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Recommendations Made to Close Four Girl Scout Camps

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Girls Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois will vote next month on whether to close all four Girl Scout camps in the region. The board of directors received a recommendation to do so from a volunteer property committee who has spent several years doing research, collecting data, and input from volunteers, Girl Scouts, and others.

Allison Johnson, the Vice President of Performance Excellence and Regional Director for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, said it was a set of 3 recommendations. "The first part is that we would sell all four of our camp properties. The second part is that we would do a feasibility study to look at what the needs of the girls are and how they prefer to have an outdoor experience. The third part is that our council will look to partner with other organizations that have facilities that perhaps we could utilize in the interim," she said.

The Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois has seen an increase in membership for the past six years but a decline in the usage of camps. "When you look at 10 percent of your total membership actually utilizing camp facilities, you have to look at how you are allocating dollars towards those. You also have to look at what that costs the council, as well as if this is really a benefit to the total Girl Scout membership," said Johnson. She said by Girl Scouts not attending camp, it sends the message that it's not something they really want to be a part of.

The committee also determined that major infrastructure changes are needed. "They realized that for today's girls, none of the properties meet their expectations or their needs completely. The infrastructure and amenities are just not there to help the girls become comfortable in an outdoor experience," Johnson said.

But for current Girl Scout Lyndsay Gienapp, of Anamosa, camp was an adventure she will never forget. "It was just really fun because we got to go zip lining and we got to go swimming and the counselors were really fun too," she said. Last summer was Gienapp's first time attending Girl Scout camp. She's being selling cookies to go back again this coming summer. "I just like making new friends and just being there. You get all new experiences," she added.

Gienapp's mother, Cristin, was also a Girl Scout growing up and attended the same camp as Gienapp did last summer. "It's sad. I understand times are changing and it does cost a lot of money to keep the camps running, so hopefully just going out and selling more Girl Scout Cookies will help," Cristine said.

Johnson said that if the vote does pass, they will look to partner with other organizations so that the Girl Scouts are still getting an outdoor experience. "That is always going to be the core of our Girl Scout program," she said.

Johnson said Girl Scout camp will proceed as planned this summer. The vote is scheduled for March 28th, which allows people time to provide input before the board of directors votes.

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