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Scouts' campsite deal put on hold Concerns raised about gay policy, public usage

Chicago Tribune, May 8, 2003
435 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611
(Fax: 312-222-2598 ) ( )
( ),1,1555650.story

By Mickey Ciokajlo, Tribune staff reporter

The Cook County Forest Preserve District Board Wednesday held off approving an agreement with the Boy Scouts for the
long-term use of a west suburban campsite after concerns were raised about the organization's ban on gay troop leaders.

Board President John Stroger agreed to send the proposed 25-year pact to committee for further discussion after Commissioner Mike Quigley contended the agreement would violate the county's human rights ordinance, which outlaws discrimination.

The commissioner also raised questions about the nature of the deal, which would close the campsite to the public for regular use, a concern other commissioners also expressed after the meeting.

"It really strikes against two things we care about: the open use of our forest preserves and the fact that we don't feel it's appropriate to discriminate against anyone," said Quigley, acting committeeman in Chicago's 44th Ward, home to the city's only openly gay alderman, Tom Tunney.

Although the measure originally was set for approval by the board Wednesday, Stroger agreed to send it to committee for discussion while still making his position clear.

"I want the world to know that as a former Boy Scout, and a former vice president of the Chicago area Boy Scouts for
many years ... I personally will be for this motion," Stroger said. "But I think that every commissioner has a right to make his or her own decision."

Agencies in the Chicago area and across the country have severed ties with or cut funding to the Boy Scouts following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that held that the organization had a right to exclude gays as troop leaders.

Under the proposed agreement between the district and the Boy Scouts' Chicago Area Council, the Scouts would have use of Camp Kiwanis near Willow Springs through the year 2028. The organization also pledges to make $250,000 worth of improvements to the site.

The Scouts have used the camp in the past but ended a previous agreement in 1993, said Carl McCormick, chief attorney for the Forest Preserve District. The site contains three buildings that are in disrepair.

McCormick said the area around the buildings would not be open to the general public if the agreement is approved. Forest
Preserve officials said the Boy Scouts would make arrangements for others to use the camp during the times that they are not there.

The organization intends to use the camp for weekend outings for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, spokeswoman Rebecca Fields said. Eventually, the site also would be used for day camps and other short-term outings by Cub Scouts, she said.

While the Scouts would have first right to use the camp, which they would maintain, Fields said: "It would not be exclusively ours and no group would be turned away."

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