San Tan Mountain Regional Park activists hope a public meeting today will calm the uproar over a proposed Boy Scouts of America-run youth campground at the park.
Proponents of the campground say it would provide a recreational haven for area youths, while detractors argue the campground's exclusive nature would make it an unconstitutional use of public land.
San Tan Mountains Pride association president Alden Rosbrook said he has received several complaints from area residents who think the campground is already under construction, even though the Boy Scouts' proposal has not yet been submitted to Maricopa County for consideration.
"The misinformation and confusion about this thing is unbelievable," Rosbrook said. "I'm afraid that this meeting . . . might end up being a lot of people yelling and screaming, because these people are passionate about it."
Rosbrook said most concerns center on access to the campground and whether it will be exclusively for youth groups. Some others have reported erroneously that a proposed parking lot — unrelated to the campground — is already under construction nearby, he said.
Rosbrook said he is in favor of the Boy Scouts campground, as long as the general public also is allowed to use it.
Opponents of the proposal have cited a recent U.S. District Court ruling that the Boy Scouts lease of public park land for an 18-acre camp in San Diego violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued San Diego and the Boy Scouts in 2000 on behalf of a lesbian couple and an agnostic couple.
Valley resident and real estate agent Bambi Sandquist said she has contacted the ACLU and alerted it to the San Tan park proposal.
"I'll send my stuff to the ACLU and let them fight the government — that's what they do," Sandquist said.
The Boy Scouts have proposed leasing 1,000 acres of San Tan Mountain Regional Park's "south finger" for use as a youth campground. The park is in northern Pinal County but is under Maricopa County Parks and Recreation control.
Although the Scouts would play a key role in operating the campground, Grand Canyon Council chief executive Larry Abbott has said his organization would partner with several other nonprofit groups including Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Arizona, Campfire Boys and Girls, Friendly House, Girl Scouts and Special Olympics Arizona.
The updated master plan for the park is scheduled to be unveiled Monday, but county officials said the youth campground wouldn't be included until later, if it is approved.