Bandon Dunes Owner Mike Keiser Clashes With Boy Scouts

December 11, 2015

True to their motto, a group of Boy Scouts is prepared all right — to fight a golf course project proposed by Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser.

As reported in The Oregonian, some Scouts are fuming over the prospect of Keiser building an 18-hole course on Scout-owned land in northern Oregon.

Having recently abandoned plans to build a course on state parkland in southern Oregon, Keiser has turned his sights farther up the coast. He is now in talks with the Portland-based Cascade Pacific Council of scouts over 200 seaside acres in Tillamook County, along a coastline that is home to two scout camps, Camp Clark and Camp Meriwether. 

Council leaders say financial shortfalls have prompted them to look into leasing the land. The same group first approached Keiser about the property nine months ago.

“This project is under consideration because of our mission to provide the best and safest programs to our 21,000 kids — today and for years to come,” Council CEO Matt Devore wrote in emailed comments published in The Oregonian.

But coastal golf course development is rarely in an easy sell, and sure enough, some Scouts have rallied in opposition, mounting an anti-course Facebook page and launching a petition that has been signed by some 2,000 people.

According to The Oregonian, opponents of the proposed lease have raised a host of objections, among them concerns over habitat loss and groundwater use.

Some also believe that building a course on otherwise undeveloped land would run counter to a code that calls for scouts to be “conservation minded.”

A seasoned course developer, Keiser is no stranger to opposition from environmental groups. But he has also shown himself to be a conscientious environmental steward. Net proceeds from the Preserve, a par-3 course at Bandon Dunes, go toward the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, a commitment from Keiser that has generated $2.2 million for the organization since 2012.

SIGN UP: Get the latest golf news, tips and insider analysis

As for the Tillamook County project, Keiser told on Friday that his talks with the Scouts council were still in “very early stages.” He said that it would be premature for him to address the environmental concerns raised by opponents because his own staff of experts had yet to complete its due diligence on the site.

Already, though, Keiser said he saw potential upsides in a project that would “create a good deal of profit streams” for the financially pinched Scouts on land where there are no hiking trails and where buildings have gone decades without much-needed repair.

In addition to revitalizing existing buildings, Keiser has pledged to create a caddie program through which Eagle Scouts could earn their merit badges. Keiser said the Scouts council has also expressed interest in having a kid-friendly par-3 course on the site, which he is prepared to build if the proposed project comes to fruition.

Keiser said he has visited the site once and plans to return this weekend to walk the grounds with members of his team as he weighs whether the property is in fact a good fit for a course.