetuity,” Farmer explained.
According to Farmer, state funding through the Environmental Bond Act would support the initial purchase of the property, the related transaction costs, and the carrying costs for a term of years. Any proceeds from the subsequent sale of any portion of the camp property would have a “multiplier effect.”
“The commitment of state funds would ensure the conservation of the property in perpetuity. Sale proceeds would be used by Otsego Land Trust to conserve and protect additional land in the region,” Farmer said.
Camp Henderson is also on the radar of State Senator Peter Oberacker (R,C-51st Senate District). In a letter to NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid dated March 27, the senator references Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2022 legislation (A.5390B/S.6191A) to support and contribute to national efforts to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030.
“I have an opportunity to bring my home county of Otsego closer to the 30 percent objective by securing Camp Henderson Boy Scout camp…” Senator Oberacker wrote. “I believe this would be a great opportunity for the Otsego County region, New York State and our environment.”