The housing boom has forced many organizations with valuable real estate assets, to consider what was once unthinkable. In a page one story in the WSJ Boy Scouts Weigh Merits of Unloading Hot Real Estate: Thinning Ranks, High Prices Tempt Them to Sell Camps, But Locals Put Up a Fight
Fights like this are playing out across the country, as scouting groups face lean coffers and declining membership. Many councils, especially those in hot real-estate markets, are debating whether to cash in on skyrocketing property values. As a result, struggles — over camp land and all it symbolizes to local residents — have erupted in such states as Michigan, Texas, Arizona and Washington. Mere rumors of a possible sale often spur action by community members. Some try to buy the camps themselves or align themselves with nonprofit organizations to bolster their chances in a bidding war. Others file lawsuits or wage zoning battles.
Boy Scout and Cub Scout participation was about 6.5 million in 1972, but totals about 4.2 million today, excluding new programs. That decline has caused some councils to merge, sometimes creating organizations with multiple camps and not enough money to maintain them. Each Boy Scout council is a corporation, beholden to the policies of the national organization, based in Irving, Texas, but they raise their own funds, manage their finances and make decisions about property and programs.
Organizations like the Boy Scouts, with thinning ranks, are being forced to consider selling off land that, in the case of Bradenton, Florida, is ripe for development. Speaking as an Eagle Scout, once very active in the organization, and knowing how much land is owned by various Boy Scout Councils, it won’t be an easy road as pragmatists go up against those with strong emotional ties to the properties.