Big decision looms for Boy Scout camp

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Forest Service plans to decide within the next two weeks whether or not the review of a Boy Scout camp in the Fryingpan River Valley will continue.

Sopris District Ranger Bill Westbrook said he has directed Scout leaders to supply additional information about the need for the proposed camp about 35 miles east of Basalt.

He will review that information with White River National Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle and determine if sufficient need has been demonstrated.

If so, specialists of various types will dive into the details of the review. If need isn’t shown, the review will stop to prevent unnecessary expenditures of time and resources, Westbrook said.

He hopes to get the information from the Western Colorado Council of the Boy

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Scouts of America as soon as possible. Then he and Ketelle will make a decision within two weeks on whether the review should proceed.

If the review proceeds, it could be months before a final decision is issued by Ketelle.

The camp has been a hotly debated issue. Many Fryingpan Valley residents and second-home owners have expressed opposition, some vehemently.

The general complaints have been that the camp will disrupt the peace of the area, accelerate the wear of trails and natural resources, threaten water quality via a sewage treatment plant and attract too much traffic.

Scouting proponents have countered that they would be the best possible neighbor. The camp will teach a strong conservation ethic to boys and young men.

A facility for up to 200 campers plus staff was proposed at a historic guest ranch near Nast Lake. A guest lodge and ranch buildings are owned by John L. Morris, the head of a fishing and outdoor equipment retailing empire. He leased about 26 acres for the operation from the Forest Service.

He operated his guest ranch for one summer. Since 1998, he has received annual permits from the Forest Service to keep the operation closed.

Aspen scouting proponents approached Morris a couple of years ago with the idea of converting the property into what would be known as Camp Morris.

Once the proposal was unveiled, hundreds of letters of opposition were sent to the Forest Service during what is known as the “public scoping” portion of the review process. Public comment was accepted until Feb. 8.

Much of the criticism has centered on the Boy Scouts’ treatment of the 160-acre A.O. Graeger Camp near Norwood, Colo. The Western Colorado Council planned to stop using the facility. It recently decided to resume limited use for older Scouts.

Westbrook said he contacted Scouting leaders to see if that affects their Fryingpan proposal.

“It doesn’t change their plan,” he said. The organization still wants to use the Fryingpan Valley camp for the same number of Scouts as initially proposed.

Randy Deeryberry, a representative of the Western Colorado Council of the Boy Scouts, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

While the Norwood camp’s revived use doesn’t alter the Scouts’ plan for the Fryingpan Valley camp, the Forest Service wants to determine if it affects the need.