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Camp Wilderness questions whether abuse occurred here

Officials at the Boy Scout camp in Hubbard County doubt allegations in a criminal complaint that a scout was molested in this region. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Officials at Camp Wilderness on Bad Axe Lake conducted a thorough review of their records Thursday after news broke the previous day that a Burnsville scoutmaster had been arrested for allegedly molesting three of his troops. Two of the incidents reportedly occurred at "a Boy Scout camp in Hubbard County," according to the criminal complaint.

"Troop 650 has never attended Camp Wilderness," said program director Brad Olson, referring to the Burnsville scouts at the center of a large investigation. Prosecutors have said more charges against scout leader Peter Robert Stibal II could be pending.

But it was the charges contained in Count 6 of the criminal complaint that concerned Olson and Mark Stoltz, scout executive of the Northern Lights Council of the Boy Scouts of American, the Fargo-based scouting entity that oversees the Hubbard County camp.

"I thought right away the Minneapolis Boy Scout Council owns and operates Camp Many Point, which is in Becker County, so we're still trying to figure out if the information is correct or not," Stoltz said.

Perhaps prosecutors made a mistake; perhaps a traumatized young man had a faulty recollection.

Olson and Stoltz will continue to cooperate with authorities investigating the cases. The molestation incidents allegedly occurred between 2002 and 2008 at several locations throughout Minnesota.

Although Camp Wilderness primarily serves North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota scouts, "out of council" units from as far away as Omaha have attended the rustic camp in the woods adjacent to Bad Axe Lake.

Meanwhile parents of scouts in Burnsville were summoned to a meeting Wednesday evening as scout leaders broke the news to them. Stibal was also a church youth leader, so church officials at his parish have also sounded an alarm,

Stoltz said Camp Wilderness has strict policies in place to prevent the type of abuses at the heart of the Stibal investigation.

"Certainly we have a concern if in fact this troop was at Camp Wilderness and this was reported this way," Stoltz acknowledged.

"We have to ask ourselves, we have very straightforward policies in place to protect kids and we would need to review those."

But Stoltz said, "In the Boy Scouts, Boy Scout troops come up with their own adult leadership that's been approved and have taken youth protection training and there are guidelines each of the troops have to follow.

"One of the policies of the Boy Scouts of America is the 'two-deep' policy and so a troop couldn't attend camp without having two adults that would be staying in the campsite with the scouts. "

That is where Stibal is alleged to have broken the rules. He took scouts on overnights alone, without the second scoutmaster, as mandated under BSA rules, the complaint states.

"There are other policies that we have that adult members don't stay in the same tents as youth members, there are separate showering facilities and all of these guidelines are in place to protect the kids and as this investigation continues I think we're going to find out more information," Stoltz said.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne has been in contact with prosecutors in Dakota County, but is not contemplating taking any role in the investigation at this point.

"They have venue," he said. "The scouts and the suspect are all from there so they can prosecute all the cases there."

And as the local scout leaders sift through their records for any shred of evidence illegal acts occurred here, they hope a mistaken complaint, or mistaken identity, doesn't undo all the good Camp Wilderness has done for thousands of scouts in a wooded area of Hubbard County.