A five-year usage study of four camp properties owned by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois has led to a recommendation that the facilities be sold, the organization announced Tuesday.
The camps are 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.
“We were all a little bit shocked at the recommendation,” said Shelly Wells Caine, vice president of development and marketing for the organization. “But then we realized what an opportunity this could be.
“Things have changed so much, girls and what they are interested in have changed so much, that less than 10 percent of our membership uses the facilities,” she added.
Also, more younger girls are involved in scouting now, Wells Cain said.
“Years ago it was all fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. Today, it’s mostly second-, third- and fourth-graders. They’re looking for different experiences.
“We’ll have the outdoor experiences, for sure, but we’ll probably do that at some type of program or outdoor center that is more centrally located and near a population base. It may be something in the lodge style.”
The recommendation to sell the four properties to the Girl Scout Council’s Board of Directors came from the volunteer property committee for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.
The study concluded that none of the facilities meets today’s needs of the council’s increasing membership of almost 20,000 girls and 5,000 adults, and to do so would require a total redesign of property infrastructure.
The committee’s research indicated that girls are more interested in adventure and travel opportunities than the rustic camp experiences for which the camps were designed. Declining income from substantially lower attendance in recent years could not keep up with operating costs.
The committee decided that “further investment in the properties is not a responsible use of the council’s financial resources,” said Mary Lagerblade, chairwoman of the board of directors.
“Each year, we subsidize more than 55 percent of our camp facility operating costs, but serve less than 10 percent of our girls,” she added. That is the equivalent of taking away $76 in programming funds from every Girl Scout who did not attend programming at a camp facility.
“Our girls have continued to vote with their participation,” CEO Diane Nelson said. “Even with our steady growth in membership, there has been an ongoing decline in the number of girls using our camp properties despite our best efforts to change this. Meanwhile, the need for improvements to the camps has escalated.”
If the sale of the properties is approved, Nelson said the council would explore development of a new outdoor learning center to serve the current membership.
While many women have fond memories of their time at the camps, “our memories will last forever and the Girl Scouts will continue to build new memories,” Nelson said.