Rock County could purchase Camp Indian Trails and turn it into a county park with camping for youth groups.
A detailed report that lays out the idea is on the agenda of the county board’s Public Works Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
The report suggests the purchase cost could be between $1.2 million and $1.6 million.
Committee Chairperson Rick Richard said the county is expecting around $31 million from the federal American Rescue Plan legislation, and it appears some of that money could help with the purchase.
“The opportunity for the county to acquire 180 wooded and recreational acres on the Rock River and open it as a park to county citizens comes along once in a lifetime, and I’m hearing support for the purchase from most people I’ve talked with in the county,” Richard said.
The Boy Scouts of America’s local Glacier’s Edge Council is required to sell the camp in order to help BSA settle lawsuits involving thousands of sexual abuse cases, The Gazette reported in March.
County Administrator Josh Smith said county staff members and some county board members have discussed the idea with scout leadership.
“If the committee thinks it’s a good idea, then staff will go back to the scouts and have discussions that could be described as negotiations as to whether or not it’s a viable option,” Smith said.
The idea could then become a resolution that would go to county board committees and ultimately to the county board for a decision, Smith said.
Money could come from a conservation/parks fund created about 12 years ago with the $1.8 million from an environmental impact fee paid by American Transmission Co. when the company upgraded its electric power lines, Smith said.
Another source of funding could be unallocated money in the general fund, which Smith likened to a county savings account used for one-time purchases and as a rainy-day fund.
“We would not be borrowing for this,” Smith said.
The report suggests private parties have expressed interest in buying the site and would pay more than the county, but BSA has shown interest in keeping the site recreational, and one of the only ways the scouts might continue to use the site would be selling to the county, the report states.
The report suggests allowing camping for Boy Scouts and other youth groups.
Part of the purchase could be a joint-use agreement that would involve BSA keeping about 68 acres on the southeast side, the report states. That could lessen the county’s purchase price.
Jason Ballew of the Glacier’s Edge Council said no decisions have been made as the council reevaluates all its properties.
“We are working to create a strategic plan that supports our volunteers and expands Scouting in our area with an outstanding program,” Ballew said in an email.
“Camp Indian Trails provides the rare opportunity where an existing property has already been developed into usable outdoor recreation space, making the possible transition from Boy Scout camp to county park much more efficient than other more challenging undeveloped sites,” the report states.
“One thing driving interest is preserving land for public use and keeping it from development. A lot of the county board is interested in preserving natural lands,” Smith said.
The park could become a lure for tourists, which could boost the local economy, the report states.
A private purchase, however, would move the tax-exempt property onto the tax rolls.
The report suggests a wide variety of uses for the site, including a zip line course or concerts. It also envisions generating revenue from recreational equipment rentals, concessions and a “water course/aqua park.”
The report suggests the county remove the pool and bathhouses, improve roads and the parking lot, improve trails and buildings, write a master plan, and other improvements at costs ranging from $425,000 to $700,000.
Ongoing maintenance would include hiring one full-time maintenance person and two part-time employees, costing $125,000 a year. Annual maintenance efforts aside from labor would cost an estimated $150,000 to $250,000.