By Tamas Mondovics

Boy Scouts living in FishHawk and nearby communities will soon have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and hone their skills, while exploring more than 500 acres of pristine land along three miles of the Alafia River promising to evoke memories of pioneer days in Florida.

The Gulf Ridge Council, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is now seeking $1.5 million in funding support to develop Camp Alafia in Lithia including a canoe and kayak outpost, camping facilities with running water for bathrooms, BB rifle and archery range as well as hiking, horseback riding and many other outdoor exploring activities.

The Gulf Ridge Council, BSA encompasses eight counties in West Florida serving more than 20,000 youth in 127 Cub Scout packs, 142 Boy Scout and Varsity Scout troops, 27 Venturing Crews and 37 Learning for Life units.

The entrance to the planned seven-acre camp site is currently located near the corner of FishHawk Blvd. and Lithia Pinecrest Rd. directly across the road from Beef O’Brady’s restaurant.

According to Gulf Ridge Council, Boy Scouts of America Vice President for Fund Development Grant E. Martin, the Council acquired the land (500+ acres) from the Wayne Thomas family in 1973, which is now used by the scouts for primitive camping.

“The full potential of Camp Alafia, which is situated in one of the most densely populated regions of the state, has never been realized,” Martin said as he talked about developing the land to offer more modern style camping options and to be a community used resource for local church, nonprofit and corporate organizations to utilize.

“With so much development in the area it just makes sense to do it now and make use of this property in a much larger extent, while serving thousands of young scouts.”

The camp has room for 150-200 scouts per day and the Council has no doubt of its full use.

Martin, himself a former Eagle Scout (1979), emphasized that the project is both exciting as well as special for him. He was one of the first Scouts to camp on the property in the 1970s, returning just a few years ago to camp with his son’s Scout troop; learning the same survival skills, teaching how to build lean-to shelters, eating off the land and working together with others.

“Our hope is to transform this camp into an outdoor facility that will not only benefit our scouts, but also other youth groups associated with our chartered partners and surrounding community neighborhoods,” Martin said.

Funds raised so far reached a little more than $300,000, but the Council is confident that with the generous support of the community and through individual donations, its financial goal will be met.

The project is said to take about six to seven months to complete and is hoped to be open by the fall of 2015.

For more information, contact Grant Martin 872-2691 ext, 121 or e-mail

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