A developer wants to subdivide the Woodworth Lake Boy Scout Camp in Fulton County and market the lots to people looking to have their own camp or build a home in the country.
The site comprises more than 1,000 acres in the towns of Bleecker and Johnstown and lies at the foot of the vast Adirondack Park. It opened as a Boy Scout camp in 1949 and for decades was a location for summer camp programs, but it fell out of use by the early 1990s. For the last two decades, the Boy Scouts of America’s Twin Rivers Council has periodically discussed selling the camp, much to the chagrin of older scouts with fond memories of their summer stays there.
Now, a Delaware County-based developer that specializes in selling large plots of rural land is under contract to buy the camp, which was put up for sale last summer at an asking price of $1.25 million. New York Land & Lakes Development is in the process of submitting an application to the Adirondack Park Agency, which must approve the project.
“These lots, when approved by the APA and the town of Johnstown, will be sold to individuals looking for a place in the country where they can build a home, hunting camp, or to use just for recreation or investment,” said Robert Lesperence, managing partner at New York Land & Lakes.
The proposal is for 26 lots, each more than 40 acres and each equipped to support a septic system and electricity. This would require very little new infrastructure on the land, Lesperence said. An existing private road will provide access to the lots and utilities are already available throughout most of the land, which hosts a few cabins, an administrative building, dining hall, first aid lodge, boat house and archery area.
“We plan to resurface the road and bring electric service to a few lots at the end of the private road,” he said. “But other than putting lines on a map, not much is going to change with the look of the camp itself until a new property owner decides to build and that may never happen on some parcels.”
Deed restrictions would prohibit an owner from subdividing a lot any further, building more than one home, or using the property for any industrial or commercial purposes. Property owners would also have to adhere to “very strict restrictions” for any plans along the shorelines of Woodworth Lake and Hines Pond.
Bleecker residents got a chance earlier this month to hear from the developer at a Town Board meeting.
The plan still needs approval from the APA and the towns of Bleecker and Johnstown, which the developer hopes to get by late summer. No officials from either town returned calls for comment for this story.
If the sale goes through, it would put more than 1,000 acres of land back on the tax rolls after 65 years of tax-exempt status.
Last year’s news that the camp would be sold was met with much less backlash than previous discussions of a sale. In the early 1990s, several troops threatened to secede from the Twin Rivers council if Woodworth was sold.
Twin Rivers CEO Richard Stockton said the camp experienced its heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, when the Boy Scouts were more popular. But by the ’90s, the Boy Scouts began to have too much land for too few members, he said.
“If you think back to the late ’50s, early ’60s, that’s when kids were either in Little League or Boy Scouts,” he said. “There wasn’t soccer and STEM camps and all the other different things kids do now.”
The Twin Rivers Council still camps about 2,500 kids each summer at five main locations: Scout Island on the Great Sacandaga Lake in Mayfield; Camp Bedford in Malone; Camp Wakpominee in Fort Ann; Camp Boyhaven in Middle Grove; and the Rotary Scout Reservation in Averill Park.
The Woodworth Lake camp, with its many trails and trees, was last used for long-term summer campers in 1992. It was used periodically for short-term camping and special events up until last year.
“It’s really a very pretty place,” said Stockton. “[The developers] we have decided to sell to are good people, though, and are doing a really good job with their proposal as far as I’m concerned. It’s not going to be row housing or anything like that. It’s going to stay wilderness and if there are houses they’re going to be spread out.”
APA spokesman Keith McKeever on Wednesday said that until a complete proposal is submitted to the agency, he would prefer not to comment on the subdivision plans.
“But for all projects, in general we want to make sure that there is the least amount of environmental impact as possible,” he said.
New York Land & Lakes bills itself as one of the “oldest and most respected” land companies in the Northeast. It is based in Sidney and has a staff of 10.
“We have been in business for decades providing high quality, affordable land to individuals looking to get away to the country,” said Lesperence. “We don’t typically work within the Adirondack Park, but when the Boy Scouts approached us as a possible buyer, just one look at the beautiful property told me the place was special.”