The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Long Beach organizations have been locked in a row in recent months over access to a strip of Alamitos Bay beach, which the latter controls but the former has used for decades without issue – until ‘has recently.
The Long Beach Area Council of Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles both rent properties near Alamitos Bay from the city. The boys’ organization rents a two-story Sea Scout building on Appian Way near the Second Street Bridge underpass. The Girl Scouts rent a “rollup” storage building below the bridge, with the group’s lease also including a small beach between the two buildings which is used for kayak and canoe launches and other waterfront activities , including summer camps.
There is a long history, both parties agree, of Boy Scouts using the beach, although there has been no formal agreement allowing the group to do so. But now the Girl Scouts want to change that, causing the Boy Scouts to roll back. Girl Scout officials say they started trying to get a deal nine months ago.
Theresa Edy-Kiene, CEO of the Girl Scouts, said the proposed deal had not changed since the fall when her organization first offered it to the Boy Scouts. But there is some hope, she said, with area scouting executive John Fullerton and board chairman Albert Guerra agreeing to comment on the proposed deal.
Guerra said Thursday, July 1, that he cleared his schedule and Fullerton reached out to set up a meeting with Edy-Kiene and his executives to talk about the deal. As of Tuesday July 6, no further action had been taken.
The Girl Scouts’ motivation for applying for a user agreement, Edy-Kiene said recently, is that Scouts under 12 cannot be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which forces the group to restrict access to the Beach ; such an agreement could come with user fees. Boy Scouts officials said they provided everything the Girl Scouts asked for, including insurance and compensation documents, and that having to pay user fees would be a financial blow to them. They also asked the city to intervene.
But the feud came to a head over the last weekend in June, when scouts found the beach gate padlocked with a summer day camp waiting to enter. A Boy Scout supervisor cut the lock, which the Girl Scouts later replaced, according to an email stream between the two parities the Southern California News Group obtained.
In 2020, Girl Scouts canceled all activity at the beach while Boy Scouts used it occasionally. This year, the two groups plan to organize paid summer camps, including activities on and near the water using the beach. This led to the escalation of the dispute.
“We’ve been using the beach for decades,” Fullerton said last week. “We provided the lifeguard for the beach. We offer camps and other programs; they had few programs there.
Edy-Kiene said the Girl Scouts suspended programming last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but intended to resume this year.
“We have been to the camp; they started (last) week,” Edy-Kiene said Friday. “We want to get there.
“We have been asking for nine months to negotiate an agreement,” she added. “It’s in all of our interests.”
Guerra said the city could resolve the situation by requiring an amendment to the leases for her organization’s building and the one used by the Girl Scouts. The history of shared beach use should be tracked, he said.
It’s unclear if the city will get involved. But Brent Dennis, director of the city’s parks, recreation and marine department, said he didn’t know why the beach was part of the Girl Scouts’ lease. The two leases are very different, with the Girl Scout building essentially being a storage shed.
The Sea Scout building’s lease requires one full-time employee and limits the uses for which Boy Scouts can lease it — but it can be leased for certain income. That lease runs through 2025. Scouts currently pay $1 a year, Fullerton said, but have been advised that the next lease will be at fair market value.
In 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, Long Beach had to make budget cuts, so city officials asked departments to set fees and leases to achieve full cost recovery, resulting in prompted the market value approach. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine had tried to lower fees for young people, but breaking leases not yet signed was considered a donation of public funds.
A year earlier, in 2008, the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles absorbed the Girl Scouts of Long Beach and took control of the building and beach lease. The city added two five-year renewal options, bringing the $1-a-year contract to 2035, Dennis said.
While the Long Beach Council scouts were able to use the beach for free with a reservation, the proposed deal would require a $150 fee to use the beach. Girl Scouts charge this fee for all outside groups, including Scouts from other regions. But paying those fees, Fullerton said, would reduce revenue.
The Girl Scouts use a reservation system called Double-Knot, which is needed to keep track of who uses the beach when, Edy-Kiene said. Third-party user fees help cover liability costs, she said.
But Fullerton said he provided an insurance contract and indemnity form listing the Girl Scouts as beneficiaries. These documents, he said, are what the Girl Scouts had asked for.
Edy-Kiene countered that the Boy Scouts refused to even comment on the proposed deal to start talks. Although the proposed agreement includes insurance and indemnification documents, there are other important elements, she said.
Tensions between the groups escalated on Saturday, June 26, when the Boy Scouts had planned a beach event that included dozens of scouts. When the scouts arrived, they found the beach gate padlocked. The Boy Scouts supervisor cut the lock and ran the program, according to Fullerton and Guerra.
Edy-Kiene sent a series of emails to Fullerton – Dennis copied – in which she said cutting the padlock was vandalism. Fullerton and Guerra, meanwhile, sent separate emails to Dennis asking him to intervene.
Dennis, however, told the scout executives to figure it out themselves.
“I’m very disappointed that you can’t settle things fairly without waiting for the city to intercede,” Dennis wrote in his email. “I was a good listener and suggested valid options to solve your problems. Please continue to work together to reach a signed agreement.
“Please do this,” he added, “for the children you both serve!”