Iowa Girl Scouts Closing Rustic Camps Because They’re Rustic

Hi Readers — Yes, yes, I understand that if no Girl Scouts actually sign up for these rustic camps, there’s little point in preserving them. BUT…I really wish parents would see how wonderful a little nature-absorbing/squirrel-watching/fire-building/A.C.-missing/WiFi-not-connecting/latte-lacking time can be. Here’s the letter the Scout leaders sent out to local parents the other day. – L.

Dear Parents: Our founder, Juliette Gordon Low said that ‘the work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.’ It is with that charge that I share the recent recommendation of our council board of directors: to sell all four of our Girl Scout camp properties: Camp Conestoga in Scott County, Camp Little Cloud in Dubuque County, Camp L-Kee-Ta in Des Moines County, and Camp Tahigwa in Allamakee County.

This recommendation was not rushed nor was it simple. It follows five years of data collection and many hours of review from our volunteer property committee, and will go to vote at the March 28 board meeting.

Our girls have continued to vote with their participation. Even with our steady growth in membership and increased marketing efforts, there has been an ongoing decline in the number of girls using our camp properties. Meanwhile, the need for improvements to the camps has escalated.

Today’s girls are more interested in adventure and travel opportunities than the rustic camp experiences that our camps were designed for. Cabins, full restroom facilities, climate control, and technology access are important to them and our volunteers, but aren’t available through our current facilities. To bring each property up to speed would require a major redesign of our property infrastructure.

We are strongly committed to using the revenue from the sale to further support the outdoor leadership experience. The sale of the properties will open the door for us to respond to current trends and needs of girls in our council. At the recommendation of the property committee, we’re excited about exploring the development of a new outdoor learning center which could help us meet the expectations of our current Girl Scout membership.

Juliette Gordon Low referred to Girl Scouts as an organization that should not look the same generation after generation. It should change and evolve as girls change. The core values and mission of our program remains the same but our methods of delivering the program must always be in review. Each of our memories will last forever – and the Girl Scouts will continue to build new memories.


Having a virtual time, wish you were here!

69 Responses to Iowa Girl Scouts Closing Rustic Camps Because They’re Rustic

  1. Silver Fang February 11, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Wow! That’s sad. Isn’t getting away from the trappings of modern life supposed to be part of being a Scout? I remember my sister complaining that all my nephew’s former Boy Scout troop did was sit around indoors, doing crafts. They never hiked outside or went camping.

    Something is seriously wrong when the Scouts abandon their core principles to please today’s pampered tech generation.

  2. Kristin February 11, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    This makes me so SAD!!!! I just wrote a blog last week (in honor of Girl Scout Cookie Day) about how much I valued my time at (a VERY rustic) Girl Scout camp – I wonder if there is anything that can be done!!

    I am so sad. My camp closed years ago – the council combined with other councils and they shut down all but one camp. So so sad. I wonder where these girls will learn the skills I learned at camp.

  3. Daven February 11, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    What’s sad is that people don’t want the rustic experience anymore. As Lenore said, there’s no use offering a service if nobody wants to use it.

    I remember, as a GS camp counselor in the 1980s, having to take away a kid’s transistor radio. The camp had a “no radio” policy. And canvas tents and cots with mosquito netting. The girls were always worried at first about staying clean (showers were every other day), but by the end of a week they were pretty much all grubby and happy.

  4. Cynthia812 February 11, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    This makes me really sad, too. I wonder to what degree the lack of “technology access” bothers the parents who want to call/email their child everyday more than it does the girls? And if children today will ever have a time in their lives that they are completely unhooked for more than two hours.

  5. K February 11, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    They will NOT learn those skills, unless they go to college and major in outdoor education or the like. Some 70% of teens show increased stress responses when they are removed from their smart phones. And, you think they’d like to be outside?

  6. Liz K February 11, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    The real story here is that GSUSA is closing down these rustic camps all over the country and it is NOT because people don’t want them. In my area, there was a HUGE outcry from scouts & their families about closing these camps. There is a concerted effort on the part of GSUSA to close these expensive facilities to maintain and streamline their operations. GSUSA paid consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars to create this “data” rather than maintain and support facilities. Read the article below, and realize this is happening all over the country:

    These camps are used, they are full — our troop cannot get a reservation to use the facilities to camp there because all the cabins are booked every weekend. I understand that some of the camps are run at a loss, but GSEP (for example) could raise the cost of their camps — they are very reasonable — or they could easily fundraise or seek sponsorship of the camps. GSUSA is a non-profit organization that raises millions of dollars (ask me how many cases of Girl Scout Cookies are in my house right now) and you would think that they could use the money they raise to support the core mission of the organization. Imagine how much $$ the organization will earn when they sell these camps to real estate developers.

    The “survey” and their data are cooked. The survey they distributed asked adults leading questions, such as “would you prefer facilities that include air conditioning?” rather than, “is air conditioning more important to you than providing a traditional, rustic camp experience for your daughter.” In the article I linked below, one parent points out that perhaps for a first-time camping experience for a younger child, a less-rustic offering might be better, but my daughter, at age 12, loves to camp in her tent and sleep outside in the open air at her GS camp, one that is closing.

    So please, place the blame where it belongs, not on parents or scouts, but on the organization. GSUSA has become a politicized organization that is intent on moving away from their traditions regardless of what the membership actually want. Closing rustic camps is just ONE of the ways that they are doing this, but the whole program is changing in ways that old Scouts would not recognize.

