08/19/13 10:00am
08/19/2013 10:00 AM
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

Plans for what turned out to be a controversial obstacle course for the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout Camp are heading west.

The Suffolk County Boy Scouts plan to resubmit a new site plan for their 90-acre Baiting Hollow camp that would move a proposed COPE Course to the western part of the property, according to camp director Jim Grimaldi.

A COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course is a series of rope- and wire-climbing obstacles that exist at Boy Scouts camps throughout the country. The Scouts had proposed locating it on the eastern side of their property earlier this year, but it ran into opposition from residents of nearby Silver Beech Lane, some of whom said the proposed course would be only about 100 feet from their backyards.

At the time, the Scouts argued that because their property was so hilly, that locations was the only place on their property were the COPE course could be located.

But because that proposed site had state Department of Environmental Conservation restrictions as to what could be built there, a DEC official who met with neighbors near the site  in May withdrew that agency’s prior support for the COPE Course, essentially killing the application. The neighbors had expressed concern about the prospect of noise from the course being so close to their homes.

The proposed new location is not restricted by the such restrictions.

“The new COPE course is proposed on a piece of property that owned by the Scouts and is free and clear of covenants,” Mr. Grimaldi said. “It probably will cost us $15,000 more to do so.”

In addition to the COPE course, the Scouts also had proposed, in the same application, a new archery range pavilion on the western part of the property that was not near any homes and had not met with opposition. The new proposed location for the COPE Course is nearer to the archery building, he said.

“It’s probably about 300 feet from the archery building,” he said,

Mr. Grimaldi met with the Riverhead Town Planning Board last Thursday and discussed the plans to resubmit the application with the new location for the COPE Course, and it was agreed that the new submission would also include the COPE Course and the archery pavilion in the same plan. Mr. Grimaldi told the Planning Board he could have a new set of plans submitted to the town by the end of the week.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/19/13 2:00pm
05/19/2013 2:00 PM

OLA WILK PHOTO/ WILK MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS | The Boy Scouts of America Theodore Roosevelt Council and BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers broke ground for the new $1.9 million Hickox Dining Hall at Schiff Scout Reservation in Wading River on Saturday.

More than 1,000 people attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Wading River Saturday for a new dining hall at the Schiff Scout Reservation on Wading River Manor Road.

The new facility will replace a building lost during a 2011 fire at the Boy Scout camp.

“Once completed, this beautiful, year-round facility will serve our campers for decades to come,”  Boy Scouts of America Theodore Roosevelt Council Scout Executive and CEO Jay Garee said in a press release. ”I look forward to opening the new hall next year.”

The 7,100 square foot dining hall will feature the same dimensions as the previous structure and cost an estimated $1.9 million to build, officials said.

A tapered-shaped, rubble stone chimney of the fireplace will serve as the visual central focal point of the building’s exterior, the architects said in a press release.  A 10-foot-wide, three-and-a half-foot high fireplace pit will be open to both the interior and the exterior. The interiors will house a 3,500-sq.-ft. dining room, an 1,800-sq.-ft commercial kitchen with a walk-in freezer and refrigerator, handicapped restrooms, and a storage room.  The dining room will feature an 18-foot-high, 15-foot-wide, paneled climbing wall, manufactured by Eldorado Climbing Walls, officials said. 

Established in the 1920s and previously known as Camp Wauwepex, the Schiff Scout Reservation is a 400-acre camp located in the Long Island Pine Barrens at Wading River.  The camp surrounds the 30-acre Deep Pond, which is known for its yellow perch, chain pickerel and stocked trout fishery, according to the press release.

BBS ARCHITECTS RENDERING | BBS Architects designed the new $1.9 million Hickox Dining Hall at Schiff Scout Reservation in Wading River.

04/18/13 10:00pm
04/18/2013 10:00 PM

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

After hearing nearly an hour of objections from neighbors and others, the Riverhead Planning Board on Thursday afternoon decided to adjourn to May 2 a public hearing on a controversial proposal to built a “COPE course” on a section of the Baiting Hollow Boy Scouts Camp that is only about 100 feet from homes.

The COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course is a series of 12 rope and wire climbing devices that are hung from twelve 35-foot high telephone poles. One of the devices is a zip line.

The various challenges are designed to meet Boy Scouts of America standards, and are based on attaining seven goals outlined by the Boy Scouts of America: teamwork, communication, trust, leadership, decision making, problem solving and self-esteem, according to the Boy Scouts.

