UPDATE: A GoFundMe page has been established to help fund the Scout Hut's restoration. Donate here.
Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The wholesome and horrible still show side by side at the Scout Hut in Redwood Park, a historic and still-used building recently occupied for an unknown period by squatters.
It’s not known who or how many people individuals occupied the hut, though some people have suspicions. Whoever did so broke in through a side window, then lived there for an unknown period of time over the winter.
In the time they were there, the occupants looted Boy Scout Troop 15’s scouting supplies from food to camping gear, stole a TV, damaged fixtures, messed up the lighting system, didn’t flush the functional toilet, littered the building with booze bottles and plastered everything from the ceiling on down – including the toilet – with elaborate, sometimes obscene graffiti (see photos, below).
“There may have been waves of them,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Dan Gale, surveying the damage. “This is not sanity at work here,” Gale said. Based on the styles, he speculated that two different artists were responsible.
Weekend before last, following a coronavirus quarantine period and ozone treatment, the city supplied a dumpster, the building was unsealed and much of the hut’s furniture and makeshift bedding was hauled out and tossed.
“It may have been slept on, and parents weren’t comfortable with it being used by their kids,” Gale said.
Another Dan – Dan Hauser – served as scoutmaster from the early 1970s through 1982, and spent “lots and lots of time” in the building.
The Scout Hut, he said, was originally built in the 1940s or ’50s by a local little theatre troupe. When it folded in the late ’50s, the scouts took it over. They divided up the single large room, adding the “patrol rooms" on the building’s north side.
Innumerable meetings were held there, Hauser recalled, and the building is still festooned with crafty merit badge-earning projects from the ages. Walls are laden with awards and other memorabilia, including numerous curling newspaper clippings from the Arcata Eye, Mad River Union and Times-Standard in which scouts are featured.
In months to come, Gale and scout families will attempt to clean up the hut, obliterate the graffiti and restore the building to safe use. The grimy floor may be the starting point.
“It’s a great facility and is heavily used during normal times,” Hauser said.
Meanwhile, Gale and the Union have been sent tips about an Instagram user who posted screen grabs of photos of the graffiti from the newspaper’s website, along with his own, not dissimilar art. The user posted the material under a since-changed name.
“WHO WANT A MURAL WORK ??” read one posting, since deleted.
One tipster named the “erratic and dangerous” individual who made the posts, stating that he is a Missouri resident who frequently visits Arcata.
Gale said Arcata Police told him they are familiar with the individual.
Scenes from the hut: