A Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois council has recommended the sale of four camp properties that no longer meet the organization’s needs.
“Research has shown that girls are more interested in adventure and travel opportunities than the rustic camp experiences that the camps were designed for,” said a statement from the council. “We have offered resident camp, troop camping, numerous outdoor opportunities and have strategically marketed camp, yet our numbers have continued to decline. Girls are telling us and showing us that traditional camping is not what they want.”
A council committee recommended selling Camp Conestoga in Scott County, Camp Little Cloud in Dubuque County, Camp L-Kee-Ta in Des Moines County and Camp Tahigwa in Allamakee County. The Board of Directors must vote to finalize the decision on March 28.
Lower attendance has resulted in declining income, which is not keeping up with operating costs for the camp properties.
The properties are also seeing increased need for improvements if they are to continue to be used as Girl Scout camp facilities. Today’s members want cabins, full lavatory facilities, technology access and climate control – all of which are not available at the current facilities.
The announcement came as a surprise to longtime camp volunteers and troop leaders like Marty Beck.
"The volunteers in this area thought that Conestoga was going to be safe from being closed or sold, so a little bit of a shock... yeah, a lot of a bit of a shock," said Beck.
Council leaders say the sale is not an indication of any financial trouble for the council.
If they sell the camps, the council leaders say they will do a feasibility study among leaders, girls, volunteers and communities to determine how best to use the proceeds from the sale.
CEO Diane Nelson hopes those proceeds will go towards a new outdoor learning center, complete with modern conveniences.
"We will not stop having outdoor programs for our girls. The environment is so important, and they need to learn about the environment, and they want to learn about the environment, just in a different setting," said Nelson.
Volunteers like Beck hope to see a new camp as well.
"Losing all four camps for our council will be a big blow, but if what comes out of this is a new, more modern, better camp, that will better serve our girls," said Beck.
"Our children have this nature deficit, and part of the problem is getting them there to begin with. If we can make our new camp, hopefully, it will be a welcoming place and a place that girls aren't scared to go," she added.
Meanwhile, council leaders say they are moving ahead with scheduled summer camps at all four facilities for summer 2013.
The council promises to respond within 48 hours to anyone who emails their ideas or concerns about the sale of the camps to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The research that led them to decide to sell the camps is available online – click here.