  7. Jessi February 11, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    My daughter has wanted to go to some offered here but they are SO expensive it’s beyond our doing, same for most of the other girls. The reasons for girls not attending are numerous.

  8. Hi, I'm Natalie. February 11, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Meh. I think it’s more sad that PARENTS don’t take their kids backcountry, or that they think the only way to teach their kids how to have fun and live in “rustic” settings is to farm them off to camps. My daughter was about 7 months old when she was taken cross-country skiing, about a year old when she went tenting in the Rockies, and expect that she’ll take up kayaking in the next year or so. I find it baffling that parents would allow their kids to go to a camp with wifi and “climate control”, but maybe that’s just me.

  9. gap.runner February 11, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    How sad. When I was in the Girl Scouts I went to summer camp in the mountains outside of Los Angeles and loved it. We slept outside, hiked, rode horses, swam, and had a lot of fun. The whole idea was to get away from the city and experience nature.

    My son’s Boy Scout troop goes to a German “tent camp” for a week every summer. He loves it! As the name implies, the kids sleep in tents. There is a contingency plan to bring the kids into the big storage shed during thunderstorms. The kids bring their bikes and they go on bike rides to a lake that’s about 5 km away. They also hike, cook over a campfire, swim, play all sorts of games, and have a great time. The bathrooms, which are very rustic, are about 50 meters away from the tents. Every year they have to turn down kids who want to attend this camp.

    The kids aren’t allowed to bring mobile phones or any electronics to the tent camp. But the leaders have phones in case of emergencies. There is even a notice in the brochure for the camp telling parents not to call because it makes the kids more homesick. The leaders say that the kids adapt better when the parents don’t call. There are no cameras and there is no website to log onto to see how your kid is doing. When my husband and I picked up our (very dirty) son after his first year there, our son’s first words were, “I want to come back here next year!”

  10. Liz K February 11, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    @ Jessi, one the things that gets me so steamed is that GSUSA should be focused on providing more scholarships and financial support to girls who want to go to a traditional camp rather than “investing” in expanding facilities, providing wi-fi and climate control to girls who can afford it.

    While it is true that GS camps aren’t “cheap,” they are certainly more affordable than any other sleep-away camp experience which can be easily in the mid four figures, while my daughter’s 5 day sleep-away camp is less than $400. GS camp is the only way we could actually afford to send our daughter to camp.

    Closing camps means fewer opportunities for girls on all socio-economic levels and rather than pursuing avenues of fundraising to support girls who cannot afford camp, they are simply making it more difficult for more girls to attend. I just don’t get it.

  11. BL February 11, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    I suppose they could just create a Facebook page called “Girl Scout Camp”. No travel required!

  12. RobynHeud February 11, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    This is very saddening to me as well, especially if the GS is simply trying to save money. In my church we go to girl’s camp every year from 12 to 17 years old. I remember in particular one year, the Stake leaders explaining that the camp site that had been chosen for that year had been chosen specifically for it’s rustic qualities. They felt that camp was a time to get back to nature and leave the world behind (and this was even before cell phones were mainstream). It was a half-mile walk to get anywhere, and we had four-person, built-in tents with canvas sides that rolled up to let the air in. Every day we walked probably at least five miles and it was the most memorable year for me out of all of the years we went. I don’t know that I would want my own daughters (should I ever have them) to go “glamping” instead of camping. That’s not what it’s ever been about, and it shouldn’t change now.

  13. joanne February 11, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    They also make it ridiculously difficult to use their camps based on their safety-wise requirements. I took my girls camping at various state parks in WA and since we weren’t under the watchful thumb of GSUSA, we took liberties that we wouldn’t have been able to do had we been at a GSUSA camp. We waded in a river without a lifeguard and a watcher!

    Since they’re getting rid of all 4 I wonder if they’re not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If it is really that the girls are voting with their dollars, it seems like they should have enough to keep at least one running.

    The whole thing is sad, though. My girls knew how to survive without cell phones for the weekend since they couldn’t use them while camping. A lot of parents, though, don’t camp. My scout parents didn’t. They would attend with us because I needed a chaperone but usually fought over who HAD to do it. But they felt it was good for the girls so they supported it. (In fact one year when I proposed not going, they came to me and said yes, we’re going.)

  14. Jenn February 11, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    This is so sad. I grew up at going to Tahigwa in Iowa. My fondest memories are from there.

  15. Becky February 11, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    “Girl Scouts as an organization that should not look the same generation after generation. It should change and evolve as girls change.”

    that’s garbage. it should remain the same. always. that’s the allure of organizations like boy scouts and girl scouts. to learn… um… SCOUTING. to get back to basics. to learn skills that you won’t get online or in a classroom. to get dirt under your nails. to get out in the fresh air, leaving your phone behind.

    this article makes me sad. truly, truly sad. :(

  16. Emily February 11, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I wonder if camping might be the solution to the problem? Maybe the people who are the most vocal about keeping the Girl Scouts camps could organize a “camp in” weekend, where families (or individuals) would pay a certain amount of money to camp for a weekend at either one of the GS camp facilities, or, if booking is a problem, just at some random field or campsite somewhere. For people who can’t commit to the whole weekend, there could also be a barbecue with kids’ games and such, where they could come and have hot dogs and s’mores, and make a donation to the Girl Scouts, to keep the camps open. Also, it’d probably also be a good idea to alert the local media, to get publicity for the event.

