AMHERST - Local Scouts officials remain hopeful their camp at Long Lake won't be a casualty of a government purchase of land from J.D. Irving Ltd. and Rothesay Paper Holdings Ltd., but neither Natural Resources nor Irving believe the Scouts have anything to worry about.
"We're not really sure what's going to happen. We got a letter from Irving telling us the land is going to be sold and that we should talk to the new owner, but we don't know who the owner is," area district commissioner Terry MacDonald said Friday. "The word is it's the province, but we haven't had anything official yet."
Scouting leaders held a meeting last Thursday to discuss the situation, but until they hear back from Irving or the new landowner there isn't much they can do.
The camp was constructed, with the assistance of J.D. Irving Ltd., about 15 years ago and includes a main building used for emergency purposes and other services as well as number of campsites.
It also has access to Long Lake that is used for boating, although the dock was damaged a couple of years ago by a winter storm and hasn't been repaired.
Besides local Scouts, MacDonald said the camp is used by other Scouting organizations across Cumberland County and from Halifax. It has also been used by other youth organizations.
"It's a facility we use as part of our program and if it's gone we'll have to make other arrangements to do it somewhere else," said MacDonald. "We're still hoping we won't lose it and that we'll find out we'll be allowed to stay."
The Scouts are just one of numerous leaseholders to be told by J.D. Irving and Rothesay Paper Holdings that they must agree to vacate their properties by October.
Natural Resources spokesperson Gretchen Pohlkamp is aware of the camp at Long Lake, but it's her understanding Irving had asked for it to be left alone.
"We have told J.D. Irving that we would prefer to have all the camps out, but there was a Scout camp that we agreed could continue to be there," said Pohlkamp, adding she cannot understand why the Scouts leadership would be under the impression they have to leave. "That shouldn't be what they were told."
Late Friday, J.D. Irving spokesperson Mary Keith confirmed the Scout camp won't be impacted.
"Neither Irving nor the province are asking that the Boy Scout camp be vacated at Long Lake," said Keith.
The province is currently in negotiations to purchase the land, but Pohlkamp could not go into detail about how much land is at stake or where, although media reports last week indicate it includes 31 parcels in Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis and Cumberland counties.
Pohlkamp said it's very unlikely those leaseholders will be given an opportunity to negotiate with the province or have their leases extended.
"Our policy for a number of years is that we are trying not to increase the number of camps on Crown land. When we acquire land our policy is the camps need to be removed," Pohlkamp said. "It's a very complicated and costly process to have leases. They cost the province a lot of money and bring in very little revenue. It's an expense instead of a very good use of our land."
Pohlkamp said most of the areas in question will become protected spaces, meaning those camps could become part of a wilderness area, protected area or nature reserve.
Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott said Friday he has contacted Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell asking him to intervene.
"I have correspondence off to the minister asking that if it is the province that is buying this land that these people be grandfathered so they can keep their camps," Scott said. "This money represents revenue for the province and these people have huge investments in their camps."
Something similar happened when the Tobeatic Wilderness Area was created several years ago in southwestern Nova Scotia. In that case, 27 of 32 campsite leaseholders agreed to terminate their leases in return for $20,000.
The remaining leaseholders were allowed to renew their leases under the terms of a wilderness camp licence that's only valid for the life of the current leaseholders. Access to these sites by land vehicles is not permitted.
Pohlkamp said leaseholders in Cumberland County will not be given the same opportunity.