In 2007, Rye lost the 44 year old Durland Scout Center (see: Rye to Scouts: Go Pitch a Tent), a remarkable piece of waterfront property on Stuyvesant Avenue on Milton Point, when the Boy Scouts sold the property to a developer who plans to bulldoze the community resource and erect two McMansions.
The Durland story is a shameful loss to our community. It stunning given the massive talent and resources of our community and the general ethic most residents seem to embrace around our recreation and conservation areas.
Now, as part of a Hearst Media investigation of the Boy Scouts of America (BOA) called "Scouts Dishonor", the Durland Center is the centerpiece of a report by Albany Times-Union Reporter Nadja Drost on how the Scouts are violating their own conservation ethic by selling off and clear cutting land under their stewardship.
Tell us what you think about the loss of Durland, or about what Durland meant to you, by posting a comment below.
Here is the excerpt covering Durland:
"RYE, N.Y. — Agatha Durland loved the Boy Scouts of America. She wrote poems about them. When she died in 1963, she left the Scouts her waterfront mansion on Long Island Sound and it became the Durland Center, also used by the community of Rye , N.Y., for education and recreation.
In 2007, the 2-acre plot was sold for $6.2 million for future development with two luxury homes. Lovers of Durland Center were heartbroken. “The Scouts shouldn’t be all about the dollars, it should be a little bit about cooperating,” said Ward Urban, a Rye resident. “So now we’ve lost the center to two mega mansions.”
The fate of Durland’s bequest could befall many precious properties the Boy Scouts own — through donation or purchase — across New York . As more scout councils find themselves struggling with financial shortfalls, declining membership and fall-out from mergers with other councils, they sometimes turn to selling off reservations that have kept preserved some of the state’s most pristine landscape…
Westchester Putnam Council — 10,000 members strong — was plagued with deficits averaging more than $300,000 annually between 2000 and 2006. In 2000, the United Way withdrew its annual support, which had reached $130,000.
Selling the Durland Center meant its value could be invested elsewhere, the council in Hawthorne , Westchester County , said. “It was underutilized,” said John Coughlin, a board member.
Still, selling Durland was inconceivable to many scout volunteers, who recalled how sale of their beloved Camp Siwanoy in the late 1980s had triggered volunteer revolt. Controversy arose again in the early 1990s – the New York Times reported that decades after an environmentalist had sold 1400 acres north of Peekskill at a reduced price to the Scouts on their honor it would remain wild, the Scouts wanted to sell it to a developer planning a golf course and conference center. But the sale never happened and Clear Lake Reservation was saved.
The decision to sell the Durland Center coincided with the entry of a new council executive, Jack Sears. His not-subtle message “Raise more money!” filled six of 13 lines on a to-do list he sent to staff.
Selling Durland would do just that — but at too great a cost, many argued.
Scout volunteers and residents argued the Durland sale violated the intent of Durland’s will. The council successfully argued in court that it satisfied a requirement in the Durland’s will that any sale be used to establish a new or “similar” Camp Durland elsewhere. It would do so by investing the profits into the already-existing camp, Clear Lake , and rename it the Durland Scout Reservation.
Disturbed scout volunteers and residents minced no words in letters to a judge imploring him to protect the poet’s estate: “Morally wrong.” “An irreplaceable property.” “The money won’t be safeguarded.”
“I’m sure [Durland] did not mean [the trust] to be a temporary bailout for poor fiscal management,” wrote a scout volunteer.
The community of Rye also didn’t want to lose a center that was home to swimming and sailing programs, and an alternative high school.
The Rye City School District, together with the City of Rye, made an informal $3 million offer, according to Ed Shine, Superintendent of Schools. Scout council board member Coughlin said the council knew it could get a far higher price.
That disappointed Urban, the resident who mobilized residents.
“It’s really the leadership that made these decisions and seemed to me very uninterested in collaborating with the city,” he said.
This summer, a boat rack with ‘ Durland Center ’ etched into a wooden sign is empty. Wheelbarrows and trailers are strewn about the property. Where Agatha Durland’s beautiful home once was, two luxury homes will someday stand instead — but void of any scouts."