The price tag for a weekend fire that destroyed a much beloved Boy Scout dining hall is $3.5 million, say Mecklenburg County Boy Scout leaders.
That’s how much it will cost for a modern replacement of the 40-year-old building at Camp Grimes, with additional money for renovations to the surrounding central dining complex.
The good and bad news: There was an insurance policy on the Belk Dining Hall, but it offers only $1 million in coverage.
A community campaign will soon be launched to raise the remaining $2.5 million, officials said. In the meantime, a GoFundMe account has been set up by the Mecklenburg County Council of Boy Scouts to raise $500,000 for site cleanup and other immediate needs. By Thursday evening, 64 people had donated $9,017.
McDowell County fire investigators, along with the State Bureau of Investigation, have concluded the fire was accidental and originated in the kitchen, said Mark Turner, head of the Mecklenburg County Council. Belk Dining Hall was the hub of the 1,250-acre Camp Grimes, which is just north of Shelby in the foothills of McDowell County. Turner calls the building “iconic,” noting it was a central part of countless camp traditions.
“The memories built over the last 40 years are steeped deep within our community and this is a tremendous emotional loss to our Scouting family,” Turner said in a statement, noting historical memorabilia and a hand carved entrance erected in 1976 were among the losses.
“Structures can be rebuilt, but we lost some items that can never be replaced...The memorabilia has taken decades to gather, but we know deep inside we will begin to build our new memories and traditions.”
One of the chief problems facing the council now, he says, is that a replacement dining hall must be built to different standards.
Belk Dining Hall was not insulated and didn’t have heat or air conditioning. It also proved to be too small (seating only 400) as the popularity of the camp grew to 40,000 camper nights annually. The plan now, Turner says, is to build an expanded hall with heat and air conditioning. The adjacent open shelter, which sustained fire damage, will also be improved, along with the trading post and laundry facility. Entrances to the entire central complex will be improved.
The fire that destroyed the dining hall was discovered at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The building was a total loss, but firefighters arrived in time to keep it from spreading to other parts of the camp, which was made more susceptible to fire by the state’s ongoing drought.