San Tan Mountains Regional Park could become the site of a Boy Scouts of America-operated youth campground, according to a proposal to be presented to Maricopa County officials just before the park’s master plan is finalized.
Scout officials would like to lease about 1 1 /2 square miles of county-owned land — the bulk of the park’s "south finger" — to build and operate a campground that would include facilities for hiking, picnicking, horseback riding and other recreation.
Boy Scouts Grand Canyon Council chief executive Larry Abbott and East Valley Partnership president and chief executive Roc Arnett plan to present the proposal to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors before Sept. 18, when a final open house is scheduled in Queen Creek to receive public comment on the park’s proposed master plan.
Arnett said the youth campground plan already has support from county Super- visor Don Stapley, R-District 2 of Mesa, but he said he wasn’t sure whether the other supervisors would concur.
The Boy Scouts plan to partner with other nonprofit organizations, Abbott said, and they already have received a commitment from Campfire Boys and Girls, Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Special Olympics Arizona, Arizona Quest for Kids and Friendly House.
"It’s not just a Scout park," Arnett said. "The Scouts are just the ones who are going to put it together."
Arnett said the youth campground would preserve the park’s natural environment and would be consistent with the facilities recommended in the park’s proposed master plan. However, he said the site would have to be fenced in, and that it might make sense to sell off the south finger’s Mineral Butte Extension, which the Scouts don’t plan to use.
Park activists have consistently opposed fences — although one is being erected around the park’s perimeter — as well as selling any portion of the south finger.
Still, park Stakeholder Advisory Group member Gordon Brown said he doesn’t oppose leasing a portion of the park for Boy Scout use, as long as the Scouts don’t own the land.
Abbott said there won’t be any efforts to purchase the land, and he hopes it could be leased from the county for 100 years at $1 per year. In turn, the Scouts would administer, monitor and protect the campsite.
If the plan is approved, the site could be ready for use by next spring, Arnett said.The Scouts plan to invest $50,000 to $100,000 into the project.
The park’s new master plan is set to be finalized in November by an eightmember delegation representing Maricopa and Pinal counties and four East Valley municipalities.
By November, Maricopa County, Queen Creek, Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert will have spent nearly $250,000 to update the plan. However, an atmosphere of distrust — created in part by the fact that Maricopa County manages the park despite its Pinal County location — has caused some to question whether the process is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
For instance, Stakeholder Advisory Group member Alden Rosbrook has criticized Maricopa County Parks and Recreation officials for fencing in the park and implementing a daily use fee before the master plan update has been completed.
What: San Tan Mountains Regional Park master plan open house
When: 5:30 p.m. Sept. 4
Where: Gilbert Community Center, 100 N. Oak St.