  17. Katie February 11, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Liz K., the same thing happened with the Girl Scout camp I attended when I was a girl recently, and the same outcry arose when they attempted to close the camp because people were saying the new consolidated Council, which displaced most of the local Scout leadership who were so critical to keeping the camp running, were manufacturing the problems. I think it’s largely an effort on the part of Girl Scouts to be more profitable. Close down these large and expensive to run camps so they can sink money into other services that are deemed more valuable to suburban parents. Which is sad. Career and leadership skills are valuable, but getting a week out in a cabin in the woods with no electricity or running water canoeing on the lake and hiking in the mountains is just as important for developing healthy minds and bodies.

  18. Rosalyn February 11, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Here is Ohio we are dealing with the same thing. They are closing several of our rustic camps to update the other camps with technology. The girls love the rustic camps and they are always difficult to get reservations in. These girls don’t need technology, they need an opportunity to get away from the world for a bit, that is what camping is about. So sad that the councils have their own agendas.

  19. Kimberly February 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I admit that going to sleep away camp with no AC and no baths scared me as a kid. I was sure I was going to be miserable and covered with a rash head to toe, because of my skin condition. First year was fine. Second year I had some problems, but they made arrangements for me to bathe in the nurses office so I could soak in some medicatated bath stuff my mom had sent in case. Then I only had reactions after horseback riding, so I was pulled from that class

    About the phone thing – the first year they had to call my Dad because I flat out refused to touch a BB gun. My parents had signed me up for gun safety – but because of my age that meant BB instead of a 22. I had been shooting a 22 for years at that point – and Dad had a no BB gun rule (because people treat them as toys instead of weapons). Dad gave me special permission to use their BB guns – I was the top shooter from Day 1 that year. The lady in charge of the gun safety program told my parents, Aunt, and Uncle that if everyone taught their kids like our parents had there would a drastic reduction in accidental discharges and shootings.

    I also flat out refused to swim from the dock out instead I walked out and tested the level of the river myself before swimming out. (I’m very stubborn and a rule follower)

  20. lollipoplover February 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Honestly, I won’t be buying Girl Scout cookies this year. I don’t want to support an organization that turns girls into cookie-selling divas who can’t handle a day without texting. What will the sale of these camps support if camps are being sold and girls scouts in the US no longer experience roasting marshmallows (too dangerous) or enjoy a night without climate control(bad hair days)?
    How do you “support the outdoor leadership experience” it they don’t spend any time outside and need “full restroom facilities, climate control, and technology access” ….AND WHAT DOES IT TEACH GIRLS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?
    Why bother going away at all.

    Sorry for the rant. We are not a scout family. We DO enjoy the outdoors and mountains with family and friends and have camped/cabined near some of the Scout camps in the Adirondacks and Pocono mountains. These camps are national treasures and are near some of the most beautiful lakes and trails (Appalachian). They are always being used around here, even in their “rustic” condition, whatever that means. How else could you view wildlife, like a mother bear and her 2 cubs sniffing out the firepit of our campsite (clean as a whistle) from the view of a top bunk bed and screened window? One scout camp in PA(I think it’s boys) is on it’s own private island accessable by canoe in the middle of the Delaware River. I don’t imagine that it gets a strong cell signal, but I hear the views are spectacular. And no bears.

  21. Liz K February 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    I am a suburban parent who wants my kid to rustic camp, just sayin. I have been involved in scouts for 5 years now, and at now time has a lack of technology been an issue for any of our girls or parents in going camping or spending time outdoors. No one is demanding more technology at camp. No one is demanding more luxurious “glamping.” GSUSA has made this “demand” up because it does not fit with their political and financial goals nationally and the local councils are all falling in line while it is the girls and parents who want a more traditional scouting experience who suffer.

  22. Joy February 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    This is sad! Kids need outdoors, they need to run, and be free. I remember going to camp as a kid, not as a girl scout, but those were the best days!! Friends, fun, nature, horse back riding, crafts, and the freedom to be just that a kid. I hope Girl Scouts reconsider this. Kids spend way too much time in front of the TV and techno devices. I want my kids to camp, play outside, and just be kids without all the technology. I turned out fine and I didn’t have all the technology that my kids have. My parents didn’t have a computer till I was in college and I got it for them. They reluctantly learned it. Technology isn’t the answer…rewind and think back 20 years ago Girl Scouts. Good luck!!

  23. Ronni February 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    This makes me very sad! I was a Girl Scout for several years in the late 80s/early 90s and the VAST majority of my memories of being a Girl Scout involve camping – without electricity! I even came back to be a Girl Scout camp counselor at age 19 at one of these “rustic” type camps in central Texas.

    I always dreamt of having my own daughter one day to put in Girl Scouts, but now that I finally have a daughter (though she’s only 17 months right now), I find that I’m dissapointed in the direction that current generation of Girl Scouts have gone.

    Does anyone know of any other girl scout type organizations out there that still focus on OUTDOOR adventure and camping that I might look into instead for her in a couple years?

