We applaud the Ozark Trails Council of Boy Scouts of America, which last week overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to sell the Frank Childress Scout Reservation south of Joplin.
It was the right decision. That said, the council still faces a serious challenge.
“We still have to fund a significant contribution to the settlement, so we’re going to have to figure out something at some point, but it’s clear that one thing we do not want to have to do is sell properties,” John Feick, Scout executive, told us.
Earlier this month, Boy Scouts of America agreed to pay $850 million to settle claims with major survivor groups representing tens of thousands of sexual abuse victims. A bankruptcy judge has set a July 29 hearing on the settlement. Tragically, there were victims from our area, including Joplin, Neosho, Noel and Cassville, and from other nearby cities.
The Boy Scouts were accused of failing to screen predators and protect children. It should be noted that many of the cases are decades old, many of the adults were prosecuted, and that Boy Scouts of America has since taken many steps to protect children and prevent problems, and Scouting is safer now than it has ever been.
Feick also told us the Ozarks Trails Council is not making public what its share of that settlement will be, but he did tell us it would be less than $3 million.
Other Boy Scout councils around the country are considering or have already sold property to raise their share of the money, and the Ozark Trails Council received an offer to sell its 180-acre Scout reservation between Joplin and Diamond, which many local Scouts opposed, including volunteers with the properties committee.
“We are feeling very grateful that the committee made the right decision and is researching other options,” said Rodney Bechdoldt, a member of the Childress Properties Committee. “Our hope was that they would not make a knee-jerk decision. We feel like it’s saved for now.”
As long as camping remains at the heart of the Scouting life — and we believe it always should — we hope the Ozark Trails Council will make protecting Frank Childress Scout Reservation and other camps the highest priority, and we recognize that it may take a lot of community support to continue to ensure that happens.