Council passes new plan for Girl Scout camps

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The Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois’ Board of Directors voted Thursday to pass a revised camp recommendation that would save four area camp properties from immediate sale.

“We have to create efficiencies, we have to move forward. Change is good to meet today’s needs, but we’re always going to have this great camp experience. I think many of us feel like this is just an amazing solution,” said Shelly Wells Cain, VP of Development and Marketing.

The recommendation that was passed calls for one new, resident camp site at Camp Conestoga in New Liberty, Iowa. Plans include both modern and rustic elements, as well as buildings equipped for year-round use and ADA accessible facilities. A task force of girls and volunteers will be asked to participate in the designing, naming, and planning of the project.

The New Liberty site is the most centrally-located Girl Scout camp. Redevelopment will start in the fall, with completion expected by 2015. Land which is not needed for the new camp will be sold.

The three other camps, Camp Tahigwa, Camp L-Kee-Ta, and Camp Little Cloud, will become outdoor program centers, used for troop activities, overnights, and smaller council events. Land which is not used for these new centers will also be sold.

The Council will offer transportation from leadership centers in Decorah, Waterloo, and West Burlington to the new resident camp at no extra cost to girls.

Thursday’s vote came after the property committee first recommended selling all four camps in February, due to lower camp attendance and declining income. The council then hosted six town halls throughout the state, allowing its members to voice their concerns and ideas. A grassroots effort known as “Save Our Scout Camps” was formed to fight the sale.

In March, five adult volunteers filed a lawsuit to stop the council from voting on the recommendation to sell. At an injunction hearing, an agreement was announced that postponed the vote and resulted in a revised recommendation, or compromise, from the Council.

That revised recommendation was passed at a Thursday board meeting held via video conference.

Members of the “Save Our Scout Camps” movement have continued to express concern over the recommendation, stating in a press release that, “They are very concerned that the new recommendation still leaves most of the camps in jeopardy, fails to define the specifics of the council’s vision and financial plan for the new modern central camp, and does not identify the criteria for what will constitute ‘unutilized land.’”

One such member, Jane I. Duax, said she was frustrated with Thursday’s vote.

“It’s very disappointing that this Girl Scout Council that serves 38 counties in a bi-state area would think that one camp would suffice,” said Duax.

Senior scout member Amanda Boyer, though, was pleased with the results of Thursday’s vote.

“We’ll have a resident camp now, so that makes me happy, because before we didn’t know if we were still gonna have a resident camp. It’s gonna be a resident camp, we just don’t know what it’s going to be like. It’ll be a new experience for all of us, but we still have a camp, so that’s exciting,” said Amanda Boyer.