Plans by some Girl Scout councils around the country to close and sell their summer camps have volunteers and parents up in arms. Meetings on the issue in some places have been so heated that police were called.
An Associated Press story about the closings picked up by NPR and other news organizations had some families wondering about the future of Girl Scout camps in Michigan. But the Heart of Michigan Council that includes Kalamazoo and 33 other counties says it is expanding summer camp programs.
Council Program Manager Jenn Beaumont says its CEO and Board of Directors remains committed to its camping programs. The council operates nine camps around the state. They and other Girl Scout programs serve about 17,000 girls each year. Beaumont says about 2,000 are expected to attend camp this summer.
The Heart of Michigan Council is selling one of its camps. Girl Scout officials say Camp Crawford near Milan had been losing money since 2008. They also say that there were two other, larger camps are less than an hour’s drive away. The Council says it will use proceeds from the sale of the camp to improve its other programs around the state. Camp Merrie Woode in Barry County is the closest to Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.
Officials at Girl Scout councils in other states that are shutting camps down say fewer girls are interested in them these days. But Beaumont says that may be because many girls don’t know about the summer camps and would be interested if they did. Once they go, she says they usually want to come back. Beaumont says summer camp can be a life-changing experience for many girls and helps build self-esteem. That can involve something as simple, and potentially terrifying, as getting through the anxiety of leading fellow campers in a song.
Beaumont says the Heart of Michigan Council brought together volunteers, board members, and people in communities statewide to evaluate its camp programs with an eye to improving and expanding them. She says work a plan based on those conversations is now underway. Some camps will get more “high adventure” facilities, including a new climbing wall being built at Camp Merrie Woode. Although Beaumont says today’s Girl Scout camper tends to prefer sleeping in a cabin rather than a tent, a new “Bling Your Tent” program this summer is drawing interest.
Get more information about the Heart of Michigan Girl Scout Council’s camps here or by calling (800) 497-2688.