LITTLE SIOUX, Iowa (KCAU) — The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has officially purchased the Little Sioux Scout Ranch from the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
The nonprofit organization raised almost $2 million thanks to donations from several foundations and hundreds of private donations to make it possible to buy the area, according to a release.
Lead donations included $500,000 from Polina and Bob Schlott of Crescent, $500,000 from the Iowa West Foundation of Council Bluffs, $300,000 from the Gilchrist Foundation of Sioux City and $250,000 from the MidAmerican Energy Foundation.
The land cost more than $7 million in total.
“The support for this project has been amazing,” said INHF President Joe McGovern. “Donors have told us they want to see this place protected — staying in one piece and not being developed — but they’re also excited to see it opened to the public eventually.”
The 1,776-acre property has been used as a scout camp for more than 50 years by troops from Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
In 2021, the Gilwell Foundation, which owns all the properties used by the council, came to the decision to sell the camp due to declining attendance. At that time, INHF purchased an option to buy the property that expired at the end of 2022, setting a goal to raise $2 million for the project.
INHF agreed to do three things while working on the sale with the council: Open the property to the public; maintain the memorial to four boys that died in a 2008 tornado on the property; and honor and share the history of LSSR as a scout camp.
The release stated INHF will work with the Mid-America Council to allow scouts to continue to use the property while public access and management plans are being developed. The organization will also work with partners to open the property to the public and expand use around the Loess Hills State Forest, which is owned by the state of Iowa and managed by the Iowa DNR.
The property won’t be immediately open to the public, but a public open house and celebration on the property has been tentatively scheduled for May 11, 2023.
The ranch sits halfway between Sioux City and Omaha.