Girl Scouts not happy with downsizing at Camp Archbald

Source: Wyoming County Examiner

Article published by Wyoming County Examiner by Jim Lockwood, published February 28, 2018.

Read here: http://wcexaminer.com/news/girl-scouts-not-happy-with-downsizing-at-camp-archbald-1.2307340

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TIMES-SHAMROCK PHOTO/SARAH HOFIUS HALL Girl Scouts climb the tower at Camp Archbald in Brooklyn Twp., Susquehanna County, on Saturday during aMAZE, an anti-bullying overnight workshop.

Opposition mounts to a regional Girl Scout organization’s decisions to downsize Camp Archbald in Susquehanna County — the second-oldest Girl Scout camp in the nation — and eliminate overnight camping there.

The downsizing by Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania includes plans to sell half of century-old Camp Archbald’s 288 acres and demolish about half of its 24 structures.

Residential camps, including week-long overnight camps and three-day troop adventure camps, were eliminated for this year.

A group called Supporters of Camp Archbald set a meeting for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Factoryville Borough Building “to figure out a way to make sure that this camp exists for another 100 years,” said member Nikki Morristell.

Supporter Deb Sweppenheiser agreed.

“We’re reasonable,” she said. “We’re asking them to save a camp that deserves saving. It’s the second-oldest camp in the nation. … She deserves saving. For them to take this away from all these girls in the Northeast, it breaks our hearts.”

The moves are financially necessary and part of a larger restructuring of the organization’s seven camps across 30 counties of Central and Northeast Pennsylvania, operators said.

The restructuring announced in November called for retaining some camps and “retiring” others. With a 30 percent enrollment decline over five years — down to 17,000 last year — Camp Archbald fell in between the two extremes: it was kept open but cut back.

GSHPA’s goals include keeping the facility at 100 Camp Archbald Road in Brooklyn Twp. open and enhancing offerings to increase membership, operators said.

“We want to maintain as much of that camp as we can,” said GSHPA President/CEO Ellen Kyzer. “We want girls to continue to have that (scouting) experience at Camp Archbald.”

However, the supporters’ group says the moves will destroy Camp Archbald and its scouting tradition.

The closest overnight camp to NEPA now is near Harrisburg, said Morristell of Dalton, who fondly recalled attending Camp Archbald for 12 years as a scout.

“We’re very nervous about what’s going to happen” with Camp Archbald, Morristell said.

Sweppenheiser of Factoryville, a former troop leader whose two daughters attended Camp Archbald, also questioned whether the downsizing is necessary.

She and Morristell said they think GSHPA has not been forthcoming.

Scouts, parents and supporters did not realize GSHPA eliminated overnight camping until recent brochures did not contain that option, Morristell said.

News of selling acreage came next, followed by word of impending demolitions of showers, boat houses, wash stands and latrines, a cottage, the century-old trading post and other camp buildings.

“We did not realize it meant destroying a 100-year-old legacy,” Morristell said of the plans.

Kyzer disputed that assessment, saying the GSHPA board developed plans over 18 months and structures targeted for demolition are in disrepair.

Morristell and Sweppenheiser said GSHPA has ignored an outpouring of offers from people willing to pitch in to keep the camp intact.

A petition of support last month garnered nearly 10,000 signatures in 48 hours.

The downsizing reflects a nationwide trend, Kyzer said.

“Girl Scout councils across the country have divested of camp properties over the past decade, based on utilization and financial pressures,” Kyzer said. “Our board voted on the decision in November, so we’re moving forward with the plan. It was a very long process. We’re happy to have Camp Archbald still open.”

The supporters’ group compiled several handwritten, heartfelt letters from scouts describing personal growth at Camp Archbald and pleading for it to remain as it was.

“You’re making a huge mistake,” wrote Abigail Dalton, of Troop 50451. “I know that you might not understand how important it is to us. You just see a place that if you sell can make you money. It is so much more than what you see it as. It’s a place of memories, a place filled with so much future potential, and a place to give so many girls an opportunity to make new friends and get better social skills. Girl Scouts has personally made me a very more open and more social person.”

Victoria Fiorini, of Troop 50451, also wrote about how the camp is a place to make memories with new and old friends.

“My grandmother went to Camp Archbald and she is 75 years old,” she wrote. “That is how long my family has been going to this camp.”

For details about Camp Archbald or GSHPA, visit http://www.gshpa.org.

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