BIG SUR — It could be one of the scenic Boy Scout camps in America — a country assortment of cabins and campsites, with a eating corridor, waterfalls, mountain climbing trails, a rifle vary and an out of doors amphitheater, all nestled below towering redwood timber on 718 acres within the Large Sur wilderness.
Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst hunted and fished right here within the Nineteen Twenties and 30s, then donated the property to the Boy Scouts in 1948, permitting hundreds of kids to take pleasure in it for generations.
Now, 75 years later, Camp Pico Blanco is about to alter fingers in a deal that supporters hope will usher in a brand new technology of campers and return a lot of the property to the ancestors of its authentic inhabitants.
The Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of the Boy Scouts, primarily based in San Jose, has agreed to promote the historic property to the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, and two nonprofit teams: Tenting Limitless, which runs applications for disabled kids, and White Stag Youth Management Improvement Academy, a Monterey group affiliated with scouting. The deal is at the moment in escrow and anticipated to shut by the top of the yr.
“It’s an distinctive property,” stated Sue Doroff, president of the Western Rivers Conservancy, a Portland environmental group that’s serving to present cash for the deal. “Lands like this don’t change fingers usually.”
“If you get down in that canyon with these redwoods and the river,” she stated, “it’s like you’re a million miles from something.”
Situated off Palo Colorado Street, about 10 miles inland from Freeway 1, the camp has been closed since 2016 when it almost burned within the huge Soberanes Hearth. The doorway highway, a steep, 4-mile-long, single-lane filth highway, was broken in heavy winter storms in 2017. It stays closed to the general public.
The Boy Scouts put the property up on the market final yr, asking $1.8 million for 368 acres the place the buildings are positioned, and $1.6 million for one more 350 acres of adjoining forest.
Dozens of bidders submitted proposals.
“Of all of the choices, that is one of the best one,” stated Sam Farr, a former congressman from Carmel who camped there as a member of Boy Scout Troop 76. “It might have been a company retreat or an costly resort. Youngsters wouldn’t have been in a position to benefit from the wilderness tenting expertise.”
Farr, now 82, remembers sleeping in heavy canvas tents and consuming sizzling canines and beans throughout journeys there in 1954 and 1955 when he was 13.
“There have been all types of scary tales across the camp fireplace,” he stated. “Some folks stated the employees who constructed the camp by no means acquired out. The mountain lions acquired them. Or that there was a wild man who roamed the place at night time.”
“That they had a gorgeous lake there,” he stated. “We acquired advantage badges in swimming, discovered water security, shot .22 rifles, that form of factor.”
Some particulars are nonetheless being labored out. However below the proposed sale, the Esselen Tribe will purchase at the least 600 acres of forest. Tenting Limitless and White Stag will purchase the buildings, and run tenting applications. Boy Scout troops nonetheless will likely be allowed some entry.
For Tenting Limitless, a gaggle based in 1957 to offer summer season camps for kids with disabilities, the deal was a godsend.
The group’s principal web site, Camp Krem, close to Boulder Creek, burned down within the 2020 CZU Lightning Complicated Hearth. Though the group bought a brand new camp property close to Yosemite Nationwide Park, it sees a exceptional alternative at Camp Pico Blanco, stated Alex Krem, a former funding banker whose father began the group.
“We fell in love with it,” he stated. “It’s in fairly good condition. We might begin camp tomorrow.”
His aim: Have some applications working by subsequent summer season.
For the Esselen Tribe, the property, which incorporates a part of the Little Sur River, has deep religious that means. The tribe’s members lived in Large Sur for 8,000 years earlier than they had been pressured into Spanish missions within the late 1700s and early 1800s. Now they’re slowly buying land once more, reclaiming a way of place and momentum.
“Land is efficacious to us for pure assets, and cultural assets,” stated Tom Little Bear Nason, the Esselen tribal chairman. “It offers us room to breathe.”
Two years in the past, the tribe acquired Adler Ranch, a 1,200-acre property close to Camp Pico Blanco, with funding from Western Rivers Conservancy. It was the tribe’s first property in 250 years.
The Esselens are also co-managing the Rana Creek Ranch, a 14,100-acre property in Carmel Valley that former Apple laptop co-founder Mike Markkula offered this summer season for $35 million to the Wildlands Conservancy, a San Bernardino group that plans to open it to the general public.
The tribe will use the Pico Blanco wilderness and the opposite properties, for ceremonies, dances, gathering medicinal vegetation, and in some areas, prescribed fireplace utilizing conventional practices, Nason stated.
The Boy Scouts have been guarded concerning the sale. The Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council’s CEO, Eric Tarbox, declined to be interviewed or reply questions on it.
His workers issued a written assertion, which stated that the Boy Scouts “have been devoted stewards of Camp Pico Blanco since 1948,” however “sadly, latest occasions, particularly the Soberanes wildfire of 2016 and the next winter of 2017, have left the entryway to the camp, Palo Colorado Street, inaccessible.”
Three years in the past, the nationwide Boy Scouts of America declared chapter after going through a wave of sexual abuse lawsuits. A federal decide in Delaware accredited a $2.46 billion settlement to settle 82,000 claims of scouts who stated they had been abused over a long time. It was the most important sexual abuse settlement in U.S. historical past.
As a part of that settlement, the scouts’ native councils had been required to offer $500 million. Throughout the nation, scouting chapters have been promoting off property, together with camps, to lift cash.
Courtroom information within the case present the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council had 321 abuse instances filed towards it, and agreed to contribute $10 million to the general nationwide settlement — $7.6 million in money and $2.4 million from a “property contribution.”
Requested if the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council is promoting the Pico Blanco properties to assist pay the debt for the sexual abuse lawsuit, Michael Wilson, the council’s chief working officer, stated in an e mail, “No, these funds will not be getting used for that function.”
In an interview final yr with the Monterey Weekly, Peter Baird, the agent who listed the property, stated the sale would cowl a few of the debt to the sexual abuse settlement fund. Wilson declined to reply questions concerning the court docket paperwork or Baird’s assertion, and Baird didn’t return a name asking for clarification.
As for entry to the property, Large Sur landowners now can go by way of locked gates and use four-wheel drive automobiles to drive over higher Palo Colorado Street. However it should value $17 million to restore the storm injury correctly so it may be opened to the general public, and the county solely has $3 million, stated Randall Ishii, Monterey County’s public works, services and parks director. Environmental research are due out this month, and work might start in 2025, he stated, if funds may be discovered.
All three consumers are additionally nonetheless elevating cash to purchase Camp Pico Blanco. However they’re assured the deal will undergo.
“It’s lovely nation,” stated Nason. “This can be a once-in-a-lifetime alternative.”