The Boy Scouts of America Long Beach Area Council (LBAC) has put its 10-acre Will J. Reid Scout Park in north Long Beach back on the market after ending a deal with The Trust for Public Land, which had assured the property would be kept as open space but struggled to find financial backing.
The purchase contract into which both parties entered last year required that The Trust for Public Land, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, assist in finding a public or private entity, or a partnership of both, to finance the acquisition and then have the property turned over to a public steward in a “joint use” settlement.
Albert Guerra, vice president of marketing for LBAC, however, said the nonprofit’s ability to come up with the required financing has stalled, and LBAC on April 24 decided to not renew the “option” agreement term that expired last month. Under the contract, the property was appraised at $4.85 million.
“There just wasn’t enough traction recently with the property,” he said. “We just decided to not renew that agreement.”
Guerra said LBAC has decided to “look at other options” given the improved real-estate market that now favors sellers. He said the decision was based on the advice of several board members, many of whom are involved in real estate.
John Fullerton, LBAC executive director, said the Council is pursing interested parties with the goal to have all or a portion of the land used as open space for public access. At the same time, however, he said the Council is committed to moving forward with a deal to help alleviate LBAC’s own financial troubles.
“Our objectives remain the same: we want to sell it, and we want to preserve some or all of it for open space for access, and we want to somehow keep the name of Will J. Reid associated with it,” he said. “…We’ve sought to do that, but nobody has really stepped forward to say, ‘Hey, we are going to do this, and we are going to do it quickly.’
“With the financial condition of the Council, we need to move on, and we hope that in this period, as we begin to remarket it, somebody will step forward and say, ‘Listen, we think it’s a great asset, and we’d love to plan it as either all or some portion of it some sort of public access’ because that side of the town really needs something like this, and we feel that it’s really a great asset.”
Alex Size, project manager for The Trust for Public Land, said the nonprofit typically partners with public entities to acquire property, but he acknowledged that public funding has been stretched thin in recent months.
“I would say the economic downturn is kind of like a double-edged sword in that there are amazing acquisitions to be had at near historic levels in terms of purchase price and very willing sellers at that, but there’s also less public funding for these types of conservation acquisitions,” Size said.
He said the job of The Trust for Public Land was to put together a “fundraising component,” utilizing a myriad funding sources, including private, but mostly public, sources. Receiving backing from such public entities as Los Angeles County or the City of Long Beach, however, requires a public process that may take longer than usual, Size added.
“There’s a public process that needs to unfold in order for that money to be placed and recognized for us for certain projects,” he said. “So that process takes a little bit of time, and we recognize that, and we were needing some additional time in order to move forward on this acquisition. Unfortunately, that time was not given.”
Though the Council has denied a proposed contract extension, Size said he was confident The Trust for Public Land would be able to close the deal by the end of the calendar year. He added that “the door is certainly open” for LBAC to reinstate the original contract. But, in order for that to happen, Size said LBAC would have to be “willing” to allow for additional time.
“I would hope that, potentially, we could continue the transaction as it was stated in terms of getting an acquisition completed by the end of the calendar year,” he said. “But that would take some willingness on the seller’s part in order to be reengaged and move forward… I think the Scouts might be open to that, but they are looking for the assurance that the project would move forward, and no buyer can give 100-percent assurance of anything.”
The property at 4747 Daisy Ave. has been owned, maintained and operated by the Boy Scouts for more than 65 years and is used primarily as a private camping ground for local Boy Scout troops. The property also has buildings for classrooms and meeting rooms and has a pool house that has been contracted by the City of Long Beach for public use in recent years.
Since the park is located next to the Dominguez Gap Wetlands and the Los Angeles River, one proposal was to use the property as a “water-recharge demonstration site,” a project that would involve “bio swales,” educational kiosks and trails, Size said.
“It would be an amazing addition to the trails along the Dominguez Gap as well as the park space,” he said. “It’s rare that you find a property this large directly adjacent to the L.A. River.”
Fullerton said LBAC has been in talks with the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) as a potential partner for the project. Though he still considers the WRD an “interested” party, recent studies have shown that water doesn’t “percolate” through the property as originally envisioned, Fullerton said.
He added that LBAC’s main reason for selling the property is to be able to use the proceeds from the sale to fund improvements and create new programs at LBAC’s two other properties: the square-mile Camp Tahquitz in Angelus Oaks and the Aquatics Sea Base at 5875 Appian Way in Long Beach.
Fullerton said in the past 60 years, LBAC has seen a two-thirds drop in membership (decreasing from 12,000 members to 4,700 members) while other Councils have developed state-of-the-art camp facilities with which Will J. Reid is unable to compete. The Orange County Council, for instance, has recently built a new $30-million campground at the end of the 22 Freeway, he said.
“If we’re spending all of our time just trying to hold all [three properties] together, we’re not doing much then in the way of operating programs for kids, especially when they can drive 30 miles down the road to the end of the 22 Freeway to a world-class facility and get really some great program,” Fullerton said.