This could be the last summer at Newton Hills for Sioux Council Boy Scouts
South Dakota Boy Scouts may have just one summer left to pitch their tents at Newton Hills.
But that’s only if South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks gets formal approval from its commission to buy the 223 acres owned by the state’s Boy Scouts for $2 million at its May commission meeting.
Boy Scouts of America, Sioux Council leadership has talked about selling the Newton Hills Camp since 2011, but a perfect storm of FEMA funds and nudge from the national level to upgrade existing camp facilities led board members to finally approach GFP officials about a potential purchase agreement early last year, Scout Executive and CEO Tom Smotherman said.
The Newton Hills scout camp was built during the 1930s and would require the most improvements of the Sioux Council’s three scout camps to bring it up to the Boy Scouts of America standards, including a storm shelter, modernized latrines and showers for the campers.
The two other scout camps owned by the Sioux Council — Camp Iyataka near Wilmot, South Dakota and the Lewis and Clark Scout Reservation near Yankton — require less.
“We want to bring our existing camps up to that ‘wow’ level and be able to maintain them into the future,” Smotherman said. “We couldn’t do that before. We just simply didn’t have the money.”
Funds from the property sale would primarily be used to build storm shelters at the two remaining camps. A wetlands project and museum of paleontology are also in the works for the Lewis and Clark scout camp.
The Newton Hills boy scout camp sits between the Newton Hills State Park and the Johnson Game Production Area, which is owned by GFP.
GFP Secretary Kevin Robling noted during the April GFP commission meeting that the department had received a letter of intent from the Sioux Council that the Boy Scouts had accepted GFP’s $2 million offer for the property, which was appraised by the state at $3.59 million.
The Argus Leader asked for a copy of the letter, but the request was denied despite its public mention, because it’s considered classified as a working document under state law.
A purchase agreement has not yet been signed and it is not yet clear what intentions GFP officials have for the land or if they will continue to use existing camp buildings, such as the Campmaster building and Central Plains Clinic Shelter.
The purchase agreement, if signed, is expected to be finalized by November, Smotherman said.