  24. Chihiro February 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    I remember my time at Girl Scout camp, nealy ten years ago. (Oh my god, has it been that long?)
    The first year I did it was amazing, I was in a cabin full of girls who genuinely enjoyed being a Scout. I had tons of fun and made some great friendships that lasted several years after our time in camp together.
    The second year I was put in a cabin of girls who did NOT appreciate being there at all. No one ever wanted to go swimming or hiking, the only activity they seemed to actually want to do (besides sitting in the cabin and complaining) was horseback riding. And they were all competitive riders as well.
    I quit the Scouts in middle school, and I still regret it. I feel terrible for all the girls who won’t have the amazing experiences the Girl Scouts have to offer.

  25. mary margaret February 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    This saddens me but I am not surprised. DD was in gs for a year and all they did was do crafts, sell cookies and go to Disney world. They camped once and one of the volunteer parents brought her young son who, with his sister, behaved horribly. The volunteer parent did nothing. It wasn’t just this group. where we used to live, there were so many gs leaders that were scared of bugs it was embarassing. We started called gs the “mall scouts.”

    The troop did not work on badges or do anything to build confidence. I kept telling my dd that she didn’t need gs to do all that. We have tents and 2 canoes. I told her to just gather up some friends and we would take them camping, canoeing, hiking – the whole works. “It’s not the same,” she wailed.

  26. hineata February 11, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Wow, sad. Am glad we can still take our girls out. They’re off to DOC (basically public) land next weekend to camp out. There are basic toilets there now (you don’t have to dig longdrops anymore, hallelujah!) but that is more about keeping the environment healthy than worrying about ‘people comfort’. The toilets still have big gaps up top of the cubicles to allow smells out, and the local insect population in!

    Apologies if someone has talked about it above, but thinking about it, do you need to take girls to actual Guide properties? Can’t you just go to national parks or something? Easy for me to say, I realise – there is zero chance, for example, of my girls being eaten by bears, snakes or mountain lions – but there must be some public land somewhere for camping. The US is, after all, fairly jolly enormous, LOL!

    Actually I think a/c in cabins would be rather cool. But then most of us don’t have a/c in our houses, let alone cabins. The Guide camps we do have are pretty basic, and some of the mattresses smell like they date from pioneer days , so camping out in tents is often a more hygenic experience, as well as being much more fun!

    Also, who is Juliette Gordon Low? My understanding is that Lord and Lady Baden Powell founded the worldwide Scouting and Guiding movements. That’s why the motto is Be Prepared….

  27. backroadsem February 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    RobynHued, I worked five summers at a Boy Scout camp that also catered to the girls’ camps. Entire stakes would buy out the camps, and ours was an extremely rustic camps. The girls would come, complain… and leave happy at the end of the week.

  28. AW13 February 11, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    I think that the technology requirement is ridiculous and a sad statement on today’s kids’ (or parents’) priorities. And, if I were a girl scout out in a rustic camping area during a summer with 100+ degree days with high humidity (which were frequent in Easter Iowa last summer), then I’d want climate control, too. But part of navigating the outdoors is knowing how to survive in extreme weather conditions. (Plus, if I remember Camp Conastoga correctly, there was a more modern section of the facility – and thus, buildings with air conditioning – it just wasn’t near the rustic camping area.)

    As far as the money from the sale of girl scout cookies goes, I know that the majority of it remains at the local level. It is my understanding that this money is shifted around to give scholarship opportunities (like going to camp) and financial aid to girls/troops whose families aren’t able to afford to pay for them to participate in various events.

    Still and all, this is a sad day for scouting, which yes, should reflect the lives of the girls, but should also expose the girls to time honored, unchanging traditions, like respect for the land we live on. Sadly, I’ve just explored two Iowa newspapers online and have seen very little mention of this in either one. And @hineata: The Baden Powells did start the movements. With the help and support of Lord Baden Powell, Juliette Gordon Low founded the first girl scout troop in the United States. So she gets the credit for “starting” girl scouts in our country, even though she didn’t start the entire movement.

  29. WendyW February 11, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Does anyone know of any other girl scout type organizations out there that still focus on OUTDOOR adventure and camping that I might look into instead for her in a couple years?

    quote context:

    The only other girls organization that I am aware of is American Heritage Girls. They were started as an alternative to the feminist/secular bent of GS and are founded on a more traditional Christ-centered ideology. I don’t know how much emphasis they put on outdoor skills. They do not have the extensive infrastructure that GS does, so I assume any camping experiences are dependent on local leadership rather than district facilities.

    Another possibility for older girls is the Venturing arm of Boy Scouts. That branch is co-ed, with a heavy emphasis on outdoor stuff, but is for ages 14 and up.

  30. WendyW February 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    I want to amend the above description of the American Heritage Girls. They are not exclusively Christian, and they use the same religious education materials that are used by the Boy Scouts, which offers options for practically every known religion. However, based on what I know of their history, odds are high that most local troops will have a Christian leadership.

  31. TracyJ February 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    I think that camping rustically can teach you how to be self sufficient

  32. Captain America February 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Girl Scouts!!!

    I remember the first time I strolled through a Girl Scout camp! They had actual cabins! Real walls! Amazing.

    Boy Scout camp for me was a basic canvas tent and sleeping on a faded air mattress for a week. Bugs in my hair, doing our own slop cooking. Fun when you’re 11-14, to be sure!

    But the Girl Scouts have always travelled posh. . .

  33. Donald February 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm #


    I just watched your movie

    Now I can tell everybody that I knew you before you became a celebrity. Seriously thou, I don’t think that pay dirt is very far away.

    The pendulum is swinging the other way. It went from one extreme to the other.

