Girl Scout Council listens to its members
Sal of four camp properties taken "off the table"
Monday, April 01, 2013 4:44 AM
The voices of Girl Scouts who want to save their beloved camps have been heard - at least for now.
A vote by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois (GSEIWI) Board on whether to sell four Girl Scout camps in Iowa was cancelled last week following a request for an injunction to stop it.
"We value the opinions and thoughts of all our volunteers and members and appreciate their passion for this process," said Diane Nelson, CEO of GSEIWI, following the decision.
Two weeks ago, a group of four former camp staff members and volunteers filed a document in Scott County asking a judge to stop the Girl Scout Council's Board from voting on the proposed sale of four camps Thursday, March 28, as scheduled.
The camps in question include Camp Tahigwa in Allamakee County, Camp Conestoga in Scott County, Camp Little Cloud in Dubuque County and Camp L-Kee-Ta in Des Moines County.
Plaintiffs in the case included Debra Stork of Dubuque County, Sherry O'Keefe of Muscatine County, Michelle Weber of Dubuque County, Kelly Gilhooly of Scott County and Lisa Tank of Scott County.
After the Council cancelled the vote, Susan Hess of East Dubuque, Ill., attorney for the plaintiffs, told Scott County Judge Mark Larson the group was withdrawing its request for an injunction, but are still awaiting a ruling on whether or not the Council's 5,600 eligible voting members should be allowed to vote on the sale of the camps.
"We are very pleased with the outcome," O'Keefe told Steven Martens of the Quad City Times Wednesday.
The plaintiffs alleged that as a nonprofit organization, the Council must allow the eligible voting members of the Council to vote on the sale. They contended the 5,600 "eligible voting members" are "legally entitled to vote upon the proposal to sell the four camps owned by the respondent."
The petitioners also requested a temporary injunction to keep the Council's Board of Directors from voting upon the recommendation of the property committee to sell all four of the camps "until such time as the Respondent has demonstrated ... that it has established an adequate procedure to include its eligible voting members in such vote."
The petition asserted that according to state law, the Council must get approval of its voting membership to vote on any sale of "all, or substantially all" of the Council's property.
In an interview with Council spokesperson Shelly Wells Cain, Martens reported Cain felt Council officials didn't think the proposed sale met the aforementioned criteria, as the camp properties only comprise about 29 percent of the Council's assets.
"I don't really think there's much of a case, honestly," she said.
In a statement issued by GSEIWI last Wednesday, Nelson said "the original recommendation from the property committee released Feb. 5 to sell all four current camps is off the table."
Nelson added, "We value the opinions and thoughts of all our volunteers and members and appreciate their passion for this process. We look forward to reaching a position, in which we are all on the same page: able to fulfill the organization's mission to the girls while responsibly investing in the future of our outdoor experiences."
The Board was to have held a work session to "discuss, review and revise the preliminary recommendation provided by the property committee. Following their discussion, a fully developed recommendation will be shared with all members of GSEIWI along with the Board meeting notification."
"The Girls Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois is committed to open communication throughout this process. Updates will be provided as they come available, shared via the GSEIWI website and blog as well as Facebook," concluded the statement from GSEIWI.
Brecka Putnam, a 2000 graduate of Decorah High School who lives in the Twin Cities, has been attending Camp Tahigwa for the past 25 years.
Putnam said, "I am pleased that the Board of Directors is delaying their vote, and especially pleased by CEO Diane Nelson's comment about reaching a position 'in which we are all on the same page.'
"Given the majority of the feedback from members has been that all four camps are important for fulfilling our mission, it should follow that this new position will not include a recommendation to sell any of our camps, including Tahigwa. I applaud the Board for their dedication, and am hoping they will reach out to us as members and let us know what we can do to help ensure that all of our camps are thriving, sustainable, and instilling confidence, courage and character in the girls they serve."
Last Friday, GSEIWI released a statement detailing what had happened in their work session Thursday.
Recommendations included one centrally located and modernized residential camp established in New Liberty, currently Camp Conestoga.
Accroding to GSEIWI, benefits of a modernized and expanded residential camp include:efficient use of volunteer and camp resources; eliminating duplication that results in providing expanded offerings such as customized outdoor packaged experiences; year-round, unique programming such as integrating leading STEAM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) into traditional camp activities with purpose; and modern and rustic elements, as well as buildings equipped for year-round use and ADA accessible facilities wherever possible - inviting to a greater audience.
After the project is complete, land which is not needed for the new camp will be divested.
The Board also identified key actions to be taken with the other three camp properties. To accomplish this, the Council will:
Adapt Camp Tahigwa, Camp Little Cloud and Camp L-Kee-Ta to be used for troop activities, day camps, overnights and council events.
Benefits of this plan include: maintaining an outdoor experience for all locations by using current facilities as focused outdoor program centers
Expanding property interest by developing cost effective, self-guided activities with existing facilities such as, nature trails, adventure hikes and activity kits.
Utilizing volunteers and part-time staff to provide program and maintenance needs.
When the specific land and facility needs for these properties have been determined, and the new resident camp project schedule is finalized, land which is not needed for the outdoor program centers will be divested.
A full copy of the revised recommendation is available on the GSEIWI website: GirlScoutsToday.org.
This recommendation will go to a vote at the next GSEIWI Board meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m. via teleconference from each leadership center.