The Dubuque Telegraph Herald
The Girl Scouts are so firmly stitched into the fabric of American life that it’s easy to consider them a public institution.
However, notwithstanding its roster of more than 60 million members and alumnae, its congressional charter and the extra pounds Americans have deliciously taken on in support of cookie sales, Girl Scouts of the USA is a private organization, not an arm of government or a public utility.
As a private organization, albeit established for public good, Girl Scouts of the USA is free to make its own decisions, including whether to sell Camp Little Cloud and three other camps within its Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois Council. There is public interest in what is decided.
To its credit, the council’s board scheduled a half-dozen meetings to hear public comment about the proposal to sell the four camps and possibly create a single, modern outdoor center. This is not a closed-door, secret decision.
The fourth meeting, held Thursday night in Dubuque, featured the expected elements of emotion and nostalgia. Current and former Scouts spoke passionately about their positive experiences at camp and their hopes that the facilities will remain open so that other girls may derive the same enjoyment. Clearly, for these young ladies, camp has been an important part of their lives.
If no one enjoyed the “primitive” camp experience, no one would have attended the hearing, and the board’s decision would be an easy one. Clearly, there are girls who have enjoyed Girl Scout camp and wish to see it continue. The emotion with which they spoke reflects the importance they place on the camp and its activities.
However, let’s remember that people who do not or did not care for camping are not likely to show up at a public hearing such as the one in Dubuque the other evening. You won’t hear anyone say, “I don’t like hiking, canoeing or overnighting, so please close the camp.”
The fact is that officials of the Girl Scouts do not feel they can afford to keep those camps open with recent levels of participation. That is why they are considering the sale of Camp Conestoga in Scott County, Camp Little Cloud, Camp L-Kee-Ta in Des Moines County and Camp Tahigwa in Allamakee County.
Yogi Berra, known more for his malaprops than his baseball stardom, once said, “If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?” Similarly, if Girl Scouts don’t want to sign up for summer camp, how can one stop them?
There might not be enough participation to keep four summer camps operating as they have for many years. But is there enough for one or two of the four to remain open? Hopefully, after hearing how important camp is to those who participate, the council’s board will take another look at that. A decision is expected on Thursday, March 28.
In two days, the Girl Scouts will mark their 101st anniversary. During their century-plus, first as the American Girl Guides and then Girl Scouts, the organization has responded countless times to the changing needs and interests of its members as well as economic realities. The reduced interest in summer camp appears to be another one of those changes.
The Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois Council faces a difficult decision. However, there is little reason to believe that its board will not decide in good faith what it thinks will be best for the organization and the majority of its participants.