Kalamazoo County approves purchase of shuttered Boy Scout camp

KALAMAZOO, MI — The Parks Foundation of Kalamazoo County has been given the green light to pursue the purchase of the former Rota-Kiwan camp property.

County commissioners unanimously voted to allow the administration to negotiate and execute a funding agreement for the purchase of the former summer camp during the Board of Commissioners’ May 5 meeting.

The Boy Scouts of America Michigan Crossroads Council announced in October that Cub Scout summer programs at Rota-Kiwan, located in Kalamazoo County’s Texas Township, would cease operation in 2020.

Kalamazoo County Parks Director David Rachowicz later presented a $3 million plan to buy the property and turn it into a county park. Funds from the nonprofit Parks Foundation of Kalamazoo County would be used to purchase the property and develop the first phase of improvements.

Rachowicz estimates that about 85% of what the parks department would need for a county park is already located within Rota-Kiwan’s 212 acres, including roadways, restrooms, parking areas and picnic shelters.

The property will cost an estimated $2 million and the maintenance will cost an additional $1 million to get the camp back up and running, Rachowicz said.

The Parks Foundation has already received $1 million from a private donor, Rachowicz said.

It is estimated that this may take 3-12 months to complete the acquisition. As of April 21, the property was not yet up for sale and the proposal was still awaiting approval from the council. The Boy Scouts organization did not immediately respond to questions about whether the property is available for purchase.

During the April 21 county commissioner meeting, Boy Scout Leader David Blythe told commissioners during public comment that the Boy Scout program is still growing. Blyth is the Assistant District Commissioner and a member of the Pathfinder District Committee for Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties.

Blythe told the board almost 900 young men and women and over 400 adults are active in 40 packs and troops. In 2019, 250 boys and girls joined the Boy Scouts in Kalamazoo County, he said.

“We are pleased that the County Commissioners have taken action towards adding Rota-Kiwan to the County park system,” Blythe said. “We think that this can be a win-win for the local Boy Scouts and for the entire community, and are looking forward to working with David Rachowicz to help develop Rota-Kiwan in a way that allows the camp to deliver a second century of outdoor adventure to local youth.”

If the camp became a county park, the youth camping and programming could be used by local youth organizations such as The YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo and Big Brothers Big Sisters Kalamazoo, Rachowicz said.

Depending on the success of the fundraising, Rachowicz estimated Rota-Kiwan could be fully operational as a county park with youth programming by June 2022.

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