DeWine's good turn for Scouts
U.S. senator wants to help local preserve
U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine took to the trails at the Firelands Boy Scout Reservation in Henrietta Township on Wednesday, getting a firsthand look at the land he wants to help preserve.
The Boy Scouts of America Heart of Ohio Council has been considering selling the 453-acre camp because of rising costs to maintain and operate it and encroaching development. But under a partnership plan with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the Boy Scouts will be able to keep the camp open.
"I wanted to come out today and look at the land myself," said DeWine, a two-term Republican running for re-election against Lorain County Democrat U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown. "I'm a hands-on guy."
DeWine wants to use federal funds from the Coastal Estuarine Land Protection Program, or CELP, to fund the conservancy's creation of a conservation easement that will prohibit development and allow the Boy Scouts to continue using the camp.
"In one fell swoop we'll make sure this magnificent piece of land will be preserved forever," DeWine said after he and his entourage, including his wife Fran DeWine, completed the tour.
Danny Thomas, the camp's live-in ranger for the past 13 years, said about 10,000 youngsters a year visit the camp, which the Boy Scouts organization bought in 1935.
Julia Musson, who's heading up the project for the conservancy, said the Boy Scouts organization is having the land appraised to see just how much the property and the rights they'll cede to the conservancy are worth.
"They'd be giving up their development rights and the right to timber the property," Musson said. "But the Scouts will be able to continue to use it as a camp, so everybody wins."
DeWine said the CELP program was largely designed to protect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but he wanted to make sure the Great Lakes coasts also are protected.
Over the past few years, he said, he's secured about $14 million in funding to protect various areas along Ohio's Lake Erie coast, including Old Woman Creek and part of the Sandusky Bay in Erie County and 677 acres on North Bass Island.
Even if the money doesn't get approved for the camp by the Senate this year, DeWine said he'll continue pushing until the land is protected.
Barry Norris, Scout Executive for the Heart of Ohio Council, said the deal will allow the Boy Scouts to continue to do the work they've been doing at the camp for nearly seven decades.
"We'll continue to be good stewards of the land," he said. "It will lock in the preservation for executive boards in the future."