More than 300 Scouts camps across the country have COPE courses, scouting officials said.

But residents of Silver Beech Lane questioned why the Scouts chose to put the course right near their homes, when the Scouts camp is almost 90 acres in size.

Bob Oleksiak, whose home is closest to the proposed course, read a letter from his wife, Mary, who was present, but he said “would be crying” if she read it herself.

Ms. Oleksiak, who has cancer, said that if built, she would see the course from every window in her home, instead of the nature and wildlife she sees now.

“After cancer, I just want to rest and recuperate. This will no longer be a place to heal and recover, it will be my cause of death,” her letter read.

Other neighbors, including former town Councilman George Bartunek and Joe Van de Wetering, said they have no objection to the COPE, just to the proposed location.

“This is not a NIMBY issue,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “This is an ‘in your face’ issue.”

Fran Rosenfeld, who lives next to the Oleksiaks, said she would never be able to sell her house if the COPE course is behind it.

Richard Amper, speaking on his own behalf and not on behalf of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society nonprofit he helps lead, said the presentation by the Boy Scout representatives at Thursday’s hearing made hardly any mention of the neighbors.

“I can’t figure out why the Boy Scouts are constantly at war with their neighbors,” he said.

The Baiting Hollow camp many years ago proposed to install a cell tower that neighbors opposed, and the Schiff Scout Reserve on Wading River-Manor Road had proposed selling their camp and allowing it to be cleared for a golf course many years ago. Neither proposal came to fruition.

Several other speakers, including former supervisor Phil Cardinale, who is representing the Oleksiaks as an attorney, said the proposal should require a special permit from the Town Board before the Planning Board can vote on the site plan because it constitutes an expansion of a “pre-existing, non-conforming use,” meaning that the use existed before zoning but doesn’t conform to its present zoning, which is residential.

A town planning report from environmental planner Joe Hall said that proposal doesn’t constitute an expansion of the pre-existing use, merely an accommodation for enhancing the existing scout camp.

Mr. Cardinale disagreed, saying that when he was supervisor, projects that were proposed on the non-profit Little Flower campus, which also is a non-conforming, pre-existing use, needed special permits from the Town Board.

He said that if the Scouts are allowing non-Scouts groups to use the course for a fee, that would constitute a new use.

Mr. Grimaldi said in an interview that the Scouts do charge a fee to school and youth groups, but do so only to recover their costs in having an instructor present. He said the course is never used without a Scout instructor present.

Councilman John Dunleavy and others said they felt the Scouts should be made to agree in writing that they would not rent the space out to non-Scout groups if the COPE course is approved.

Mr. Cardinale said COPE courses are used be non-Scouts groups. He referred to a quote from the Baiting Hollow camp’s director Jim Grimaldi in a News-Review article about the COPE course, in which Mr. Grimaldi said the course would also be used by school and youth groups, as well as to information from national Boy Scouts web sites saying that COPE courses are routinely rented out to non-Scout groups.

John Roe, the attorney for Suffolk County Boy Scouts, said he could not commit to that restriction without discussing it with Scouts leaders first.

But he said the Scouts camp at Baiting Hollow has been there for 87 years and “we tried to be a good neighbor during that time. We think the impact from this is going to minimal.”

He said the Scoust camp is only used from July 1 to the end of August for weekday campers, but it is used on weekends sometimes beyond those months.

Mr. Grimaldi said the site in question was chosen because it is the only site on the camp that is flat enough to put the course.

Mr. Roe said the camp property is like a “U” in that it is high on the east and west ends and low in the middle, where Fresh Pond is.

Bill Dunn, the vice president for program at the Suffolk County Scouts, said the COPE course is not an obstacle course in which the objective is to complete it quickly. It’s a course where instructors give directions to scouts who then carry them out.

“This is very disciplined,” he said. The COPE course has consistently been suggested by scout leaders as something the Baiting Hollow camp lacks.

The course is not open to anyone who shows up, he said, and when it is not being used, the various climbing challenges are not reachable without a ladder.

But Mr. Oleksiak said the course will not be secured, because people could enter from private property, and those people could bring a ladder.

Planning Board member Ed Densieski said the board would adjourn the hearing to their next meeting, which is at 7 p.m. May 2.

Prior to the hearing, residents had asked that the date of the hearing be shifted to a night meeting. The Planning Board declined to do so, but said it could have the day time hearing on Thursday and then adjourn it to the night meeting.

tgannon@timesreview.com