    The parental skills of the baby boomers and the generation before that, (the people that lived through the depression but too young to serve in WW2) viewed that life is hard. “Therefore I must prepare my children to face this by toughening them up”. This was highlighted on the TV show Everybody Loves Ray.

    Frank was a tough guy. He fought in Korea and was proud that he toughened up his kids. There was an episode where Raymond and Robert were reminiscing about playing ping pong with their dad. They also commented how they hated the poems that their father would recite as he kept score. Later in the show, Frank had a game with Ray and he recited his poetry as he did when the kids were young. “Zero serving one, you are not really my son”.

    As with many comedies, this is an exaggeration of the truth. It was common for parents to toughen up their kids. I sometimes call myself Sue after the Johnny Cash song.

    Fast forward a few years and the common belief is that children should be spared from even the slightest disappointment. It’s still believed that life is hard. Allowing children to learn how to face this is no longer in the equation. It’s inevitable that children will eventually reach adult age. However, many of today’s parents bury their head in the sand and pretend that this won’t happen. Either that or they fantasize that their children will instantly become mature once they reach the mature age.

    I’m glad to see that the pendulum is moving again.

    I wish it would happen before the scout sell their campsites.

  34. Warren February 12, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    What was that movie…………….Troop Beverly Hills. Coming soon to a town near you.

    The parents and kids, get the boy scouts involved to, should protest, picket, or something don’t let this happen. The girls need these places. The times, experiences and the friendships made at these camps last a lifetime.

  35. Laura W February 12, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    My girls had similar experiences with troops in Texas. My eldest wanted to get her backpacking badge and they hiked around a parking lot for a certain amount of time. That would have been that, but Dad said, “No, way!” and arranged for the girls to get tents and to head to the wilderness. My daughters caught the bug, and as soon as they turned 14 joined the Boy Scouts of America as Venturers (co ed). Hundreds of miles later, my eldest is contemplating the Appalachian Trail, (the entire thing) solo. How girls view themselves in nature comes from their parent’s views and fears/or lack of fear of it. How BSA and GS trains girls varies from troop to troop, but some of the top-down messages, I believe, work against promoting leadership in young women emphasizing instead, working towards a spirit of collaboration and being happy together, rather than independence and self-sufficiency.

  36. BL February 12, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    One wonders if the problem is really “climate control” or rather that safety theater has so limited activities in rustic camps that indoors is actually more interesting.

  37. Captain America February 12, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    I don’t know if anyone has yet put out the neologism, “glamping.”

    This has been popularized in some of the women’s/chick magazines. . . the idea being to go outdoors but bring along glamorous trappings. Flush toilets in the tent, mood lighting, king-sized beds, butlers and chefs.

    Apparently this is a big hit in Texas.

  38. Emily February 12, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Yeah, Captain America, I’m Canadian, but there was an article about “glamping” in the Globe and Mail this past summer. My main concern with “glamping” at the time, was that, suppose Couple A invited Couple B to go camping, and Couple A was used to traditional, rustic camping (tent, trailer, RV, pop-up camper, whatever, but you sleep in a sleeping bag, and cook your own food over a fire, etc.), while Couple B was used to “glamping,” or vice versa. Both couples assume that THEIR definition of camping IS camping, so they don’t ask about it, they all go camping, and one couple has a horrible time, which makes everybody miserable. It’s the stuff Archie comics and cheesy sitcom plots are made of.

  39. Powers February 12, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    “‘Girl Scouts as an organization that should not look the same generation after generation. It should change and evolve as girls change.’

    “that’s garbage. it should remain the same. always.”

    Low didn’t think so. Why should anything EVER remain unchanging, “always”? And why do you know better than the founder of the organization?

  40. Nancy February 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Seems to me the real motivation here is the high property values on these camps. If they’re like the ones I remember going to, they’re in areas that are being developed, and they’re sitting in expensive property with it’s own lake or lake access, or some other area that a developer would trip over themselves to have access to. Can’t have even one patch of natural land that doesn’t have a million dollar home and restricted access to the lake these days.

  41. Katie February 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    To those who say, “Where can I find this experience the way I think it should be?”
    Make it so. It is up to you. The girls will go where YOU lead. I will be starting a troop for my daughter this year, who will be 5. Many other girls are interested in her class. And, yes, it may be her only extracurricular activity because it will take a lot of time in my schedule. Nor is she an only child. But she will get the full range of Girl Scout experiences, minus the cookie sales. (yes you can opt out) If you look around and the leaders in your area aren’t offering the program you would like your child to have, you know what to do! Get Involved! You could be a co-leader and bring your skills to the table. Those who don’t have those outdoor skills aren’t fighting for that experience for their kids. Everyone has a different knowledge base. Crafters are teaching crafting, not fire-building! Those who have a different skill set, must contribute for everyone’s sake. And it will be more fun for everyone than just taking your own kids camping. Kids thrive in groups of peers.
    The local volunteers hold all the cards, they just don’t realize it. Could the council even exist without volunteer leaders? My family history is very closely involved with the Silver Waters Girl Scout Council in Monroe, LA and a local hero of that council passed away this week. I fear greatly for the troops and camps of that area, most of which serve girls from poorer families. Soon the local council will be swallowed up by Alexandria’s council and decisions will be made elsewhere. Rise up Monroe! As for me, I live in Tucson now and am greatly looking forward to pitching in, to keep the GS of my youth alive for my daughter. Of course this is easier in an outdoorsy town with a girl-focused council like ours. I don’t think I’ll have to break out “pushy mom” very often. :) Either way, it’s what my mom did for us, and my gram did for her!

