After years of fielding private developers’ interests in Will J. Reid Park, the Boy Scouts of America Long Beach Area Council (LBAC) is now guaranteeing nonstop public use by selling to the Trust for Public Land.
“We’ve been exploring the possibility of the sale for two and a half years now,” said Albert Guerra, vice president of Marketing for Long Beach Area Council.
Guerra, who is also a commissioner for Long Beach Parks, Recreation & Marine, said preserving the property as public use in the sale was a top priority to the Council. “Several board members like (me) … were not very excited at all about the idea of turning this into non-open-space park property,” Guerra said. “We wanted to sell the property to someone who will maintain it as open space.
“We started out with a real-estate broker in the city to help us evaluate the property,” said Guerra. “We started looking at some of the opportunities that were approaching us through that relationship.” But the various developers that expressed interest proposed exploiting the land for apartment buildings, senior housing, and alternative rezoning uses.
The Council decided to sell the property to The Trust for Public Land, an organization not in the development business but serves as a holding agency to take over the role as Council-advocate in preserving the open space.
“We are selling the property to them,” Guerra said. “They’re holding the property until they can find the right public partnership or entity (to purchase) it from them … with the mantra that it continues to be used as public space, as public land.”
According to its website, “The Trust for Public Land works nationwide to help agencies and communities conserve land for public use and public benefit.” In doing so, they will search to find a buyer who will maintain the community use of the property.
The Water Replenishment District may be interested in acquiring the land, said Robb Whitaker, WRD’s general manager, in an email to the Signal Tribune. “We are exploring opportunities at the property because of its location adjacent to the Los Angeles River for possible storm water capture and also to research and demonstrate new storm water capture and groundwater recharge approaches,” said Whitaker. “We haven’t gotten very far beyond conceptualizing ideas and also investigating possible funding sources.”
“As a park commissioner, I know how valuable park land is to the community,” Guerra said. “The second reason is for the last couple of years, the Long Beach Parks department, through the city council, has asked us to use our swimming pool as a community public pool for the summertime.” That pool has been made available to Long Beach youth for the last three summers free of charge.
“So we know that we’re kind of in a great position in the community to offer some amenities that aren’t available to the community,” said Guerra. “So that was important to us.”
Being located adjacent to the Los Angeles riverbed adds additional incentive to maintain the park’s open space, said Guerra. “Many cities are developing the ‘greenbelt’ against the riverbed to (preserve) open land,” he said.
LBAC also owns two other properties that serve its constituency. Camp Tahquitz surrounds Highway 38 in the San Bernardino National Forest and is a one-square mile property with a lake. The second camp is the Aquatics Sea Base positioned along Alamitos Bay Long Beach’s Naples area at 5875 Appian Way.
Guerra says the proceeds from the sale will be used to bolster improvement of Tahquitz and Aquatics Sea Base facilities, create more programs for scouts, as well as strengthen LBACs endowment fund. The endowment money, which is invested in the stock market, basically reinvests itself, said Guerra. “It’s really perpetual money to help stabilize the Council,” he said.
“What else could we do for our constituency?” Guerra said. “Reinvest in ourselves. Make our financial blueprint more sustainable.”
Additional monies will be used on improvements of the camps’ bathrooms and kitchens. At Aquatics Sea Base, they have a variety of donated sailing equipment, but without standardized gear, it is difficult to teach classes, Guerra said. Equipment appropriate for a younger demographic may also be considered.
“There’s really no consistency of what equipment we have,” Guerra said. “It’s hard to teach a sailing class when you have four or five different types of sabots. Or try to get kids to learn how to kayak when you’ve got white-water rafting kayaks and ocean kayaks.” LBAC will purchase new sailing, kayaking and other water-related equipment to replenish the base and offer an improved aquatics program.
At Tahquitz, they will roll out new high-adventure programs that appeal to today’s youth. These may include mountain biking or “mountainboarding,” a practice similar to snowboarding but with a steering mechanism and side wheels to careen down mountain terrain.
Separate from the sale proceeds, LBAC received a $350,000 grant from Forest Lawn to build a bridge over Highway 38 so scouts can safely cross the property which is split across the road.
The last portion of the sale proceeds will go to investments in a slush fund. “(This) will allow us the flexibility to not have to borrow (money) in the future,” Guerra said. “We’re serious about being here for another 100 years.”