MILTON -- A conservation-oriented local businessman has purchased Camp Boyhaven in an effort to preserve it, according to the Boy Scouts of America Twin Rivers Council, which sold the property.
John Munter Sr. of Middle Grove, a past chairman of the board of directors of the local land conservation group Saratoga PLAN, bought the former Boy Scout camp nearly three months after the scouts withdrew from a deal with the town of Milton over frustrations with lack of progress. The purchase closed on Monday.
Munter, who said he paid $1 million for the property, bought the land to allow more time for the town of Milton and state Department of Environmental Conservation to work out deals that would keep the 297-acre property in public ownership.
"I just feel, as a resident of this town, I would like to see this preserved," said Munter, who heads Munter Enterprises, a family-owned construction company. Munter, who is also a former member of the Milton Planning Board, said he has no personal interest in developing the property.
The sale follows a failed attempt by the town to purchase the property for public space. The Scouts closed the camp after the summer of 2017, and agreed to a deal that summer under which the town would pay $1 million for the property. The town had anticipated receiving $500,000 from an anonymous donor.
The deal bogged down after the donor withdrew the offer believing his or her identity would be exposed.
On Monday, Milton Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander said he has met with Munter in recent months and the town was aware of his plan to buy the property from the Scouts. If the town were to pursue buying the land from Munter, Ostrander said, it should set up a committee to study uses, costs and maintenance needs for the property, and any borrowing by the town to buy it would be subject to a permissive referendum.
"We can't just buy it," Ostrander said. "I'm not saying that we will. But if we do, I want to see that it's done right."
There was at least some concern that a private developer would buy the land for housing development if the town and state didn't purchase it, though the camp is miles from the nearest public water and sewer systems.
The Boy Scouts plan to use proceeds from the sale to support and improve other area Boy Scout properties, including Rotary Scout Reservation in Poestenkill, Camp Wakpominee in Fort Ann and Camp Bedford in Duane, according to a prepared statement announcing the sale.
“I want to extend our sincere gratitude to John Munter," Twin Rivers Council Board President Rick Weerts said. “After our council’s previous agreement with the town of Milton fell through, John stepped up with a plan which should ultimately preserve Boyhaven’s natural setting and facilitate public access, while at the same time allow our council to finally exit our ownership of the property and focus on serving area youth at our three other council-owned camp facilities.”
Munter said he believes the deal fell through in July because deadlines set by Scouts had passed, and he wants to give the town and the state more time to make a deal under which they would purchase the land from him. "I'm not going to hang onto this forever, but I want to give them a reasonable amount of time," Munter said, suggesting he thought one year was reasonable for a deal to be arranged.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has expressed an interest in buying some of the land, which borders the DEC-owned Middle Grove State Forest.
The property, which Scouts used for nearly a century, contains bunkhouses, meeting buildings and other facilities; most of the land is wooded with trails on it. The property borders a section of the Kayaderosseras Creek between Rock City Falls and Middle Grove.
"Throughout the process, we placed the preservation of Camp Boyhaven's green space as a top priority," said Twin Rivers Council Executive/CEO Mark Switzer. "We are excited for Mr. Munter's vision for the property, and we know that the funds made available by this sale will help us continue to improve the camping experience for thousands of area youth each summer, particularly now that we have begun to open more and more of our programs to the entire family."