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Longtime Cub Scout area in Bozrah could be closed, sold

By Kelly Catalfamo

Publication: The Day

Published September 16. 2013 4:00AM   Updated September 16. 2013 11:30AM
Decision on Camp Tadma looms next week after hearing set for tonight

Bozrah - Camp Tadma, used by many New London County scouting troops and one of the oldest Cub Scout camps in the country, may be sold.

If it is closed, Camp Webster in Ashford would be the closest in-state camp for scouts in the Mohegan district, which contains most of New London County. Camp Tadma Director Ken Warner said that, for some troops, it may be easier to cross the border and use Rhode Island campsites than to travel to Camp Webster.

The Connecticut Rivers Council, a state-level council for Boy Scouts of America, is considering closing and selling the camp because of decreased attendance. The council's website explains that it has limited resources and may use the money from the sale of Camp Tadma to support Cub Scout camping elsewhere.

Attendance at the three other Cub Scout camps under the council's jurisdiction has increased, according to the council's website.

The council is holding an executive board session Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Stanley Black & Decker Learning Center in New Britain to consider the future of Camp Tadma. Board members will listen to a presentation in favor of closure and one in favor of keeping the camp open.

The council will allow 30 minutes for adult scouting leaders to comment on the issue and will read additional comments sent to futureofcubcamping@ctrivers.org. A final decision will be made at the regular meeting of the executive board on Sept. 24.

Warner called the camp a "national treasure" and said closing it would be a mistake.

Warner, who was hired in February, said he turned the camp around in 2013 after a "disastrous" 2012 season and believes he can make it profitable if given two or three more years.

The Connecticut Rivers Council controls off-season spending for the camps, said Warner, and consistently loses money on the off-season camp rentals. That makes it difficult for camp directors to break even, he said.

"Program-wise, (this was) probably the best year in 10 years," said Warner, who said he has been working on marketing and promotion initiatives with his staff. He said reviews of the camp from scouts and scout leaders went from 98 percent negative in 2012 to 98 percent positive in 2013.

Camp Tadma was also considered for closure in 2009, at which point the Connecticut Rivers Council leadership said they had spent almost $1 million on the site over the past five years. They said they would close the camp if attendance didn't increase in 2010.

That attempt to close the camp was unsuccessful because of the community response, said Corey Holmes, a cubmaster in Middletown and former staff member at Tadma.

Warner believes that the council is having financial issues and wants to "fill the balance sheet very, very quickly." He said donations to Boy Scouts of America are down after the publicity surround the organization's decision to admit gay Scouts but continue to ban gay troop leaders, and thinks the Connecticut Rivers is rushing to sell Camp Tadma before further improvements are made, making it more difficult to argue in favor of closure.

Part of the reason he argues so vehemently for keeping Camp Tadma open, explained Warner, is that Cub Scouts is the time boys learn to enjoy camping.

"If the kids do not have a place to come to camp as Tigers, Wolves, Bears and Webelos, the chances are good that they will not cross over to Boy Scouts," said Warner.

The Connecticut Rivers Council's website calls the decision that will be made next week "emotional and difficult" and says the decision must be made with interests of future Cub Scout campers in mind.

Council leadership could not be reached for comment.

The camp has been in operation since 1978 and has been nominated for inclusion in the National Historic Register, said Holmes, who camped at the Bozrah site when he was a Cub Scout in the 1980s. The register's board won't meet to consider the nomination, however, until after Camp Tadma's fate is determined.

Camp Tadma is only one of five original Cub Scouts camps, said Warner, and "once it's sold, it's gone."

k.catalfamo@theday.com

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