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What is the best way to handle a donation of land?

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I have a friend who wants to give 2 parcels of land to the Boy Scouts.  A 10 acre plot on the Oxxxxx River to be used as a put in / launch point for canoes.  And a 100 acre plot 3 miles down river to be used as a primitive camp.  The 100 acres is 60% in the flood plain, 40% high ground.  Both plots back up to the Oxxxxx national forest.

He has already spoken to a local council pro, who is not interested in the land if it is encumbered.  My friend's father gave 50 acres to BSA many years ago, on the condition that it be used for Scouting or returned to the family.  After many years of trying to get the land released for sale, the Scouts lost interest and the land reverted to family ownership.  So my friend is not going to donate land un-encumbered.

My advice to him so far has been:

  • Wait until the bankruptcy is finished.  No reason to tempt fate.
  • Speak to a district volunteer who is not interested in using his donation to pay someone's salary.
  • Consider making the gift to 3 to 5 local troops as an un-divided interest in land.  That way the land would be well used; close to the troops' home.  Enough resources to share development projects: one troop builds a pavilion, one troop builds latrines on high ground, one troop builds a rifle range, etc.

What advice would you have?

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I would have your friend see if he could arrange a legal setup where the land is open to use by Scouts, but not owned by the local council.  Then find the district that most closely aligns with it and talk to the local district chair and/or commissioner.

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My opinions:

1) Do not donate to any council, encumbered, conditioned or free in clear. See above mentions.

2) Organize a non-profit trustee type foundation, dedicated to "Scouting".  Find a good, Scout Friendly lawyer to set things up pro bono. The properties could be leased back to the Council for summer camp and rented to Troops/Packs for their use. The Trust could log the land or rent it out to other "educational" users, county rec department,  school districts, colleges, etc. and make a little income thereby. Make it a Nature Preserve.  Camp Store?  Boat ramp fees?  Any professional outfitters, boat renters around?  What's on the opposite shore?   

2)A)....Multiple Troops?  I do not think I would try to divide the ownership, that only complicates things.   The trustee Board can have required members from several sources.  Talk it over.  Private cemeteries  and other campgrounds are set up this way.  

3) Find a Scout CO that already charters a Unit that might fulfill the Trust idea above.  Lions Club? Kiwanis?  Isaac Walton?   Rotary?   Church (?) ?  

4) When one of the above options is in place,  (or before?)  work with the local OA chapter(s)  and District Eagle  coordinators to find project help in developing the cabins tent sites etc. needed.   

I think this is a wonderful opportunity.  I hope you can find the support to make it happen.   

We have a "public Park " nearby that is locally known as "Mount Sugarloaf". It is used for hikes,  picnics, rock climbing classes, OA events.... Legally it is known as "The Stronghold"  , established by a rich department store owner back in the 1930's.   See this:   http://www.sugarloafmd.com/   

Edited by SSScout
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That's good news!

But id basically say what ssscout said: put it in a trust that is obligated to work with scouts. Giving it to a council will be a bad idea for some time. Giving it to a group of troops is equally bad.

I like the idea of renting it cheap to youth organizations to cover costs.  Even charge scouts if it's really cheap, so no lawyers can "say sure, but ..." I mean, that was the point of councils and that didn't work.

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I've been on a couple of non profit boards, gifts like this are trickier than they appear at first glance.  

It seems great on its face, but dig a little deeper and it's more work for what might be only a marginal gain, at best, for fulfilling your mission.  

A launch point and then a separate parcel --- two new pieces of property, not connected to each other and not connected to any other scouting properties.  Someone has to maintain them, someone has to make sure they're always in compliance with all the various regulations that affect wetlands and waterfront, someone has to empty the port o pots necessary for each parcel. All that while not sure how many of your clients/members will actually use the facilities, and having no real indication that there was demand or need for these properties among your clients/members.  So if you accept the gift you instantly are accepting the costs that go with it, and so you have to plan for and process all that before accepting.

All of that is not to say that the gift shouldn't be made or accepted, just that it's often more complicated than at first blush it might seem.

Scouts are not the only organization that can make use of recreational land and opportunity, and especially today may not be the best recipient for this.  There are other conservation groups that have good experience managing nature lands, your friend would probably do well to explore some of those also.


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  • 3 months later...

I understand your friend not wanting to donate the land unencumbered.  I've seen too many shenanigans at the council level trying to get around encumbrances in order to turn land donations into cash even when the land donation paid for itself in terms of cash flow (i.e. program fees to use the land were enough to pay taxes, utilities, fees, and improvements).  An enduring trust that gives your local unit first right of refusal to use the land for activities or something like that might be the way to go but it does require finding a trustee willing to do all of the work.

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21 hours ago, David CO said:

If you don't trust the organization enough to donate the property unencumbered, you probably shouldn't donate it to them at all.  

Do I trust the leadership of the local units?  Absolutely.  Their successors?  Maybe.  Their successors?  The ways BSA has been trending, probably not.

Hence the need for legal language to honor the intent of the donation. 

Do you trust Irving?  I'd donate my mother-in-law to national, but nothing more.


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