The Camp Bomazeen entrance on Horse Point Road in Belgrade is seen on July 17, 2020. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

BELGRADE — An agreement to sell Camp Bomazeen, a much-loved 76-year-old Boys Scouts camp on Great Pond, has fallen through because the potential buyer couldn’t put together a financing deal that would allow the Scouts to continue using the property.

Leaders of the Pine Tree Council of Boy Scouts of America, which has about 4,000 children in its Scouting programs in southern and central Maine and owns the camp, voted last July to sell Camp Bomazeen to raise funds to keep the council afloat. The council’s vote grew from an emergency task force’s recommendation to sell the property to raise money to help address the council’s bleak financial situation, which was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation of many Scout activities and fundraisers.

Earlier this year, council officials were working with a potential buyer, whom they declined to name, who wanted to purchase the property and indicated Scouts might be able to use some of the property after the purchase.

But Jack O’Toole, president of Pine Tree Council, announced this past week that deal is now off.

“The buyers informed us that they are formally terminating their contract to purchase the camp,” O’Toole wrote in a note addressed to scouting families. “They were not able to put together a financing deal that would allow continued Scouting use of the property. We will continue the search for a new buyer and try to find the best possible resolution to the current challenges.”

Matt Klutzaritz, Scout executive and CEO of the Raymond-based Pine Tree Council, said this week the organization has meetings over the next couple of weeks to explore its options. He said the council

While the council sought to sell the camp to an entity that would allow at least some usage by the Scouts to continue — and that is still the desire, he said — it has not been a requirement of the sale.

Staff and Scouts practice archery during a previous season at Camp Bomazeen in Belgrade. Photo courtesy of Virginia Parker

“People have an emotional attachment to that camp,” Klutzaritz said. “If there is still a way (to allow Scouts to use the property after it is sold), we want to do that.”

He said multiple entities expressed interest in buying the property when it was put on the market last year and they chose the buyer they did because it would provide the council income from the sale, while preserving some use by Scouts. Klutzaritz said the buyer planned to develop housing on part of the property, while keeping some of it for Scouting use, but has since indicated they could not make that deal happen financially.

“They were going to keep part of it still a camp, and looking to do some homes on part of it,” he said. “There were other people who reached out and had interest and we listened to what everybody had to say. The reason we went with the last group is they were going to keep a portion of it for scouting.”

With that deal now off, Klutzaritz said the council will have to reconsider what to do with the property.

In the meantime, he said there will be some scouting activities at Camp Bomazeen this summer, including some day programming and weekend camping.

Klutzaritz said last July if the council did not raise some cash soon, it could run out of money within a matter of months. The council hoped to raise enough funds from the sale to pay down its debt and mortgage on other council properties, and provide cash flow to the organization.

He said the council didn’t want to sell Camp Bomazeen, but it is necessary in order to save Scouting in central and southern Maine.

Klutzaritz said this week the council is still struggling financially and has made some budget cuts, but has enough funds to continue operating. He said it hopes to get back to “normal” the second part of this year, as the coronavirus pandemic hopefully subsides.

A directional sign for Camp Bomazeen on state Route 11, pointing out the turn onto Horse Point Road in Belgrade, is seen July 17, 2020. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

The presence and threat of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of multiple scouting events and fundraisers, Klutzaritz said, deepening the council’s financial challenges. The council plans to offer summer camp this year at its primary Camp Hinds in Raymond, which is expected to generate some revenue for the council, and a fundraiser is planned in September.

The council is also expected, according to the Pine Tree Council’s March edition of its newsletter Pine Spills, to contribute funds to pay for an anticipated settlement of the national Boy Scouts’ bankruptcy proceedings related to sex abuse lawsuits.

Under its current ownership, the Camp Bomazeen property off Horse Point Road is exempt from paying property taxes, because it is owned by a nonprofit organization. The property, however, is assessed by the town of Belgrade at a little less than $1 million.

Last year was also Camp Bomazeen’s 75th anniversary year. Bomazeen (named after the Native American chief of the Norridgewock band of Abenaki) opened in 1945 on 200 acres, but previous land sales have reduced its current size to about 100 acres.

Numerous area residents have shared photos and memories of Camp Bomazeen — and have kept tabs on current happenings — on a Facebook page, Friends of Bomazeen.

The property, according to Chuck Mahaleris of Augusta, who maintains the history of Camp Bomazeen, was given to the Scouts by Dr. George Averill, who envisioned it as a place for young people to get out of the cities of Augusta, Waterville and Skowhegan, and discover the grandeur of nature.

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