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Board members for the Caddo Area Council of the Boy Scouts will meet Sunday to consider selling Camp Pioneer.

"We received an offer to purchase Camp Pioneer, one of our two camp properties, which has been largely unused for more than two years due to required but cost-prohibitive repairs and improvements," wrote Anthony Escobar, scout executive for Caddo Area Council, in an emailed and prepared statement provided to the Gazette.

Camp Pioneer is located near Hatfield, Arkansas, which is about 90 miles north and west of Texarkana.

The meeting to consider the offer will apparently be conducted via Zoom at 6 p.m. Sunday.

"As responsible stewards of the Scouting program, our executive board members will carefully evaluate the offer based on the best interests of the families and communities we serve," Escobar's emailed statement reads. "The Caddo Area Council is committed to ensuring that our limited resources are allocated to maintain the highest quality experience for our Scouting families in Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas now and into the future."

Escobar did not respond to follow up questions regarding the offer.

A memo circulating that bears Escobar's name indicates it is a "strong cash offer" to purchase the Camp Pioneer property with the offer expiring Tuesday.

Escobar told the Gazette he did not send out the memo.

Some have taken to social media and other avenues to express their displeasure with the possible transaction. Chris Brisco of Texarkana was a member of Boy Scout Troop 14 in the 1980s and talked to the Gazette about the matter.

"Camp Pioneer goes way back in my family. My grandfather took my dad and my uncle up there in the '50s and '60s. A lot of people in this area are connected to the camp," Brisco said.

Brisco's dad was an assistant scout leader and his uncle and aunt actually operated the camp's medical lodge for a while.

Each troop spent a week there every summer and Brisco remembers the hikes and the exploring he and the other boys did. "You were there five days in tents, camping and swimming," he said. "It taught me to be self-reliant and other skills I've needed as an adult such as perseverance," he said.

Camp Pioneer has been around more than 100 years, and celebrated its centennial in 2016. It has been a tradition of the Caddo Area Council since the beginning.

Its roots date back to the railroads and a YMCA that was set up here to provide diversions and recreation for railroad employees in the late 1800s.

The Railroad YMCA owned a camping area in Polk County, located at the "confluence of the Mountain Fork River and Two Mile Creek," according to a Gazette article from 2016. The site was ideal for summer camping, hiking, swimming, boating, and nature study.

When Scouting spilled across the Atlantic from England in 1910, troops began forming across the nation.

In Texarkana, Troop 1 was chartered in 1914. Two years later, 20 boys from the troop boarded a train for a 10-day adventure at what is now Camp Pioneer. By 2019, the Railroad YMCA campground was widely known, well-used and a popular destination for Scouts in and around Texarkana.

By spring the next year, the Railroad YMCA had granted a 99-year lease of their camping property to the Boy Scout council. It was named "Camp Pioneer" and the first council encampment was held there in June of 1920.

Over the years, many permanent structures were built and added to the site.

But now the future of Camp Pioneer seems less than permanent or assured.

Brisco says he knows the camp has had some maintenance problems that prevented it from being open in 2018 or 2019. He wishes there was more time to make a decision on the fate of the camp.

"It's hard to see it happen so quickly," he said.

 

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