Henry D. Graves Jr. “Buz” Speaks at the USLA Meeting

Thanks to the USLA and Nancy Howard, interim President, the Friends had an opportunity to update the Upper Saranac Community about our current activities.  

Buz is the great grandson of the donor of Eagle Island and an active Board member of Friends of Eagle Island.  Here is a summary of his remarks.

I am here representing one of your members, Friends of Eagle Island, and to give you an update on the current status of Eagle Island from our perspective. 

As you are may be aware, about 5 years ago the Girl Scouts made the decision to no longer operate Eagle Island as a summer resident camp for girls and to sell the property. The decision resulted from a number of reasons:  new leadership and initiatives by National Girl Scouts and the local Council, high maintenance costs, distance from the Council and financial needs. 

This decision was a great disappointment to the campers, camp counselors, Alumnae, and the Graves family and sparked the formation of FEI. This group along with others set out to preserve the 70 year legacy for future generations. 

This effort on the part of FEI was met with great opposition from the Girl Scouts for several years.

I see no benefit in going into great detail about our disagreement other than to say that the dispute between Friends of Eagle Island and the Girls Scouts Heart of NJ has essentially been resolved and to report that the Girl Scouts, under new leadership, is now cooperating with FEI in efforts to find an approach to the sale of Eagle Island that meets the needs of the Girl Scouts while preserving the heritage of the Island and Coulter Great Camp.

What is important to tell you is that the future ownership of Eagle Island is still pending. The Girl Scouts have expressed no interest in retaining the island for use as a camp, but are bound by a court ruling that the proceeds from any sale  be exclusively used to promote Girl Scout camping.

FEI very much wants to own the island and continue its operation as a camp, to honor the intentions of my great grandparents Henry Graves Jr. and Florence when they gifted the camp in memory of their two sons and to maintain its 70 year history providing a strong outdoor experience for young women. There are many scenarios being explored; this is just one of a number of  possible outcomes.  

The exciting “good” news is that the settlement agreement between FEI and the Girl Scouts provides a window of opportunity for FEI to pursue potential options and/or purchasers that will conserve the property and the historic landmark buildings for gentle use by the community.

One of those options includes working with the Trust for Public Lands.  TPL is a nationwide non-profit organization with a long and proven track record of working to acquire land for a wide variety of public uses and conservation purposes. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres and completed more than 5,200 park and conservation projects around the country.  TPL works with environmental and conservation organizations and individuals to acquire, conserve and protect land as well as historic sites.

The first step in working with the TPL was the requirement that an independent appraisal be done on Eagle Island to establish the fair market value of the property.  A site visit by the appraiser has taken place and we are now waiting for the appraisal report.

Working with the TPL is only one of many possibilities to preserve and conserve this national treasure and Historic Landmark.  Collaborative possibilities exist through other environmental and preservation agencies and groups, as well as, private individuals.  All with an eye toward saving the Coulter Great Camp buildings and making the island available for access by the community for camping, picnicking, and swimming. 

FEI is committed to the betterment of the Adirondacks and welcomes the USLA, its members and other property owners to help us find a suitable solution for the future of Eagle Island so that it remains a precious jewel of Upper Saranac Lake.