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Published: Friday, 4/26/2002

A duty to conserve the land

Implicit in the Scouting program is the notion of camping trips and other outings. In the current edition of the Handbook for Boys, the manual now in its eleventh edition, with 37,500,000 copies printed since 1910, the first page states “Scouting promises you the great outdoors.”

That is, or at least should be, the guiding principle behind any major decision in the scouting movement, which promotes outdoor and vocational skills, along with character development and good citizenship.

Is all this just so much rhetoric to the board of the Erie Shores Council of the Boy Scouts of America? Apparently, for the council plans to sell off 56 acres of Camp Miakonda, whose 200-plus acres in Sylvania Township has been a valued and easily accessible resource for outdoor learning and fun for generations of Toledo area youth.

Most of the area up for sale is the Outpost in the northwest corner of the camp. It is an oasis of relative quiet, far from the traffic on I-475. and, as a Cub Scout leader put it, “the coolest area to go to feel like you're away from it all.” Frank Merritt, a University of Toledo professor of law and a scout volunteer said he was concerned about the council's disregard for the Outpost's rare oak savanna habitat. Most of the savanna area, an ecosystem that forms the bridge between the Black Swamp and the prairie grass country to the west, already has been bulldozed or seriously compromised by poorly conceived urban development.

Most of the site presumably would be sold to a developer for high-end residential purposes. A five-acre tract would be sold for a commercial venture. Weekend campers might not have to practice their cooking skills; they could trot out for pizza instead. The money would be placed in a trust fund and used for “improvements” at Camp Miakonda and Camp Pioneer in Williams County, some of which seem related more to offering Disneyland-type diversions than the genuine outdoor activities so widely extolled in scouting literature. Selling a huge chunk of the scout reservation certainly is not in keeping with the “Leave no trace” (low-impact camping) outdoor ethic embraced by the scouting movement in its current handbook for boys.

If the scout council is truly anxious to put its hands on some cash, the Outpost area should be offered at a reasonable price to the Toledo Area Metroparks, which in turn could link it to the Wildwood Preserve Metropark, a heavily used park because of its beauty, variety of terrain, and location.

The Lucas County commissioners and Toledo city government should get into the act, if need be, to help prevent the desecration of this woodland area. The Toledo metropolitan region needs to preserve what green space it has, not allow a huge chunk of it to be converted to unwarranted residential and commercial development.

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