Three months after a bid for 280 acres of state parkland for a 27-hole golf course fell through, the owner of Bandon Dunes is in talks with the Boy Scouts of America’s Cascade Pacific Council about building an 18-hole course on 200 beachfront acres south of Netarts, Ore.
Mike Keiser, who owns the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Coos County, Ore., is in talks with Boy Scouts of America’s Cascade Pacific Council about building an 18-hole course on 200 beachfront acres south of Netarts on Oregon’s north coast, the Portland-based Oregonian reported.
Council leaders say revenue shortages have left them with more properties than the organization can financially handle, forcing them to consider a long-term lease on the midsection of a 790-acre coastal strip that includes the Meriwether and Clark scout camps. They say the two sides have not discussed financial details, the Oregonian reported.
“This project is under consideration because of our mission to provide the best and safest programs to our 21,000 kids—today and for years to come,” Council CEO Matt Devore said.
The prospective deal is Keiser’s latest push to expand a golf empire that includes luxury courses in the U.S. and abroad. It comes three months after Keiser abandoned a controversial plan to buy 280 acres of state parkland south of Bandon for a 27-hole course.
The Tillamook County talks have sprouted new controversy. A contingent of Scouts has mobilized to fight the proposed lease, with more than 450 people joining a Facebook page and more than 2,000 signing a petition against the deal, the Oregonian reported.
“I support their need to generate revenue, but this is not the way to do that,” said Jonathan Linch, a Vancouver-based Eagle Scout who launched the petition and says he “grew up” at Camp Meriwether. “It goes against the ideals of scouting.”
The two popular camps are cornerstones of the council’s numerous properties. Situated on forested oceanfront land surrounded by state parks and federal forests, the camps host scouts year-round for camping, boating, target practice and other activities. Outside groups also rent the property for retreats, festivals and private functions, the Oregonian reported.
Opponents of the proposed lease argue fragmenting miles of undeveloped coastline to build a golf course goes against the code that compels scouts to “be conservation-minded.” Others have questioned the idea of siting an enterprise that often involves alcohol between two alcohol-free zones frequented by children and teens. Still others have raised concerns about habitat loss, groundwater use and chemical runoff from the course, the Oregonian reported.
Council leaders note leasing the land to Keiser would bring plenty of direct benefits to scouts, too. First, it would provide money needed to improve facilities and bolster programs. Keiser has also agreed to rebuild the ranger’s residence and other structures that would be razed to make way for the course, the Oregonian reported.
Perks such as revenue sharing, fundraising tournaments and jobs for Eagle Scouts are all possible too, according to an information sheet published on the council’s website. Keiser did not respond to the Oregonian’s requests for comment.
Council leaders say the talks with Keiser are only preliminary, and they’ll work to address scouts’ concerns as they decide whether to formally pursue the proposal. If all goes well, a letter of intent could be signed within a month, the Oregonian reported.
But some opponents worry it’s already a done deal. Keiser approached council leaders in the spring to float the golf course idea and leaders agreed in July to consider it. They waited until late November to notify members, the Oregonian reported.
The talks have also sparked concern from environmentalists and groups that rent the camp. Some worry if a golf course arrives, more development will follow. Council leaders have stressed they have no interest in selling the land, but its fate after the lease expires would be up to the council in place at that time. Opportunities for development directly outside the Scouts property are limited, given that most adjacent land is publicly owned, the Oregonian reported.
Oregon’s newest state park, 357 acres on a mile of coastline just south of the Boy Scout camp, was slated to become a golf course before the plans fizzled under local opposition and land use hurdles, the Oregonian reported.
“You’d be correct to think that when we heard about the Boy Scouts thing, our ears pricked up,” said Phillip Johnson, whose Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition fought against the previous golf course deal.
News of a similar proposal five miles up the road spurred a surge of phone calls to the Tillamook County planner’s office. “There are a lot of folks interested and concerned,” said Sarah Absher, a senior county planner.
Golfing is among the allowed uses on the land in question, but Keiser would likely need to obtain county planning commission consent before building. Absher said that process has not begun. Council leaders anticipated the golf course proposal might agitate some scouts. Several scouts present at a meeting to gather member input on the proposal said council leaders told audience members a public relations firm could be called in to represent the project and advised them not to believe everything they read, the Oregonian reported.
“We are not at all surprised by the questions, concerns and ideas we have received to date,” Devore said, adding that those concerns will be addressed as council leaders vet the proposal. If the board elects to move forward with the deal, negotiations could last several months to more than a year. Building a course would take several years, the Oregonian reported.
According to a separate report in Golf Advisor, Keiser is also revisiting the idea of Bandon Muni. It would be the sixth course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.