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Merrimack Valley

March 23, 2007

Scouts face farewells at Camp Onwayy

NORTH ANDOVER - They came singing from the building, mourning the loss of their summer home.



"By old Onway Lake," came the somber first verse. "There's a place we love to linger, just for old times' sake."



Linger no more.



Last night, the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America Yankee Clipper Council voted 26-10 to sell Camp Onway, the Raymond, N.H., summer camp run by the Scouts since 1929.



The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plans to buy the property for $2.8 million in August, after the final season of Boy Scout camping there.



The secret ballot votes were tallied at the First United Methodist Church on Peters Street in North Andover.



Two types of people packed the room - those in suits and those in Scout shirts. More than 150 attended in all. The boys and men in Scout shirts were there with signs that read "Save Camp Onway" and "Sell Our Program, Not Our Camps."



Those who attended the meeting - reporters were not allowed inside - said the effort, though valiant, was futile.



"It was obvious from the first two speakers that they wanted to sell it," said Chris Gigliotti, 16, a Lawrence Boy Scout and junior at Central Catholic High School. "I understand that it still will be there, but it won't be there exclusively for us. That's been the identity of the camp. It's a Boy Scout camp."



Dan Milligan, a Ballardvale Scoutmaster with 35 years of experience in Scouting, agreed.



"It's a travesty to let something go like that," Milligan said. "I thought that our council executive very nicely stacked his deck."



Milligan and Gigliotti were two of more than 1,100 people who signed a petition protesting the sale.



A council study committee in February voted to recommend the sale. That sparked a vocal backlash from Scouts - especially those in the Merrimack Valley who have traditionally used Camp Onway as a summer home.



"You saw a very, very small but vocal section of our organization," council President John Skelton said after the vote. Other, less vocal Scouts and leaders supported the sale, he said.



The Yankee Clipper Council stretches from Lowell to Newburyport and from Southern New Hampshire to Lynn. The council office is in Haverhill. Most of the protesters last night came from the Merrimack Valley.



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