by Carol Hillestad for the Pocono Heritage Land Trust
Back in the 1920s, a group of landowners, mostly farmers, got together to do something good for local kids.
Each family carved out a piece of their land — fields and forest, creeks and ponds — to create a Boy Scout camp in the heart of Polk Township.
All told, it was 755 acres of natural beauty.
Their intention was clear: to provide healthy outdoor experiences for generations to come.
They worked with Harry C. Trexler, a well-known businessman and philanthropist, to sell the land to the Boy Scouts for this purpose.
Back then, gratitude and promises were strong bonds. A handshake was good enough.
And so, Camp Trexler came into being.
Generations of Scouts have loved the place. Their lives and spirits sanctified it. Descendants of those generous, good-hearted people still live on their nearby farms.
But it seems a handshake is no longer good enough.
The Scout organization is putting Camp Trexler up for sale. Even though the original owners’ aim had always been unmistakable, even though for almost 100 years the land has been used as those good-hearted farmers intended, it seems Camp Trexler is doomed.
Whatever you think about the Boy Scouts breaking promises to those neighbors, there’s a lesson here.
Maybe you have a farm, a hunting camp or fishing club or some woodlands and fields you want to see protected — for good — from development.
No matter how sincere, trustworthy and reliable others are right now, circumstances change (just ask the Boy Scouts).
And relying on future good faith down the line — of heirs, fellow club members, hunting buddies, or future generations — is inviting a travesty.
A local land trust, such as Pocono Heritage Land Trust, can help you make your wishes clear. Not informally over dinner with family, friends, or club members. But legally. And with teeth.
Maybe you don’t feel ready to make decisions like this.
Talk to a land trust, anyway. At least find out what the options might be, learn about tax advantages, and understand how to accomplish your goals.
Land trusts have been around since the 1800s.
If only the Camp Trexler donors had known…
About Conservation Easements:
- Landowners have different goals for protecting their property, and no two conservation easements are the same.
- Each easement is tailored for a particular piece of property, its unique natural values, and the owner’s goals.
- Specific rights retained by a landowner or restricted by an easement vary with each property.
Founded in 1984, Pocono Heritage Land Trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the natural heritage of the Pocono Mountains region by conserving land and inspiring people to care for, enjoy, and explore their natural world.
This post adapted from a piece published on PA Environment Digest, who are friends of ours in conservation and communications.