A Mendocino County camp where generations of Boy Scouts from across the North Coast learned outdoor skills is going up for sale at the end of the month because of budget problems, officials said Monday.
The proposed sale of Camp Masonite-Navarro 70 miles northwest of Santa Rosa has been discussed for months as officials with the Redwood Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America wrestle with a third year of budget deficits that threaten the council's very existence.
"We are having major financial problems," said Danielle Ing, the district director of the council, which spans four North Coast counties and includes nearly 4,000 active scouts.
Camp Navarro was founded in 1955 on redwood-studded land owned by the Masonite Corp. The company donated the property to the scouts in 1973 and the Masonite name was added to the title.
With a 300-seat gathering hall, cabins and pristine setting only eight miles from the ocean, the camp has been a gathering hub not just for Boy Scouts, but also for Girl Scouts, church and school groups and others seeking adventure and escape from the urban world.
The camp lost some of its allure after an environmental ruling prohibited construction of a temporary dam on the Navarro River in the summer for swimming and other water activities. But the place still carries a powerful attachment for many.
"My head says, &‘I understand it's a money pit.' But my heart says, &‘Oh my God, there's generations of traditions up there,'" said Sandy Lowry, a Santa Rosa resident whose son and daughter attained the highest levels of scouting through summers spent at the camp. "Grandparents are talking to their grandkids about when they went to Navarro. I can't imagine losing such a treasure."
Herb Williams, a Santa Rosa political consultant and president of the council's board of directors, said he hopes the camp can be sold to someone who will then lease the property back to the scouts.
But he said if that lease deal can't be worked out, he will continue to push for the camp's sale because the facility continues to be a drain on council finances and because scouts have other options for their summer camping needs.
"We're just taking one camp off the market," he said. "You've got a lot of different Chevrolets. Just because you stop one model doesn't mean you're getting rid of all Chevrolets."
But Lee McCann, another council board member who was put in charge of trying to sale the camp, said he would not support anything but a lease-back deal.
"There's too much tradition," he said. "Too many people have put too many hours of love and sweat into that place to just sell it off like an old chunk of ham."
Selling the camp for its likely list price of $2 million would not immediately help with the council's budget problems because the money would be tied up in an endowment fund. Only the interest could be used to help cover expenses, according to Williams.
But he said the Redwood council is under orders from the national Boy Scouts organization to stop operating in the red or risk losing oversight authority for scouts in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties. Williams said the camp has lost money seven of the past eight years.