Heaven and hell

Inside the legal, family saga surrounding Camp Bay

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Contributor

Camp Bay has been described as a little slice of heaven.

For the Green family, as well as several lessees who have built cabins on the property over the decades, that’s exactly what it was. Located on the western shores of Lake Pend Oreille south of Sandpoint, the 407-acre property boasts more than 3,000 feet of shoreline and gorgeous views of the lake and mountains. It’s the kind of blue-skied refuge that crystallizes idyllic summertime memories. 

A real estate sign advertises the Camp Bay property, located on Lake Pend Oreille. Cabin lease sites are behind and to the right of the sign. Photo by Ben Olson.

Yet, for nearly a decade, this little slice of heaven has been stuck in a kind of purgatory while siblings battled over its future. Years of court battles and family disputes, replete with allegations of financial manipulation, centered over one central question: What should Camp Bay be? Over the years, it has been used as a homestead, a cattle ranch, a family getaway destination, a timber extraction site, a leased property, a haven for natural beauty and more. 

But Camp Bay’s days as a family-held property may be numbered. Jim Green, who holds a controlling interest in the land, is moving toward parcelling and selling it. 

“The selected plan will maintain a density similar to what exists today,” Jim wrote in an email. “The County has approved 21 lots based upon historic use.  The shift from the present lease dwellings to new homes will also see the introduction of state of the art waste management technologies which will be a great improvement on the existing sewer management now near Lake Pend Oreille.”   

Pioneering beginnings

The modern history of Camp Bay reaches back to 1902, when John van Schravendyk homesteaded the property. According to his obituary, he followed his mother out to Bonner County from his birthplace in Minneapolis to settle on an adjoining quarter. Van Schravendyk later married school teacher Kate Voorhees, and the couple had a single child together: Jeanne van Schravendyk.

According to her obituary, Jeanne was born in a log house at the Camp Bay homestead in 1927 and enjoyed a North Idaho childhood, riding her horse to school, earning valedictorian status at her Hope high school and eventually graduating from North Idaho Junior College. After a brief stint working at Farragut Naval Base, she relocated to Portland, Ore., where she met and married Ralph Green. The couple lived in Portland until the 1960s, when the van Schravendyks passed away. In 1969, Jeanne Green moved back to the homestead with her husband and, together, they managed the land until 2012, when old age made residence there impractical.

Over the course of her life, Jeanne Green developed a reputation for a love of nature and her support of environmental conservation. Perhaps the best example of that is her work on Pearl Island. 

Randy Green and Judy Paullus stand with their daughter Megan Green and family friends Staci Borup and Sara Muzechenko before the old homesteader cabin where Randy’s mother was raised. Photo by Ben Olson.

Homesteaded by her uncle, Henry van Schravendyk, in 1907, the 10-acre island passed down to his daughter, Lorraine van Schravendyk Haecker. Haeker specified in her will that after her death, she wanted Pearl Island donated to a conservation entity chosen by her cousin Jeanne. In 2009, after Haecker’s death in 2008, Green facilitated the transfer of Pearl Island to Idaho Fish and Game as a wildlife management area. Pearl Island is available for public day use and serves as a sanctuary for eagle nests.

Sibling rivalry

Ralph and Jeanne Green had five children: Jim Green, Gary Green, Randy Green, Kathy Lefor and Sheila Green. After the couple moved away from Camp Bay, the question of how it would be managed — particularly in a real estate market when waterfront Lake Pend Oreille property could sell for millions — became more pressing.

In 1976, to better manage their assets, the Greens formed Green Family Enterprises, Inc.

“It was my understanding that she did this for two reasons,” Randy Green told the Reader in an email. “Owning the property jointly, her heirs wouldn’t be fighting over how to divide the acreage, and secondly, she wanted the extra benefit of corporate law just so it wouldn’t be a family squabble.”

According to Idaho Supreme Court documents, by 1998, the Greens gifted a 10% interest in the corporation to each of the four siblings excluding Sheila, who is developmentally disabled. The remaining 60% of shares went to the Ralph Maurice and Jeanne Green Revocable Inter Vivos 2 Trust, which was to be distributed equally to the four children upon the Greens’ death.

Money came into the corporation through two means: logging and leases. With more than 400 acres of timberland, Camp Bay is a ripe source of natural resources, and it contains 16 leasable sites for cabins, which are owned by the site lessees.

But by 2011, all the siblings were disinherited except for Jim, who was specified to receive the entirety of the trust.

Megan Green points out the former site of a barn that has been removed, which she honored with a tattoo. Photo by Ben Olson.

According to Jim Green, that decision was born from frustration by Jeanne and Ralph Green over Gary, Randy and Kathy’s questioning of their ability to make competent, informed decisions.

The three disinherited siblings, on the other hand, say their parents were manipulated by Jim Green in a case Randy describes as elder financial abuse.

The first signs of a family rift appeared in 2010, according to Idaho Supreme Court documents. At the time, Jim Green sought to secure a long-term, low-cost Camp Bay lease for a residence of his own. But the other siblings opposed his plan. They said it could be seen as self-dealing and imperil the corporation’s tax status. It was after this meeting that Ralph and Jeanne Green sought to make Jim first successor trustee in place of Gary.

