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Bozrah - Summer Cub Scout camp programs at Camp Tadma will be discontinued, the Boy Scouts of America's Connecticut Rivers Council board of directors decided on Tuesday, but it will not sell the entire camp.
Camp Tadma, one of the oldest Cub Scouts campsites in the country, provided Scouts in New London County and other nearby towns with an overnight camping site. That overnight camping program will be closed for financial reasons, but the Connecticut Rivers Council said that parts of Camp Tadma will remain available for local use.
Ed Chmielewski, leader of Boy Scouts Troop 123 in Salem and a former Cub Scout leader, said the site is "a local gem," and described the changes at Camp Tadma a "shame."
Hundreds of Salem Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have camped there over the years, he said, and have learned about nature and acquired outdoor skills. Chmielewski said the changes also will have an impact on young adults who sought summer employment as counselors or lifeguards at the camp.
The Connecticut Rivers Council is currently finalizing new day camp locations in the Norwich, New London and Old Saybrook areas. The closest overnight Cub Scout camp for New London County residents will be the J.N. Webster Scout Reservation in Ashford, about an hour's drive from New London.
Chmielewski said that local Cub Scout leaders are concerned that the travel time to Ashford will affect Cub Scout camp attendance.
Robert Porell, the public relations director for the Connecticut Rivers Council, said that the distance to an overnight camp - known as a "resident camp" by Scouts - is not as important a factor as it is for day camps because the Cub Scouts stay at the camp for an entire week.
The board of directors determined that Camp Tadma's heavy subsidy was not sustainable over time, according to a statement from the president on the council's website, and was constraining funding for other youth programs supported by the council.
Instead of subsidizing Camp Tadma, the Connecticut Rivers Council will focus on improving operations at its other Cub Scout campsites, Camp Mattatuck in Plymouth and the Webster Scout Reservation.
Camp Tadma Director Ken Warner, who was hired for that position in February, said earlier this month that the 2013 season was an improvement from years past. Warner believed he could make the camp profitable if given two or three years.
Porell said a plan similar to Warner's was proposed when the camp was being considered for closure four years ago and, "it didn't work."
"The situation had moved beyond what (Warner) could fix," said Porell, who added that he has "tremendous respect" for Warner.
The Connecticut Rivers Council will retain a portion of Camp Tadma for Scout use, according to the president's announcement. Weekend jamborees and leader training still could be held at the camp, and it will be open for Scout unit camping in all seasons.
The board has not yet determined which portion of the camp will be sold.