Things are looking up for Twin Cities Boy Scouts who feared the Rum River Scout Camp they have enjoyed for decades in Ramsey might be sold by the Northern Star Council.
The council's top executive, John Andrews, sent an e-mail to Scout leaders this month, noting about $6 million from a grant and other sources have taken "a great deal of pressure off the idea that any property will need to be sold ... to achieve current Council goals."
Two potential buyers, a developer and the Trust for Public Land, have inquired about Rum River since October. His internal e-mail to interested Scouts said the two parties were told the 167-acre wooded camp is not for sale and "would not be for some time to come, if ever."
The board of directors of the Northern Star Council, which extends far beyond the Twin Cities into central Minnesota and part of Wisconsin, voted last August to sell the camp within five years if other funds couldn't be found to help improve programs and facilities at the council's seven other camps. Selling the prime real estate along the Rum River would raise an estimated $8 million.
When word of the potential sale spread, about 150 Scouts and troop leaders packed a lodge one October night at Rum River camp, about 4 miles north of Anoka. They asked top leaders why anyone would sell the beloved camp where generations of Scouts have enjoyed tenting, canoeing, and the BB gun and archery range since 1947.
Andrews told them the board voted to sell Rum River only if $32 million couldn't be raised for long-range program and facility upgrades planned for six other camps and a new urban Base Camp near Fort Snelling.
Jeff Weaver, an Anoka City Council member whose father contributed money to buy the Rum River property, had opposed its sale. Weaver said he was amazed by the turnout at the October meeting. "It sent a pretty strong message that this is important to a lot of people," Weaver said. "I think they are making the right decision."
Andrews said this week that the sale of Rum River was always a fallback plan. An improving financial picture makes a sale less likely now, but he added, "I'm not sending an all-clear signal."
The Northern Star Council has raised about $19 million of the $25 million capital campaign goal sought by 2010, Andrews noted.
Included in the $6 million of unexpected funds is a $2.25 million grant from the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation to help pay the $4.25 million property cost of the Base Camp. The grant also let the council avoid $750,000 in expected debt costs for the facility.
The council also is exploring the possibility of sharing its Base Camp rock climbing and other activities with Girl Scouts, in return for using their camps with winter and weekend camping facilities. That would save the Boy Scouts up to $2 million that they expected to spend in upgrades and improvements on its own camps. The Scouts also would save $1 million that, if Rum River was sold, was slated to improve alternate facilities, Andrews said.
"I think working together with the Girl Scouts is a smart thing," said Weaver, a member of the president's cabinet of the Northern Star Council board. He said he and other cabinet members will keep watchful eyes on Rum River camp.
"It looks like lots of good solutions have surfaced," said Steve Schmidt, another Anoka City Council member whose relatives donated funds for the camp. "I think they were perhaps overwhelmed by the amount of support they found for not closing it."
Funds are still being raised for the Base Camp, but work could start there by year's end to renovate and build new facilities, Andrews said.
The camp will offer such activities as indoor wall climbing, archery and a high ropes course, and it will be accessible by mass transit. The camp is composed of a huge 1907 cavalry drill hall on six acres between Fort Snelling State Park and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Jim Adams • 612-673-7658