Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The Scout Hut, Redwood Park's Boy Scout headquarters, has been entered, occupied and vandalized by unknown persons. Still in use by Boy Scout Troop 15, the hut dates back to the mid-1900s and is laden with scout-related antiquities from over the decades.
Assistant Scoutmaster Dan Gale said the break-in was discovered Sunday night. Whoever broke in appears to have lived there for some period of time – long enough to do serious damage. The occupants looted the building of scout supplies, damaged other items and plastered the walls and even bathroom fixtures with graffiti.
"They were squatting up there and broke into all of the Scout's supply closets, stole their flatscreen TV and a bunch of gear and supplies, as well as trashing the place fairly thoroughly and covering the place with tons of graffiti," Gale said. "They also looted the supply of specialty popcorn the Cub Scouts were selling as a fundraiser for summer camp and other outings."
Given the extent of damage, and with cleanup complicated by possible Coronavirus contamination, Gale said much of the scouts' property will have to be removed and disposed of.
"Sadly, the place was trashed sufficiently that due to the filth they left behind, coupled with concerns about COVID exposure, we likely will have to toss a fair amount of the stuff up there, including likely a bunch of the furniture and what's left of the gear," Gale said. "I'm not sure how we logistically will deal with cleaning the place up under our current community health concerns but once that is completed, we will need to repaint virtually all of it, as they painted and spewed unsavory graffiti all over the walls, floor, ceiling, doors, toilet and refrigerator etc."
While the building's plumbing does function, for whatever reason the interlopers didn't use it. "The first thing I noticed was the stench," Gale said. "They couldn't figure out how to flush the toilet." The building's lights were also tampered with and rendered inoperative, for reasons unknown.
Gale guessed that given the extent of the damage, the occupants had been there for a few weeks. "Somebody had a lot of time," he said.
The culprits had dragged furniture out of side rooms into the main hall, and then used the rooms for sleeping. Booze bottles littered the building, and the sometimes-detailed graffiti included "racy stuff for the scouts to see," Gale said. "They trashed all the gear from their camping closets and stole a bunch of stuff along with the flatscreen TV we use for presentations and trainings."
Gale later said he'd heard syringes were found at the scene.
"They destroyed all the kids flags, awards, trophy's, scouting supplies," Pack 95 leader Sara Downing said on Facebook. "All of our fundraising equipment. So much history ruined. We had just donated a table and chair for my son's patrol, which seems to dismantled and grossly used. We had heating and facilities in that building; why they felt the need to use their stuff as a toilet is unfathomable."
No damage estimates were immediately available. "It's a sad day when our community is already faced with all the turmoil of the current COVID pandemic and now now we face the wrath of some derelicts who trash the Scout's meeting place and pillage all of their supplies," Gale said.
The building is used by both Boy Scout Troop 15 and Cub Scout Pack 95. The Scout Hut is Arcata's sole remaining scouting center, as the former Troop 9 lair at the Arcata Veterans Memorial Building was dismantled and converted into an extension for the Vet's Hall canteen. After that, Troop 9 – carefully nurtured over the decades by veteran Marino Sichi – disbanded.
"We're the last Arcata Boy Scout troop," Gale said.
The break-in was first discovered when a city worker noticed an open door, and Gale was soon notified. He found that a planks had been pried off a back window, and the glass broken to allow access. It has since been re-secured.