  42. Emily February 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    @Katie–That’s not necessarily true. I was a Unit Helper for a group of Rangers and a group of Brownies in Australia, and I loved it. So, I tried to get involved again when I got back to Canada, but I didn’t fit in with the way the Powers That Be did things (marching, knots, micromanaging, multiple layers of background checks, constant suspicion and “guilty until proven innocent” mentality about anyone who signs up to volunteer, parents attending meetings with their kids, and hovering over their every move), so I felt incredibly uncomfortable, asked to be moved to a different group, and instead got kicked out of Guides altogether. My fellow Guide leaders in Australia say that I’m welcome to return to Guides there, if I ever get back to Australia (and I hope to), but from what I can tell, people aren’t encouraged to get involved unless they’re willing to be exactly like everyone else. Later, I met someone who’d been a Guide leader here in Canada, and she seemed normal, so I decided to give it another go, only to be rejected after completing all the layers of “process” they told me to do (application form, two references they asked for, plus one more, phone screening, Safe Guide training online, re-did my First Aid locally even though my Australian certification is good until next year), so now I’ve decided to just wait until I get back to Australia to get involved with Guides again.

  43. Emily February 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    P.S., I meant to say, “here in Canada, people aren’t encouraged to get involved unless they’re willing to be exactly like everyone else.”

  44. LisaS February 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    I’ll reiterate what Katie said: part of the reason I’m a Girl Scout leader is so that our band of 20 girls (now tweens) can do things besides crafts and cooking and technology. Our girls love to camp (we go twice a year, + a lodge “sleepover” in the winter), do archery, canoe, hike, etc. Frankly, one of the best things about camp is that we schedule entire blocks of time 2-3 hours – with no activities so the girls can explore the woods around our campsite (in pairs or 3s or 4s) and just PLAY without parents hanging on every word.

    GSUSA is moving to a more “workbook” style of doing things, but you can comply minimally, have access to facilities, equipment and insurance, and have a great time just like we did in the 70s.

    And if you really want out of GSUSA, google Baden Powell Service Association – coed traditional scouting.

  45. catherine February 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    Emily and Liz K have both echoed my own experiences with GS.

    I co-led a troop from 1st grade-6th grade. GS regulations made it so complicated to go even “cabin camping” that we never got into tents. Full-day training to even stay overnight in a cabin and one of us had to be re-certified for CPR every year even though there was a permanent caretaker staff at the camp. There was a lake but the girls who couldn’t pass a swimming test had to stay behind a rope in water not even knee-deep, although there were two lifeguards in this tiny artificial lake. We couldn’t go canoeing in the waist-high “lake” on the property because neither of us had time to take the day-long canoeing training and they didn’t make trained staff available to do this activity (we checked to see if we could pay a fee and they said no).

    We went cabin camping three times and despite all the heavy regulation, I had to fax in our request on January 2 (the first day they accepted reservations) because most of the cabins were booked for the summer that first week.

    After three summers of cabin camping we asked the girls if they wanted to go tent camping and all but one said no.

    So–there was no lack of demand for the camping facilities (evidenced by the rush for reservations) but the onerous regulations made it a pain in the rear end.

    Our troop disbanded due to lack of interest when the girls were in 6th grade. Now my daughter is impatient to turn 14 next summer and join Venturing.

    This news is too sad. I went to day camp at Camp L Kee Tah in Des Moines county when I was a squirt.

  46. Emily February 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    So, I’m not the only one? Some of the women involved with Girl Guides here in Canada made me feel like I was a completely horrible person, so it’s good to know that other people feel the same way that I do. That’s not to say that EVERYONE involved in Guides here is unreasonable; I’ve met a handful of ordinary, kind people who are Girl Guide leaders, etc., but it seems like the unreasonable people are the ones who make all the decisions, so it doesn’t make a difference.

  47. hineata February 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    @LauraW – seriously, is the Appalachian Trail quite open or something? Or are lots of people on it? Or cell phone coverage? Am thinking of things like ankle injuries, falling off something etc.

    The Mountain Safety Council here recommends four people together for a proper tramp, bare minimum two. For a variety of reasons, mainly related to the extreme changeability of the weather (literally four seasons in one day) and the denseness of the bush.

    I am wondering, as a foreigner used to possibly different conditions, if hiking alone is an okay idea?

  48. hineata February 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    PS don’t tramp alone in New Zealand. Please :-)

  49. Stephanie February 12, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    That’s sad. My kids love tent camping, although we do prefer to have bathroom facilities available. No technology outside of the car – we bring some electronics for the long drive to whichever campground, but that’s the only time they get to use it. They have a blast, even last summer when we ended up on a sloped campground – we called it the slowest slide in the world, as the kids always ended up on the low end of the tent by morning.

    Then again, I’m the awful sort of mom who won’t let her fifth grade daughter have a cell phone yet. She insists her friends all have one; I ask her why she needs one when she doesn’t even call friends on our main phone. Apparently that’s not the point.

