Guest Opinion: Scouts value Pioneer Hall

    In 1921 the city of Ashland leased a parcel of land for 60 years to G.S. Butler, who built a log cabin where Pioneer Hall now exists. Although intended for use by the pioneers of Jackson County and the “Native Sons and Daughters,” neither the intended users nor Butler were interested in the care and custody of the premises. American Legion Post 14 assumed care and maintenance of the building, keeping the grounds up, paying the insurance, and eventually expanding the hall and re-roofing it. They did this from 1921 until 1986 — 65 years.

    In 1953 the estate of G.S. Butler allowed the city to cancel the 60-year lease and re-lease it to Ashland’s American Legion Post 14. The city initiated a 20-year lease to the American Legion with the understanding the Legion would keep the building in good repair, pay utilities and insurance and keep up the grounds. The lease was $1 per year. The Legion had the option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years, which they did, until Dec. 31, 1982.

    In June 1983 a new three-year lease was initiated, retroactive to Jan. 1, 1983 and expiring in 1986. In 1985, Boy Scout Troop 112 started meeting in the hall because of the influence of Louie DiCroce, a Navy SEAL Vietnam veteran and Legion member, who was an assistant scoutmaster. The American Legion’s support of scouting dates from its inception in 1919 when, at its national convention, it passed a resolution to that effect, and over the years it has had a close association with the scouting movement.

    In 1986 the American Legion decided it could no longer afford to maintain the hall. The city and the Legion negotiated a memorandum of understanding (city of Ashland Document 1986-037) turning over the care and maintenance of the property to the city in exchange for free use of the hall by the Legion for a variety of specific dates and for “all other official Legion functions” for a 20-year period. Given that scouting was and is a supported activity of the Legion, this included free use of the hall by Troop 112. The memo states that after 20 years, either side may cancel by giving a 30-day notice, otherwise it will continue on a year-to-year basis. Troop 112 continues to meet weekly in Pioneer Hall, having its office there as well as gear storage.

    The troop has a long history of supporting the community through a variety of service projects. Each year we donate between 1,000 and 1,500 hours of community service. Our annual Christmas tree recycle, a joint effort with Ashland Parks and Recreation and the Ashland Lions Club, generally consumes a minimum of 500 hours. This environmental stewardship keeps trees out of landfills, provides mulch for the city’s parks and supports the activities of the troop through the generous donations of citizens who appreciate our efforts. Additional community service includes helping at Earth Day, providing a color guard at the American Legion’s Memorial Day cemetery ceremony, setting up and taking down tables and chairs for the Feast of Will, and ad hoc events such as being "victims" for CERT trainings and conducting flag ceremonies.

    In addition to regular service projects, our Eagle Scouts have initiated a variety of targeted projects that benefit nonprofit entities in our area. Recent ones include refurbishing the seasonal red lanterns and snowflakes now on display, building a Rotary Garden greenhouse, constructing garden beds at Helman Elementary, canvassing for Ashland Food Project, building a garden at the Ashland Eemergency Food Bank, improving the BMX park, planting trees and siting benches at Ashland Cemetery, refurbishing dugouts at North Mountain Park, restoring a fountain at Ashland High School and landscaping and picnic table installation in Lithia Park and along Lookout Trail.

    The Boy Scouts of Troop 112 benefit greatly from their use of Pioneer Hall, and the community benefits from our activities. It should be noted that Pioneer Hall is an asset to many community groups, not just to the scouts.

    — John Engelhardt is a former scoutmaster and current committee member for Troop 112. He is indebted to Dick Welton of the Ashland Lions for the historical background material.

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