Leaders of the local Girl Scout council have the right to make fiscal decisions regarding any sale of property without the approval of members, a Scott County judge has ruled.
In January, a two-day trial was held on a lawsuit that sought to prevent the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois from selling its four camps. The first case of its kind in Iowa highlighted an emotional debate that has involved local Girl Scouts organizations across the country as they try to sell aging camps.
Council CEO Diane Nelson said she was relieved to hear the verdict Monday.
“It hasn’t really stopped us from moving forward with providing great outdoor programs for our girls, but it’s unfortunate we had to use so many resources with the case,” she said.
Nelson identified the resources as “thousands of dollars, and endless hours and time that we had to use to defend.”
The five women who sought to block disposal of property without the approval of members released a statement Monday night saying they are evaluating their options.
Jane I. Duax, who was among those who testified at the trial, called the ruling "a shame."
“Boy, that’s too bad,” she said Monday night. “The Girl Scout movement is supposed to be led by members and create leaders, yet they don’t trust their members to make intelligent decisions and vote on property that donors from the community raised with cookie sales.”
Duax, whose 11-year-old daughter is a Girl Scout, was the last witness to testify for the petitioners in January’s trial.
More than a year ago, a council committee recommended that the camps be sold. Adult members sought an injunction, and the council adopted a different land-use plan that retains the camp.
Nelson testified that the plan never was to sell the camps, but to build a better, more modern and centralized camp for all the girls in the 38 counties served by the council.
“We’ve never intended to take away any Girl Scout camping program,” Nelson said. “We just want to enhance it and try to build facilities that serve our girls.”
Nelson said the additions Camp Conestoga will include a new lodge and cabin facilities. She added the improvements will accomplish the council’s goal of providing year-round camping opportunities in addition to permanently hosting the organization’s nine-week summer resident camp at Camp Conestoga.
In years past, the resident camp has been held at both Little Cloud in Dubuque and Conestoga. This summer, the camp will be held at Little Cloud, while the council raises money to solidify the future construction plans for Camp Conestoga, said Nelson.