SABATTUS — What a difference a year makes.

Camp Gustin, once facing oblivion in the form of a sale, now has more friends than ever. The Pine Tree Council did not go forward with its recommendation to sell the 130-acre camp land. The council, in fact, is now part of an effort to improve conditions and better promote the camp.

“What started a little more than a year ago,” said Ed Desgrosseilliers, chairman of the Abnaki District Committee, “in disagreement between two groups has brought together one group with a unity of purpose.”

At the heart of it all are the “Friends of Gustin,” an Abnaki District Committee subcommittee made up of Boy Scout leaders and Gustin Family members. For more than a year, they have been battling to keep the camp in the hands of the Boy Scouts. They organized emergency meetings, rallied the public and held special events on the Gustin grounds to bring attention to their cause.

The potential sale drew news headlines. Supporters formed a group on Facebook. For a time, meetings with the Pine Tree Council generated much discussion but no real results. The possibility that Gustin would be sold hung over the camp like clouds on a spring day.

Then in November, a decision came down. Peter Ventry, president of the Pine Tree Council, announced that the camp would not be sold after all. Following careful analysis, he said, the council’s volunteer executive committee decided to keep the camp and to explore ways to invigorate its use.


In a fairytale, that would have been the last page. But in the real world, the Friends of Gustin are still rallying.

Camp Gustin, it was suggested during the flap, has been the least used of four Pine Tree Council camps in the state. The Friends of Gustin have always disputed that, saying the problem isn’t with use of the camp, but with the way it’s documented. Still, an effort is under way to see that Gustin will not just survive, but thrive as well.

A good idea, say the people who know a thing or two about land deals. Jonathan LaBonte, executive director of the Androscoggin Land Trust, said Scout leaders should be thinking about Gustin’s long-term existence.

“The local scout leaders, and the scouts themselves, have done tremendous work to demonstrate why Camp Gustin should always be open space and available for campers to enjoy the recreation and have an outdoor classroom,” Labonte said. “The only way to guarantee that this debate doesn’t happen again in the future, would be for the Pine Tree Council to permanently protect Camp Gustin through a conservation easement. While ALT has offered to assist in that, should the council wish to investigate it, there has been no movement for permanently keeping the camp as open space.

“On a stewardship note,” LaBonte said, “ALT has reached out to the scouts to discuss how they could be involved in stewarding our abutting permanently conserved land near Curtis Bog. This could provide a larger area of land for the scouts to take part in educational programs and outdoor activities.”

Camp leaders are said to be mulling those options. In the meantime, it’s back to camp business as usual.

On April 30, the Pine Tree Council is hosting Beaver Day at all four Scout camps within the Pine Tree Council. Beaver Day, Desgrosseilliers said, is a routine event at Scout camps calling volunteers to help clean up the camps following planned tree harvesting during the winter months. Unlike past years when only two camps were involved, this year, all four camps will be engaged in Beaver Day activities.

“Usually, we would expect a few Scout troops to respond to the call at each of the camps,” Desgrosseilliers said in a release announcing the event. “Unlike past years, due to the bonds created within the two opposing sides of the sale proposal and their eventual congruence, we are expecting a very large turnout for this event.”

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