A North Coast Boy Scout official said the group's finances have improved substantially from last year but not enough to take an iconic Mendocino County camp off the market.

"We're not out of the woods by a long shot, but it's better than last year," said Herb Williams, a Santa Rosa political consultant and president of the board of directors for the Redwood Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Faced with severe budget problems, the council in March put Camp Masonite-Navarro on the market at a list price of $2 million. The camp, 70 miles northwest of Santa Rosa, has been used by generations of Boy Scouts and other groups from across the North Coast to learn outdoor skills.

The camp was founded in 1955 on redwood-studded land owned by Masonite Corp. The company donated the property to the Scouts in 1973 and the Masonite name was added to the title.

The camp's appeal has been lasting despite an environmental ruling that prohibited construction of a temporary dam on the Navarro River in the summer for swimming and other water activities.

Williams said he's still hoping the camp, which features a gathering hall for 300 people, can be sold to someone who will lease the property back to the Boy Scouts. The money would go into an endowment fund and the interest used to help cover expenses.

Williams said numerous people have inquired about the property but no one has made an offer.

He said the council's finances have improved since the camp went on the market in March.

There were concerns that the council, which spans four North Coast counties and includes nearly 3,000 active scouts, might have to disband as a result of chronic budget problems.

The council has run a deficit the past three years, including $157,417 in 2010, forcing the group to secure a $230,000 line of credit from Summit Bank to keep afloat.

Williams said the council has not had to rely on credit other than the amount needed to cover last year's deficit, and that the group is not accruing more debt.

"Clearly right now, it's pay as you go, which we weren't doing before," he said.

He credited the council's improved financial situation to better fund-raising efforts, including from an annual Boy Scout breakfast in June and a dinner for distinguished guests that honored Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo.

"It's been a combined effort on everyone's part but we've clearly turned it around," Williams said.

He said the council's annual financial audit should be completed by next month. The group's annual budget for 2011 was projected at about $760,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com.

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