Scout camp up Fryingpan appears dead | AspenTimes.com

Scout camp up Fryingpan appears dead

Fryingpan Valley residents believe they have prevailed in their efforts to prevent development of a massive Boy Scout camp in their pristine neck of the woods.

Residents of the Thomasville and Meredith areas claim they learned over the weekend that the U.S. Forest Service won’t continue its review of the Boy Scout camp proposal.

Roine St. Andre, a leading activist against the proposal, said she learned of the decision after the Forest Service informed Boy Scout leaders of their finding on Friday.

Sopris District Ranger Bill Westbrook, who is overseeing review of the proposal, said Friday that he was in the process of contacting members of the Western Colorado Council of the Boy Scouts as well as the owner of the ranch where the camp had been proposed.

Westbrook refused to disclose his findings. He said that wouldn’t be appropriate until after he contacted all the applicants.

A camp designed to handle up to 200 Boy Scouts per week was proposed last year at the Fryingpan River Ranch, about 35 miles east of Basalt. The ranch buildings are owned by an individual, but the land is owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

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Ranch operator John L. Morris, a wealthy merchant of fishing and outdoor equipment, has a permit from the Forest Service to operate the historic guest ranch. However, it hasn’t operated as a guest lodge since 1997.

Morris attempted to acquire the ranch in a land swap with the Forest Service in the late 1990s, but it never materialized. His latest plan was to turn over his permit for 26 acres of land to the Boy Scouts. The Western Colorado Council of the Boy Scouts wanted to use existing ranch buildings and construct new facilities for a camp that would serve the Western Slope.

Aspenite Kurt Adam, who was leading efforts to develop the camp, declined to comment on the status of the application Saturday evening. Other Boy Scout leaders couldn’t be reached for comment.

Hundreds of full- and part-time residents of the Fryingpan Valley wrote letters to the Forest Service opposing the camp. Many critics said it was simply too big.

Environmental groups such as Roaring Fork Conservancy and Aspen Wilderness Workshop raised alarms on issues such as potential effects on the watershed and wildlife habitat.

Adam insisted in public meetings that the camp had to built and operated at the size proposed to break even financially. The camp would have hosted Boy Scout troops during the heart of the summer. It would have been rented to other groups and used by smaller concentrations of Scouts outside of the peak season.

Critics such as St. Andre said the Forest Service should only allow small groups of Scouts at one time, particularly since the organization has other property available to it. The Boy Scouts have been unwilling in recent years to sink funds into the 160-acre A.O. Graeger camp near Norwood, Colo.

St. Andre was among residents of the Fryingpan and southwestern Colorado calling on the Scouting leaders to do more with the camp near Norwood.

The Forest Service was also interested in that prospect. Westbrook asked the Western Colorado Council last month to provide additional information on the need for the proposed Fryingpan camp.

Westbrook and White River National Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle planned to assess the need statement and determine if a good enough case was made to justify an expensive and time-consuming technical review.

Fryingpan residents believe that decision went their way.