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SAVING CAMP EASTON FOREVER: IT’S A MATTER OF HONOR

Intro: Inland Northwest Council need to learn the meaning of a Scout is trustworthy related to their consideration of the sale/swap of Camp Easton accepted from the original donor with the understanding that it was his desire to have it used perpetually as a camp for boys. It was even written into the property deed.

By Jeff Crandall

There has been a great deal of discourse over the proposed sale of Camp Easton in exchange for replacement property located at Windy Bay on the opposite shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.  Much of the discussion has been focused on the relative benefits of each of the two properties, and the risks inherent in relying on Discovery Land (i.e. Gozzer Ranch) to fund the endowment and to fully perform their obligation to build a state of the art Boys Scout camp with exceptional swimming and water sports areas, shooting ranges, nature preserves, and all of the other features currently enjoyed at Camp Easton.  I am currently a Scoutmaster for a local troop, and have attended summer camps at Camp Easton numerous times.  While I don’t believe the proposed property can even come close to matching the attributes of Camp Easton, and I have serious reservations about Gozzer Ranch’s ability to deliver on all of its promises, the focus of this discussion should be centered instead on the governing principles of integrity, honor and trust.

To understand my perspective, we need to look back 82 years, to a meeting in May of 1929 of the Idaho Panhandle Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).  The stated purpose of the meeting was to consult with Mr. F.W. Fitze about the possible purchase of his property at Gotham Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene.  The council had outgrown the original Camp Easton near Bennett Bay.  Here’s a direct quote from the meeting minutes:

“After a short discussion as to the desirability of this site, and after it was chosen as the best available site on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Mr. Fitze announced that it was his desire to present the site to the Idaho Panhandle Council as its summer camp site and that we accept it from him as his gift to the Council and the boys of our area.  His only wish was that it should be accepted with the understanding that it was his desire to have it used perpetually as a camp for boys.”

The council gratefully accepted the gift on that basis and immediately went to work on raising money to construct camp buildings, design water systems and prepare the camp for use.  By July of that same year, they held their first summer camp for the local scouts on the newly donated property.  A few months later, on August 1, 1929, the property was officially deeded to the BSA.  To reflect the agreement that this property be used in perpetuity as a Boy Scout camp, the drafter of the deed included the following language:

“This property is donated and given to the Idaho Panhandle Council, Boy Scouts of America, by F. W. Fitze and Lumira Fitze, his wife, for use of the Boy Scouts of America.”

These meeting minutes and deed unequivocally express both the Fitzes’ intent and the commitment made by the scout executives who accepted their generous donation.  Everyone involved with this gift in 1929 understood the condition that this property be used in perpetuity as a Boy Scout camp. Any possible uncertainties as to the meaning of the specific language used in the deed are fully resolved by reference to the earlier council meeting. Those same donative conditions and corresponding commitments by the scouting executives have been renewed thousands of times since that date as additional donations of land, materials, money, labor and time have been made and accepted for the benefit of Camp Easton.  In two separate histories written on Camp Easton, one for the 50th anniversary in 1979 and the other for a CDA Press article in 1994, historians have referenced the 1929 meeting and acknowledged the undisputed fact that Camp Easton was donated with the condition that it would forever remain a Boy Scout camp. 

The decision of what to do with Camp Easton should not be governed by the relative attributes of the two camps, or the appeal of a sizeable addition to the endowment fund, but rather by the governing principles of the Scouting organization.  These include integrity, honor and trustworthiness.  These deeply rooted principles are part of the oath and law the scouts recite from memory at nearly every gathering.  The Fitzes, the Eastons and many others placed their trust in the BSA.  A deed restriction should not have even been necessary.  The scouting executives today, as stewards and trustees of Camp Easton, are duty-bound by their own laws, and in this instance by the laws of Idaho as well, to honor the covenants made by their predecessors.  The minutes of the 1929 meeting and the deed succinctly articulate those agreements, and now that they have come to the attention of the current scouting executives and council board, there should be absolutely no question or slightest hesitation about what they need to do.  They are obligated to discontinue the campaign to sell Camp Easton, put an end to the controversy that has divided this community of scouters and supporters, and focus their energies and attention on resolving some of the challenges that affect this camp. 

In response to what appears to be a campaign to sell Camp Easton, a group of scout leaders, parents, and community supporters organized Camp Easton Forever, Inc.  This nonprofit organization is committed to preserving Camp Easton in its present location and then rallying the troops, rolling up its sleeves and getting to the work of upgrading Camp Easton so it can continue providing unique, once in a lifetime experiences for the boys in our area for generations to come. I am honored to be associated with this organization.

Camp Easton Forever recognizes and values the tremendous contributions made by our committed scout leaders, scouts, friends and supporters in this community over the last 80 plus years.  Our primary mission is to protect the fruits of those contributions from being bull-dozed under, and then to harness the enthusiasm, dedication and spirit of those who have risen up in defense of Camp Easton towards the implementation of constructive, value-based solutions to the problems.  I was working the other night with my scouts on their Citizenship in the Community merit badge, and we used this issue as a talking point in our discussion about what is required of us to be good citizens.  We have a unique opportunity to show our young men and the community the invaluable character growth that can be achieved by keeping one’s word, no matter what, and we can teach them that tackling a problem head on produces a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that cannot be purchased at any price.   We sincerely hope the executive board seizes this opportunity to demonstrate the very essence of scouting. 

Unfortunately, a lawsuit had to be filed as a last resort to get the attention of those campaigning for this sale.  A number of the scout executives seem unwilling to listen to the overwhelming voice of reason expressed by a host of concerned citizens, both in and out of scouting, and appear determined to move forward towards a deal with Discovery with inexplicable urgency and an irrational disregard for the landmines that litter this perilous path.   We do not wish to see any resources of Camp Easton Forever or the Boy Scouts of America poured into litigation costs.  Whether that happens at this point is solely up to the local scout executives.  We sincerely hope they’ll abandon the notion of selling Camp Easton, recognize their commitment to honor the covenant with the Fitzes and others to preserve this camp as long as humanly possible, and work together with the community towards turning this beautiful gem of North Idaho into a polished stone of even greater value.

We invite others to support us in this important cause.  Emails, phone calls, and personal contacts to the council board members, and of course, monetary donations, are all necessary for us to achieve these objectives. 

Donations can be sent to:

Camp Easton Forever, Inc.

P.O. Box 3255

Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816

Or deposited at any Wells Fargo Bank branch.

Jeff Crandall

Attorney at Law, Owens & Crandall, PLLC

Scoutmaster Troop 219

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