A dispute over the narrow, winding road that leads to a 110-acre Boy Scout camp in Rustic Canyon overshadowed a ceremony Thursday to mark the opening of the facility to the public on a reservation-only basis.
One neighbor used her car to briefly block a busload of visitors as a protest against the arrangement. Another raised the matter with Scout officials inside the camp lodge before the ceremony began.
The disagreement centers on the concerns of the two families who live nearest the camp. They fear that general use of the road could lead to loss of privacy, increased crime and fire hazards.
And the dispute eventually may cause trouble for anyone not officially associated with the Scouts to gain entry to the camp.
Though much of the nearly three-mile-long road belongs to the state, the first 900 feet are owned by architect Paul S. Hoag, who has lived on the street for 17 years.
He is angry about the prospect of added traffic on his stretch of pavement. "My road is not open to the public, and I want that very clear," Hoag said in a telephone interview.
His portion is easy to identify. It is flanked on either side by yellow posts, with a message painted on the pavement: "Private Road." Five speed bumps are in place, along with one sign prohibiting motorcycles and another forbidding smoking.
At the end of Hoag's property, the speed bumps and warning signs end. The road curves along hillsides and ridges to the camp entrance.
The Scouts have a legal right to pass over the Hoag's part of the road, under an easement granted to the organization in 1938. But "there's a difference between Scout groups and the general public," Hoag said.
Hoag said he was "astounded" to read in The Times last week about an unusual bargain struck by the Scouts and the state Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy that would allow limited public access to the camp.
The conservancy paid for $250,000 worth of repairs to the camp's sewage and water systems, and to the roadway leading to the facility, which the Scouts have operated since 1941. The road was washed out by floods after a 1979 fire.
In exchange for the improvements, the Scouts agreed to make the camp's accommodations for 400 available to any group that reserves space in advance during 80% of weekend time over the course of each year. Reservations are made by telephoning the Scouts' Western Los Angeles County Council, based in Sherman Oaks.
The remaining 20% of weekend time each year will be kept for exclusive Scout use.
The Scouts also will have total use of the camp for two full weeks during the summer, said Clarence Barton, assistant Scout executive for the council. Otherwise, reservations for camping during the week will be accepted from any group, Barton said.
Many of the nearby residents, north of Sunset Boulevard and east of Pacific Palisades, said they did not mind public use of the camp on a reservation-only basis. No signs advertising the camp will be placed on Sunset or other heavily traveled roads, said conservancy spokeswoman Laura P. Young.
But to Hoag, who has lived for 17 years at the fringe of the community along the roadway to the camp, the change means a loss of privacy. "I can't believe that such things can be done to me," he said.
Added his stepson, Dan Padgett: "They're taking our private driveway and making it a public thoroughfare, and they're not proposing to compensate us in any way, shape or form."
The two men said their family and guests have been plagued by car break-ins.
Padgett said he was particularly worried that the Los Angeles Unified School District would use the Scout camp.
"I have a hard time with a bunch of inner-city kids being bused through our neighborhood, because of all the crime there has been in the neighborhood," he said. "They might come back the next time around. They go back, get in their cars and come back."
Fire and Traffic Concerns
Another neighbor, Arlene Fink, said her major worries are about fire and traffic safety because the road is so narrow.
She said traffic jams leading to the camp could prevent fire engines from reaching a blaze at the camp or along the hillsides during the dry season. And she said an automobile at the bottom of one gully along the road is proof that drivers have trouble negotiating the curves.
She used her Toyota Cressida to make her point about the road's size. When the first busload carrying guests to the ceremony swung onto the drive, Fink's car was parked alongside her house. The bus couldn't get past.
'Not Illegally Parked'
"I was not illegally parked. I did that on purpose. I was 18 inches from the side of the road," Fink said. "If that (bus) were a fire truck, it couldn't get through."
When passengers from the bus knocked on her door--with one man who refused to give his name shouting that she was "an idiot"--Fink moved her car out of the way.
Fink's concerns were reinforced before the bus had gone another mile, however. Passengers pleaded with the driver to stop and let them off.