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Mathison gift key to saving Scout-A-Vista

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A year ago, it appeared that efforts to save Scout-A-Vista property near Mission Ridge were doomed to fail, which would likely have resulted in the sale and development of the property that has been treasured by generations of local Boy Scouts. But key leaders in the community with ties to the Scouts stepped forward and this week finalized a purchase of the property that will ensure the camp will continue to operate.

Local dentist Erik Holmberg took over as president of the Grand Columbia Council a year ago and, with help of others, found a way to get a deal done. A few years ago, the council, faced with $1.2 million in debt and no way to pay it back, had attempted to sell the property, but local Scout enthusiasts led by John McDarment forestalled the sale. That effort ultimately stalled and, when Holmberg took over the leadership of the council, it appeared that a sale might be inevitable.

"When I accepted the job as president of the council and learned of the potential fate of our camp, I made it my number one priority to save it," said Holmberg. "With the extraordinary cooperation and generosity of the people in this valley, we got it done."

The key to saving Scout-A-Vista revolved around the enthusiasm of Lorraine Mathison, Holmberg said. She pledged $400,000 to the effort and Holmberg needed to find a way to raise another $100,000 to purchase the property. Holmberg said he got a lot of help putting the deal together. Significant legal work was donated by board member Andy Kottkamp and also the Jeffers, Danielson Sonn and Aylward. Other significant contributions were made by Brad Selland, Lloyd and Sue Berry, Dr. Peter and Karen Rutherford, Jim Wade, Dalton Thomas, Earl and Barbary Tilly and others.

The deal was consummated on Tuesday at the office of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. The property will be held by the Community Foundation on behalf of a new 501c3 nonprofit called Friends of Scout-A-Vista. The Scouts will continue to operate the property under a $1 a year lease that runs for 99 years. Holmberg believes the camp can be run profitably by making it available to other outside groups for rent.

Getting the Scout-A-Vista rescue accomplished was a testament to the power of relationships and a commitment to Scouting by the donors, said Holmberg. "This (effort) was near and dear to my heart," he said. "I'm a diehard Scouter and I believe in the Scout movement," he added.

At the celebration this week where the papers were signed, several young Boy Scouts were on hand to say thanks for saving their camp.

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