Community pushes to keep Vermont Boy Scout camp land open to the public

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 5:22 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2022 at 5:25 PM EDT
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BENSON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont Boy Scout camp has an uncertain future. Now, community members have started a petition in hopes of keeping the property undeveloped and open to the public.

Camp Sunrise in Benson has been a place for Boy Scouts and community members to gather for almost a century.

“The property itself has been in use by scouting for 99 years... We recognize that Camp Sunrise has played an important role in helping Scouts prepare generations of young Vermonters for life,” said Mark Saxon of the Boy Scouts of America Green Mountain Council.

But last November, the Boy Scouts’ Green Mountain Council decided it was in the organization’s best interest to sell it. The organization said they are attempting to consolidate their assets and direct their funds into different programs and campsites.

“What we’re really focused on as an organization is driving resources to supporting more than 100 community-based organizations in our programs that are meeting across the state,” Saxon said.

Community members worried the camp might be sold to a private organization that will keep the public out or cause environmental harm to the area, so they decided to start a petition requesting the Boy Scouts sell the property to the state or to a nonprofit organization.

People who live nearby said they don’t want to see it developed.

“If it was purchased by a private party and the developer decided to put in a lot of additional camps, it would just put extra pressure on the lake,” said Mark Johnston, who lives across the street from the camp.

Benson Town Clerk Heidi Chandler said she agrees with the petition and would be happy to see the camp sold to the state.

“I don’t think there’s been much going on lately,” Chandler said. “I would think that the state purchased the land and made a state park I think probably the best.”

She said when sold, the tax revenue the town would receive would be a plus as the Boy Scouts do not pay taxes on the camp because they are a nonprofit.

“The town folks themselves could access the park and bring in the tourism. I think it can be a win-win for everybody,” Chandler said.

Boy Scout officials said they were not aware there was a petition, but they, too, want the camp passed on to a buyer that will continue to care for the site.

“We appreciate how challenging this decision has been for so many people,” Saxon said. “The board has been very intentional and trying to find a hopeful future for the property that may provide additional use by our Scouting community into the future.”

The council said the camp is not listed yet.

The petition is expected to be sent to the council on Nov. 1.