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Sea Scouts Hoping To Berth In Richmond
July 14, 1998
Berkeley ousted group over anti-gay policy
Suzanne Espinosa Solis, Chronicle Staff Writer Tuesday, July 14, 1998

The Sea Scout troop that lost its free dock at the Berkeley Marina because of the Boy Scouts' controversial national policy banning gays and atheists is now hoping to find a home in Richmond's Marina Bay.

The Richmond City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to allow the Sea Scout Ship Northland, a 73-foot vessel that is used as part of a youth seafaring program, to move to Richmond from Berkeley.

But the idea hasn't received a warm welcome in Richmond.

The Richmond City Manager's office is recommending against the docking, saying the marina has no available space broad enough to safely accommodate the ship and it already docks vessels for free from other Sea Scout programs.

``We believe we're already doing our fair share,'' said Assistant City Manager Leveron Bryant, who added that the acceptance of Northland might prompt other groups to seek free space -- at a loss of revenue to the marina.

Councilman Tom Butt, who is supporting the move, says he thinks Richmond would benefit by bringing the youth program to the city. About a third of the youths in the troop, still in Berkeley, are Richmond residents. Butt wants to allow the Northland to come to Richmond's Marina Bay on the condition that the program raise the Richmond youth participation to 50 percent.

Butt also said one of the current free users of Marina Bay is a Santa Rosa-based Sea Scouts program that serves youth outside the Diablo Boy Scout district, which includes Berkeley, Richmond and several other East Bay communities.

In May, the Berkeley City Council ended a 60-year tradition when it voted to deny free space to the Northland and a second Sea Scouts vessel because its parent group, the Boy Scouts of America, discriminates against gays and atheists. The berthing spaces would cost $12,000 a year -- costs that would be passed down to troop members.

But the Northland program serves underprivileged youth in one of the most ethnically diverse units of the Sea Scouts programs in the Bay Area, said a parent volunteer, Bryan Sheridan.

``If the kids had to pay, then only the kids with a lot of money could join and that's not really what we're about,'' said Sheridan.

Hoping to maintain the current program, the Sea Scouts approached the City of Richmond. The program serves youth from ages 14 through 19, teaching them nautical skills.

``These kids really are learning even though they don't realize it,'' Sheridan said. ``It's not like a classroom situation. All of a sudden they've learned how to read maps and navigate and how to tie knots.''

Butt said it is unfortunate that youth are being punished for the national policies of a parent organization.

``I do not agree with the national Boy Scouts policies on sexual preference but I believe what's happening here locally makes no sense,'' said Butt.

``This unit does not practice that policy. But instead of praising these people for being accepting, we're condemning them,'' Butt said.