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Sacred memories vs. real estate

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We don’t envy the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois board’s decision on summer camps.

But we’re awestruck by the council’s active outreach throughout the region, and the heartfelt responses from Scout supporters.

No one can accuse the regional council’s board of trying to pull a fast one.

Council director Diane Nelson posted a recommendation Feb. 6 to close four regional camps and invest proceeds into a new outdoor center. She followed up with five live forums, culminating with a Quad-City meeting March 12.

In those meetings, and on these pages, the local council is taking a beating from strong scouting supporters with life-changing memories from Camp Conestoga, Camp Little Cloud, Camp Tahigwa and Camp L-Kee-Ta.

We fully understand the camp connection. Almost every parent wants to share their wonderful camp experience with their children.

“The classic camp experience is very important,” Bonnie Banks of Bettendorf said at the Quad-City forum. “Sleeping on the ground, building a fire, cooking your meal all on your own, and even using a latrine — as gross and scary as that is — is a great memory that I had at Girl Scout camp. Frankly, when I returned to Camp Conestoga and found those girls were flushing toilets, I thought those girls were getting ripped off.”

We’re not sure many of today’s Scouts lament the absence of outhouses.

But we are sure that girls in nature can discover things about themselves and their world that city living doesn’t divulge. We are sure that a summer program based solely on kids’ preferences might not venture far from air conditioning and wireless access. And we’re sure that the future of the local Girl Scouts summer programs gets better — not worse — when the local council channels all of those heartfelt summer camp recollections into new outdoor experiences for today’s girls.

Those memories have turned Camp Conestoga, Camp Little Cloud, Camp Tahigwa and Camp L-Kee-Ta into sacred ground for many former Scouts and involved parents. But it is the experience — not just the real estate — that is sacred.

Close the camps? Keep them open? Close some? The council can’t make a bad decision if it channels that outpouring of beloved memories to create new outdoor experiences today’s girls can enjoy and treasure forever. Those experiences — activities and challenges that lift confidence and forge lifelong friendships — do not rely on sacred real estate. But they are absolutely dependent on the support and participation of those who shared revered memories from the old camps.

Let those those memories and ardent support, not just the real estate, shape outdoor experiences for 21st century Girl Scouts.


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