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

BELGRADE — The state Office of the Maine Attorney General, joined by a group of local advocates for keeping Camp Bomazeen in Belgrade a Boy Scout camp, are embroiled in a lawsuit the state filed against the Pine Tree Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The superior court lawsuit alleges the council’s efforts to sell the camp to raise funds to help get out of debt violate the terms of the deed to the Great Pond property in place since the spot was donated by Dr. George Averill in the 1940s as a place where Scouts could camp.

The lawsuit filed by the state AG’s office earlier this year seeks to prevent the council from using proceeds from the proposed sale of Camp Bomazeen to pay the council’s operating expenses, creditors or debt. The suit also declares that any proceeds from that potential sale be held in trust “for the purposes of directly supporting camping activities for Boy Scouts in the Pine Tree Council Region, with a preference for Boy Scouts from central Maine.”

Local residents and longtime scouting leaders Bruce Rueger of Waterville and Scott Adams of China, and the 300-member Bomazeen Old Timers group, joined as intervenors in the case in April. They claim the charitable trust, which was originally given the camp property and with its trustees directed to oversee its use by Scouts, was never properly dissolved when the council took over control of Camp Bomazeen. They thus argue the council should be ordered to halt all efforts to sell the camp and the local intervenors should be appointed as successor trustees and be given the title to — and control of —the property.

The intervenors note the camp “has been owned and operated consistently with the purpose of the charitable trust, continuously since its formation in 1944,” court documents filed for Krueger, Adams and the Bomazeen Old Timers by attorneys Russell Pierce Jr. and Adrian Kendall state.

“Throughout these decades, Camp Bomazeen has played a formative, educational, emotional and life changing role for literally thousands upon thousands of scouts and scout leaders in Central Maine, in all of Maine, and among the Scouting movement nationally,” states the filing. “Camp Bomazeen has become the very embodiment of decades of traditions, experiences, memories and lifelong bonds.”

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

The Pine Tree Council, in legal filings responding to the lawsuit, seeks to have the case dismissed. In those filings, the organization notes the deed specifically allows the Bomazeen property to be sold, claims the council properly gained control of the property in 2008 because no successor trustees had been appointed, and there were no current trustees. They also state the charitable trust created by the Averill deed had failed, so the council took title to the camp without any restrictions that were in that deed.

The council’s attorney, Eric Wycoff, also filed a counterclaim against the AG’s office, asking the court to declare the council took title to the camp with the only restriction that it be for the “use and benefit of Boy Scouts of America” and that the council’s proposed use of the proceeds of a sale of Bomazeen to pay down its debt and support its operations would indeed comply with that restriction.

Court filings indicate the property — which earlier this year appeared about to be sold, until that deal fell through — is not currently for sale.

Matt Klutzaritz, Scout executive and CEO of the Raymond-based Pine Tree Council, declined to comment Friday, and directed questions to the council’s attorney, Wycoff.

Rueger, who could not be reached for comment Friday, is a former director of Camp Bomazeen and has been a Scout leader in the area for some 25 years. He previously said a group of people were working to try to keep their beloved camp a Scouting camp, or at least a youth camp, and prevent its sale for private development.

Klutzaritz has said previously that leaders of the Pine Tree Council, which oversees Boy Scout programming in the southern and central portion of the state, voted to sell the 76-year-old Camp Bomazeen, which sits on some 300 acres, some of it shorefront beach, as a way to raise funds to help pay down the council’s debt.

Local Scouts objected to the sale, and have sought a way to keep Camp Bomazeen available as a camp for youths.

Documents filed by the council’s attorney say between 2014 and 2019 the council accumulated debt of $1 million, some of it incurred in maintaining its properties, including $334,000 for improvements at Camp Bomazeen, and $450,000 in administrative expenses to support all its four camps in Maine.

Klutzaritz said the goal was to sell Camp Bomazeen to a person or entity that would allow at least some continued use by Boy Scouts.

Council officials have since announced plans to try to sell another two of its four camps in Maine, Camp Gustin in Sabattus and Camp Nutter in Acton, to raise money for its share of a Boys Scouts of America fund for victims of sexual abuse. Pine Tree Council President Jack O’Toole, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal, told Scout parents the Boys Scouts of America was in the midst of compensating victims of abuse and the council will be responsible for a very large cash contribution to go into a victims’ fund.

Earlier this year the Boy Scouts of America, which filed for bankruptcy in 2020, proposed setting up a victims fund of at least $300 million. National Public Radio, last year, estimated the group was facing roughly 300 lawsuits from former Scouts who said they’d been sexually abused.

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 state AG’s complaint acknowledges the Averill deed for Camp Bomazeen does allow it to be sold, but specifies any proceeds from its sale must comply with the terms of the deed, which require any such proceeds be used for the purposes of directly supporting camping activities for Boy Scouts in the Pine Tree Council Region, with a preference for Boy Scouts from central Maine.

It states the Pine Tree Council’s planned use of the proceeds from a sale of Camp Bomazeen, to pay its operating expenses and debt, “is not permitted by the terms of the gift and would constitute a breach of the charitable trust, in violation of Maine common law…”

Court clerks said the case is not yet scheduled for any court action. The parties, according to court files, have agreed to seek to resolve the issue through mediation.

Meanwhile, according to posts at the “Friends of Bomazeen” Facebook page, preparations are underway to get Camp Bomazeen ready for at least some use by Scouts this summer, with Scout camping weekends planned July 9-11 and July 16-18.

Part of the council’s court filings notes how participation in its programming has declined, as Scouting participation has also declined nationally. The number of Scouts served by the council, according to court filings, dropped from 14,066 in 2000 to 3,066 in 2020.

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