Amid national bankruptcy due to abuse litigation, Moab Boy Scouts attempt a revival

Local chapter starts recruiting this weekend

Mingo Gritts and his son, Zeke, fold an American flag together during a Scouting event. Gritts is hoping to revive Scouting in Moab for both boys and girls and is doing so in partnership with the Canyonlands Field Institute and Our Village Community Center.
 Photo courtesy of Mingo Gritts
Mingo Gritts and his son, Zeke, fold an American flag together during a Scouting event. Gritts is hoping to revive Scouting in Moab for both boys and girls and is doing so in partnership with the Canyonlands Field Institute and Our Village Community Center.
Photo courtesy of Mingo Gritts

A week after Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection as it funds a nationwide compensation trust for survivors of sexual abuse, a group of locals led by Scoutmaster Mingo Gritts are hoping to revive the Boy Scouts’s tradition of organized Scouting in Moab, for boys and for girls.

“We hope to achieve a highly effective, enjoyable and successful Scouting program made up of truly dedicated individuals working together and making use of the unique natural resources and opportunities of the Moab and Canyonlands area,” Gritts said of the effort.

The Canyonlands Field Institute has stepped in to charter the Moab Community Scouting Program, providing organizational structure to the nascent troop in lieu of funding. Local nonprofit Our Village Community Center plans to host the Scouts at the organization’s five-acre farm property on 500 West, known better to some as the late Ray Alger’s farm.

Annie Thomas, the executive director of the community center, which already hosts a Girl Scouts troop, said that the new Scouting program was a “great fit” for the nonprofit’s mission since it aims to “get children out into nature” and learn “practical life skills.”

Thomas said that her husband is an Eagle Scout — the highest attainable achievement in the Scouts BSA, known officially as Boy Scouts until last year when girls were newly allowed. She was glad to hear Gritts, who is also an Eagle Scout, was trying to chart a new path forward for Boy Scouts in Moab after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dropped sponsorship of the program statewide.

Without the church’s financial backing, which went away amid growing financial obligations to survivors of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts, Scouting programs around the state faced an existential crisis, including in Moab: How would Boy Scout troops continue funding their programs?

In Moab, the answer for now is membership fees since, according to Gritts, the program is “starting from scratch” with sponsorships and structure. The national corporation’s bankruptcy filing will not affect the new units very much, Gritts said, because they don’t yet own any assets that could be liquidated. Money, however, might not be the biggest concern for parents thinking about sending their kids to Boy Scouts.

Aware of the national organization’s history of child exploitation and the weight that carries in parents’ minds when considering whether to send their children to the program, Gritts said that Scouts BSA has improved training for troop leaders, mandating youth protection training for anyone in a leadership role with the troop.

“We’re in a new era in terms of oversight, mitigation and training,” Gritts said of the efforts to protect children in Scouts BSA.

According to Gritts, the Scouting organization also has policies and procedures for grouping children and adults to protect all involved parties. For example, at no time may a child be left alone with fewer than two adults, although larger groups, he said, are better for accountability reasons.

As for the impact Gritts hopes to have with kids, he said that the commitment is small, especially compared to the outdoor skills, hobbies and interests that Scouts develop during the program.

Completing the program by achieving Eagle Scout status can even open up career paths and give Scouts a leg up in the job market. In all U.S. military branches, for example, new service members immediately advance if they have earned Eagle Scout status.

The Grand County Library will host two recruiting events Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-29, conducted by the Moab Community Scouting Program. Scouting representatives will be at the library from 2:30 p.m. until closing time on Friday then 1:30 p.m. until closing time on Saturday.