The three siblings sought their own legal counsel and, in 2011, Camp Bay tenants received a letter questioning the elder Greens’ competence managing the property.

“Any purported efforts to enter into long term leases or other purported leases, contrary to the existing annual leasing system terms, will be subjected to severe scrutiny, and if necessary, legal action,” the letter read.

Following the letter’s distribution, Ralph and Jeanne met with a new lawyer of their own, Richard Wallace. Between April and September 2011, three key amendments were added to the trust. The first replaced Gary with Jim as successor trustee. The second divided the property equally but would go to charity if the children reached no agreement on a conservation easement. When the conservation easement failed to materialize, a third amendment awarded all trust assets to Jim and disinherited the other siblings.

There were points during these key months where it appeared a reconciliation might be possible. Jim expressed consternation over the possibility in an email exchange with Steve Klatt, a hired property manager, that surfaced during the legal battle.

“The implication is I could end up with some pernicious people as partners,” Jim said in the email. “In fact, I can hear them sharpening their flaying knives in anticipation of getting control.”

“Allowing this episode to be water under the bridge someday before too long does not mean a significant effort is not made right now to prevent these three yahoos from ever having control of the family property,” Klatt wrote.

Following the disinheritance, Kathy, Gary and Randy filed a lawsuit against the corporation, alleging manipulation by their brother and the need for a third party to address Jeanne’s interests. First District Judge John Mitchell dismissed the lawsuit in 2014. In January 2017, the Idaho Supreme Court upheld the dismissal.

“Essentially, this Court’s opinion of all the evidence in this case is that the three plaintiffs, having fouled their own nest via their behaviors vis-a-vis their parents which culminated in [the letter to Camp Bay tenants], now seek to blame [Jim Green] for the stench,” Mitchell wrote in his opinion.

Throughout the proceedings, a point of contention was Sheila Green, who Randy asserts hasn’t been properly cared for according to his parents’ wishes. The siblings argued in court it was inconsistent that Sheila was disinherited along with them, since she wasn’t a party to the dispute.

Another major argument questioned whether Jeanne was competent to manage her own interests. In 2012, during the attempt to secure a third-party conservator, a court determined that she was, Randy said. Another decision just months later reversed that competency decision.

The three siblings maintain that Jeanne wasn’t fit to make her own decisions.

Docks in front of the handful of cabins owned by leaseholders at Camp Bay on a bright summer day. Photo by Ben Olson.

“In 2010, she asked me to turn the oven on, because she couldn’t figure out how to work it,” Randy said.

Likewise, Megan Green, Randy’s daughter, says a Camp Bay lessee confirmed to her that her cousin hid Jeanne from her in August 2012. She alleges they worried, with her training as a registered nurse, she would recognize how impaired she was.

“They claimed she had a meeting in town they didn’t know about (meanwhile she couldn’t remember her kids names, let alone an appointment),” Megan wrote in an email. “My cousin Annie, who is also a nurse, had visited her a little bit earlier in the year and reported back to her mom, Kathy, how bad she was.”

Shortly after the Idaho Supreme Court decision in February 2017, Jeanne passed away. She followed her husband, Ralph Green, who passed away in 2013.

The future of Camp Bay 

In March 2018, Camp Bay went on the market with an asking price of $13.5 million, although the intention is to sell it in parcels. This presents a prickly situation for the property lessees, who say the coming months are filled with uncertainty.

Ally Unzen and her husband arranged their lease and built their cabin in 2006, moving there full-time in 2007. Over the course of their residence, she said they became close with the Green family, Jeanne and Ralph included. But now, it’s hard to say what their future looks like.

In February, they received a letter stating their lease would not be renewed. They also heard other cabin owners were told to be out by the end of September.

“To me, that’s not even possible if people want to dismantle their cabins,” she said.

Jim says lessees were informed about the end of the leases in February and were invited to a meeting in 2014 that included a timeline for Camp Bay’s future. He maintains it’s been clear for years that Camp Bay was moving in the direction of a sale. 

If they are forced to leave Camp Bay, Unzen said they will tear down their cabin and use the materials to build elsewhere. But their preference is to stay. Initially, they disputed their lease’s termination, but recent investigations on their part indicate the language is “poorly worded but legally sound,” she said.

Disagreements also persist over how the land is managed. Randy says the ecology of Camp Bay has been dramatically altered through past clear-cutting operations. But Jim says Camp Bay has been managed with fire safety and natural beauty in mind, with 40,000 new seedlings planted to promote more sustainable diversity of species.

Legal disputes are one thing, but the familial rifts, on the other hand, aren’t so easily resolved. According to Randy, he and his sibling allies grew closer as they navigated the turbulent legal waters together. The relationship between Jim and the other siblings, however, sustained serious damage. While Jim is optimistic about the future of Camp Bay and believes his plans are in keeping with its legacy, he said the future that Jeanne Green hoped for may never be realized.

“Unfortunately, what my mother wanted most was a harmonious family, united in advancing her values about this land,” Jim wrote in an email. “Because of divisions within the family, and realities of the marketplace, this will not happen as she desired.”

Additional reporting by Ben Olson.

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