  50. Library Momma February 12, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    I spent many summers in the late 1970s and early 1980s attending some of the Girl Scout campus that served the Los Angeles area. Anyone remember Camp Lakota or Camp Mountain Meadows? Those camps were extremely rustic but that was what camp was all about. At Mountain Meadows we slept on the ground under the stars (no ground pads, either), used outhouses, and got to take one shower or two at the most in the 7 to 10 days we stayed there. One summer I signed up to go backpacking to Mr. Whitney. Pretty rustic, I’d say. Then there was the almost posh Camp White’s Landing with its flush toilets, platform tents, and cots. One night the wild boars that lived in the area stampeded the camp and ran under our tents. It was absolutely terrifying — and thrilling. I hope none of these wonderful camps have closed.
    I have one son who is not a member of any scouting organization, but that is fine with me because I get to take him tent camping at least two to three times a year, and he loves it. I let him get as dirty as he wants. We all come home with about an inch of dirt on us, but it’s worth it.

  51. Emily February 12, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    A lot of people have been sharing anecdotes about limited shower facilities at Girl Scout/Girl Guide camp, or at summer camp in general, and therefore, coming home extremely dirty, but I have to ask, was the shower really the only hygiene option there? When I was a kid (ages 10-16), I went to Camp Kitchikewana, which was a fairly nice camp, but it didn’t have showers until the summer I was 13. From that summer onward, campers still weren’t allowed to take showers every day, because the camp capacity was something like 120 campers, plus counsellors, plus other staff members, and the camp is on an island, so naturally, it wouldn’t have been logistically possible. So, we got maybe one or two showers per two-week session (or, month-long session once I got to Leadership).

    However, we got around the shower problem with something called “morning dip.” Every morning, we’d get up, put on our bathing suits, grab our biodegradable soap and shampoo, and wash in the lake. After that, we’d go back to our cabins, and get dressed for breakfast. I know that the idea of bathing in a Canadian lake first thing in the morning seems unappealing, but we did it, because we didn’t want to be dirty. Also, we had a bit of an incentive to do morning dip, because whoever participated most consistently, the boys or the girls, received the “Alfred E. Neuman Morning Dip Award.” It was just a wooden plaque with a carving of Alfred E. Neuman from Mad Magazine on it, but for some people, it was enough.

  52. Kim February 12, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    My kids love Camp Sea Gull (for boys) and Camp Seafarer (for girls) in NC. They are beautiful camps, no electronics, no air conditioning, but great people fostering independence and a love of the outdoors!! Look at their websites and send your kids!

  53. Warren February 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    God love those who make shower facilities a required element for camping.

    Take a 10 day canoe trip through Algonquin Park, backpack into the woods for a week, or even just tenting in a conservation area for a few days. Showers are not even remotely possible on those outings.

    Heck, when we go hunting in late Oct., bathing in the lake is not even an option, as most times it is either covered with ice, or just too damn cold. 10 days, no showers, no hot water other than that boiled over the fire. Yes we take in hygeine supplies, for basic freshen ups, but that’s it.
    When we come out of the bush, we head straight for a hot shower. We have been doing it for around 30 years, and noone has got sick, died, or even lost their wife because of the body odour.

    But rustic and roughing it, are no terms used to described hotel rooms without on demand movies and wifi.

  54. Dee February 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    I was a Camp Fire Girl in the 70s and we went to camp at an army base, believe it or not! We slept in bunks and one girl even fell out of the top bunk onto the unfinished floor. She got splinters all over her face – and STAYED at camp (after they were removed). (She was moved to a lower bunk!) There were times that we were not supposed to go hiking because the army guys were having target practice! It was fun and a great memory! I bet even the girl with the scratched up face enjoys telling stories about it.

  55. Jen Connelly February 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    I think kids today could do with a little “roughing” it. They are way too spoiled with the electronics.

    When my girls were in Girl Scouts I would have loved for them to go to camp. The problem was the cost. We could barely afford the monthly dues their troops wanted and couldn’t afford uniforms either (my mid. daughter went almost 2 years of Daisy’s without her apron which she got towards the end of 1st grade… the troop leader got it for us because we didn’t have the money). Camps were way out of our price range.

  56. Library Diva February 13, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    I am a Gold Award Girl Scout and was involved briefly with Scouting as an adult, and I agree with what Liz K said. One of our local camps closed, too. During my brief involvement with it, the organization struck me as one that was struggling a bit. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but I got that vibe from it because it was introducing lots and lots of rapid change that seeme to be geared towards what they think modern girls want.

    I’m not against change. Things have changed a lot for women in general since the inception of Scouts, and Scouting needs to reflect that. No modern girl is probably terribly eager to earn the Tablesetting or Home Economics badges anymore. But anyone who was a Girl Scout and is old enough to be a parent now won’t recognize the “approved” program, even if their parent status also makes them eligible to star in Teen Mom. I don’t know as that’s necessarily a good thing. The Boy Scouts have changed their program very little in a century (there’s still a “stalking” badge, where you have to photograph several wild animals and develop the pictures yourself) and boys still flock to it.

  57. Kay February 14, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    Climate control? Technology access?

    How about they “camp” at the nearest Hampton Inn then? I’m sure they get free wi-fi.

    Well, at least when my boys go to the cub scout camping, they are not allowed to have cell phones or any technological device and I’m very glad of it.

  58. Warren February 14, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    We have property in Ontario, and would love to have the scouts camp on it. A couple of rules though,

    We are not submitting ourselves, families and friends to extensive background checks and fingerprinting.

