SWEETWATER COUNTY — Local Boy Scout leaders spoke to the Sweetwater County Commission Tuesday morning in hopes of working out an agreement for overnight camping at Pioneer Trails Picnic Grounds for the Boy Scouts and other youth groups.
Budd Allen, District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America, said that last year they were denied the right to use Pioneer Trails Picnic Grounds due to the county rule against overnight camping in their parks. This resulted in the Boy Scouts having to go on overnight activities to Evanston and Fort Bridger, when the majority of the participants are from Green River and Rock Springs.
Allen presented a resolution that would allow the Boy Scouts and other youth groups to be an exemption to the rule against overnight camping, primarily at Pioneer Trails and Arrowhead Springs. However, due to Arrowhead Springs being near residential homes, Pioneer Trails was the main area discussed during the meeting.
“Our request is that we work out a way we can use certain county properties, county parks, for an occasional overnight scouting activity,” he said.
The resolution is as follows:
The primary concern for the Commission is the unintended impacts allowing the Boy Scouts to use county parks for overnight camping could have on other people. They do not want to set a precedent for others to camp in the parks overnight.
Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld said that while the Boy Scouts clean up after themselves, other people may not. She said once other people see these big groups camping overnight, they may start doing the same. This could cause extra stress and work for the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office and the County parks staff with having to remove people from the parks and having to clean up after people.
Commissioner Mary Thoman suggested the Boy Scouts check out Fontenelle for overnight activities, as there are three overnight campgrounds in that area. However, Matt Rushing, Scout Master for Troop 312, said they tried to camp at Fontenelle, but they couldn’t get in because there was no reservation process and all the spots were full.
Allen said Pioneer Trails is an ideal camping spot due to the facilities such as the pavilion and the restrooms, while still being remote enough for the Boy Scouts to pitch tents and camp outdoors.
He added said it wouldn’t just be the Boy Scouts using the park but other youth programs and organizations such as 4-H and the Girl Scouts could be given access too.
“Reward the Good Stewards”
Chairman Keaton West said allowing overnight camping “worked well until it didn’t, and it wasn’t because of the Boy Scouts, it was because of the issues Commissioner Schoenfeld brought up. It also worked well because we had caretakers back then.”
Commissioner Robb Slaughter, however, presented an alternative viewpoint. He said he is a big supporter of the Boy Scouts, and he believes the Commission should do what they can to help the scouts find a way to use county facilities.
“I see it maybe just a little bit differently than the other Commissioners do, I see that we as Commissioners have the responsibility and the obligation to try and find ways for us and for our residents to use these facilities,” Slaughter said.
He suggested the Commission table this request and he volunteered to work with the Public Works Department and the Boy Scouts to find a solution for overnight camping.
Let’s do our best to come up with a way that we can say yes rather than coming up with all the possible ways we can say no.~ Commissioner Robb Slaughter
Commissioner Island Richards agreed the Commission should table the issue and work on a solution. He said that youth groups seem to be facing the unintended consequences to the county’s response to stopping other people from camping overnight in parks.
“We should reward the good stewards of our assets and then figure out other ways to prevent the bad stewards from doing what they’re going to do,” Richards said.
He suggested the county improve the signage in the parks, perhaps by stating that overnight camping is not allowed except for youth-oriented groups by reservation. He also pointed out that Pioneer Trails is wholly owned by the County, meaning the county does not have to fulfill any agreements with the BLM at this facility.
“I would like us to find a way to allow the youth-oriented nonprofits to use this facility like this, or what’s the use in having these great facilities if only a couple people show up throughout the summer to use a very expensive pavilion through the day?” he said.
Commissioners Slaughter and Richards plan to meet with Public Works Director Gene Legerski and the Boy Scouts leaders within a month to try to work out a way for youth groups to use Pioneer Trails Picnic Grounds for overnight camping.