About 35 neighbors of a Boy Scout camp in Rustic Canyon have formed a committee to deal with their concerns about opening the facility to the public on a reservation-only basis in exchange for $250,000 worth of repairs financed by the state Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Meanwhile, the conservancy is asking the attorney general's office to investigate the Scouts' historical use of the property and the public's right to travel on the narrow, winding road leading to the facility, named Camp Josepho.
Until those issues have been clarified, the public-access conditions of the $250,000 grant will be suspended, said conservancy Executive Director Joseph T. Edmiston.
"The Scouts can still invite outside groups to use Camp Josepho, but they don't have to, insofar as they are responding to the conditions of the grant," Edmiston said.
Until recently Camp Josepho was little known outside scouting circles and the affluent community north of Sunset Boulevard and east of Pacific Palisades whose residents sometimes hike or bicycle on the grounds.
Since 1979, when a road through the grounds was washed out after a fire and flood, use of the camp by Scouts has declined, neighbors said.
In 1985, the Scouts and the conservancy struck their unusual bargain, allowing the Scouts to retain ownership and control of the property while encouraging the public to use the camp, too.
After the repairs were finished, the two families nearest the camp read about the change in a newspaper article and objected strongly. One neighbor, Paul Hoag, owns 900 feet of the nearly three-mile road to the camp and warned that "my road is not open to the public and I want that very clear."
The Scouts have the legal right to use Hoag's stretch of road and have said they believe the easement would apply to any group with reservations at their camp. Hoag disagrees.
Another neighbor, Arlene Fink, used her car to block a bus carrying passengers to a ceremony last month marking the opening of the camp to the public. She said she wanted to emphasize that traffic to the camp could block an emergency vehicle if fire broke out in the brush-covered hills.
The conservancy sponsored a community meeting Monday night in the Brentwood Youth House to gauge neighborhood opposition to the new arrangement and to find ways to respond to concerns.
Hoag's stepson, Dan Padgett, said he was disappointed by the turnout. Padgett has been a vocal critic of the arrangement.
"I thought we'd have more people here and they would be more angry," he said.
Neighbors called for a ban of all motorized vehicles on the road, except for those delivering supplies during specified hours. They asked Edmiston to consider having camp guests--Scouts and others alike--hike or bike in from Sunset Boulevard or over a trail from Will Rogers State Park.
Edmiston said overnight parking along Sunset or at Will Rogers could present a problem, but the conservancy will review those possibilities.
Joseph Ungaro, program director for the Scouts' Western Los Angeles County Council, said he will continue to allow outside groups in for the time being.
As for the future, "we have nothing to say until our executive committee makes some decisions about this," Ungaro said.
The committee is scheduled to meet May 27, he said.