    Anyone that asks what kind of insurance we have, will be roughly escorted off the property.

    Do not feed the dogs chocolate.

    If it rains, snows, blows or whatever, you are not coming inside.

  59. Anna February 14, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    As a mother of an Iowan Girl Scout, I can tell you it isn’t that we don’t want rustic camps, it’s that the camps are far too expensive!!! Camp fees are beyond our budget even with their sliding scale. My daughter would have loved to attend GS camp, but we simply cannot afford it.

  60. Warren February 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm #


    I wonder how much of the fees are because of high insurance costs, and safety upgrades. You know the camp isn’t going to just absorb those costs.

    All this insurance and safety to make it safe for everyone, but ohhh sorry now not everyone can afford it.

  61. Anna February 19, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    @ Warren,

    Quite true. And of course staffing these camps is expensive as well. I think what has many of us here dismayed is that they are closing all 4 camps. We’d prefer to see them leave 1-2 of them open, but that doesn’t look like it will happen,

  62. Beth Haskovec February 20, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    I grew up going to Camp Tahigwa. I can assure you that there are many young girls who still want the rustic camp experience. I know of families who have been turned away from these camps in the past few years, and the Girl Scouts drastically reduced the program offerings causing numbers to go down. They haven’t been investing the same resources and have not sent out a hard copy brochure- which their own studies show bring at least 60% of the campers. It is not as simple as it was presented by the council. Many, many people are working to show their disapproval for this recommendation- including the girls who still want to go to camp!

  63. Marcy Seavey February 20, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    I hold a field biology and a science education degree today thanks to Camp Tahigwa for fostering my interest in ecology, developing knowledge of resource management and leadership skills. And I use that background to work with Iowa Youth to maintain and develop an interest in STEM careers.

    The argument that these camps are rustic and therefore girls don’t want to go to them does not ring true. GSUSA’s own Generation STEM report concluded that experiences outside of their normal activities, which provide an opportunity to develop new skills and leadership experience are the very same things that result in girls identifying themselves as STEM interested. And that the majority of those same STEM interested girls don’t intend to enter a STEM career because they haven’t been convinced that STEM careers make the world a better place. A residential camp experience can bridge that communication barrier. Camp places the camper within her local natural habitat and within a new social network – allowing her to build skills of observation, asking questions, gathering data; providing valuable hands-on and minds-on lessons about nature; and allowing her to try on new social roles without the fear that sticking up for her own beliefs, being more outgoing or attempting to lead for the first time will go poorly and also define her forever.

    Camp is a progression from learning to get along with others without your home social network for the very first time to crafting your own social network – it fosters leadership, self-confidence and self-reliance – things recent research suggests social networking (at least as practiced by today’s youth) can erode rather than build.

    Camp is where we learn that the human build world is only a part of this planet we share with all of the other known life in the universe. It is where a girl who thinks she is afraid of spiders ends up starting a shoe box collection of them…”but wait there were 7 spiders in here before…where did the two little ones go?” and learns about the food chain.

    Camp is where you can spend 1 week in a tent with someone in 9th grade and know that person for the rest of their life better than anyone you sat next to day after day for 12 years of school.

    Camp is so many more things besides rustic. If you’ve been to camp, you know. If you haven’t, then go.

  64. Fiona Wink February 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    Please don’t be sad that kids don’t want to camp in rustic settings anymore, because it’s not true!! What is true and what is sad is that there seems to be a concerted effort to liquidate Girl Scout camps going on across the country. The recommendation that that the board claims was not rushed, was at least hushed. The membership at large had no idea it was happening until a few weeks ago and has been scrambling hard ever since to save these very beloved Iowa camps! The girls need these camps now more than ever. If you wish to know more, visit

  65. Quite Contrary February 23, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    If you believe closing the camps is wrong for Girl Scouts, let your voice be heard by signing this petition:

  66. Joni Kinsey Fields March 11, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    The closing of the Iowa Girl Scout camps is being met with fierce resistance; time will tell if it makes a difference. We are a growing coalition called SOS CAMPS! (Save our Scout Camps), with a website:, the petition mentioned just above, a brochure, press releases, and we’re going to meetings, talking to the media, writing letters, and doing everything we know to save the camps. Please help us by sending your thoughts to the council at:
    Thank you! SOS CAMPS!

  67. Lynn Schuman March 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    We have three generations of Girls Scouts in the family. We have gone to camp and helped with keeping camp up for the last 15 years. What the council is trying to do hurts the hearts of scouts. The council has admitted that camp Taghiwa is the most majestic in nature. We know that communities support their camps. For instance Allamakee County where camp Tahigwa is has invested over 4 million dollars the last 10 years in road and bridge construction for two reasons a more direct route and camp. The board says 10% of the girls use camp the above link says it has increased by 33% year round and is 57% of girl membership. The board fluctuates on its reasons for closing the camps. It will meet in private at an undisclosed location to vote because this discussion has become heated and the mediator refused to show up. The last four years the council has taken away the horse program. Taken away dates in July and August and resident camp at Tahigwa. The main way camp dates and programs are announced have also been taken away. Even the town meeting in Decorah for this camp was left off their website. It still had a good turnout. Another way to discourage campership is accomplished by treating all four camps the same. Instead of letting communities and families and girls raise money for the camps in their own communities it is divided into all camps. Discouraging people from participating. We are a grass roots organization and they fail to acknowledge it.


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