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Howard County Times
Howard County

Howard County’s $6M offer to purchase Camp Ilchester accepted; Ball pledges to preserve the land as open space

Howard County’s offer to purchase Camp Ilchester in Ellicott City from the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland will allow the beloved camp’s land to be preserved for years to come, instead of being converted to a residential development, according to County Executive Calvin Ball.

“It would be a great tragedy if this wonderful space was lost to bulldozers plowing over a legacy of the Girl Scouts,” Ball said during a news conference Wednesday. “Preservation is what our community wanted, and preservation of open space is an important priority for our community and, frankly, for me.”

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The Girl Scouts of Central Maryland announced Wednesday that it had accepted a letter of intent from Howard County government to purchase Camp Ilchester for $6 million.

“We are grateful that Camp Ilchester’s branches, leaves and critters will all keep their homes.”

—  Howard County Council member Liz Walsh, who represents District 1

Violet Apple, chief executive officer of GSCM, said “a variety of private organizations” expressed interest in purchasing the property from the Girl Scouts.

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“The county offer was the most appealing to us because it provided us with a fair price and the county executive has committed to sustaining the land as green space for the broader community to enjoy for generations to come,” Apple said.

The 20.73-acre property was put up for sale in April 2021 and the county submitted an expression of interest in August.

“We knew we had to act,” Ball said. “Because of its prime location and scarcity of available land in Howard County, we knew that this property would be attractive to builders and developers.”

With the proper approvals, the space could have allowed up to 105 residential units, Ball said. Now that development will not happen.

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Funding for the purchase was included in Howard County’s fiscal 2023 capital budget proposal, which goes before the County Council for a vote on May 25, Ball said. The property will be used by the county’s Recreation and Parks department.

Council member Liz Walsh, who represents District 1, which includes Ellicott City, said the entire council was in favor of the purchase.

“This is such a good day,” Walsh said. “Preserving this green space is so important to so many of us. We are grateful that Camp Ilchester’s branches, leaves and critters will all keep their homes.”

A formal purchase agreement with the county will be finalized in the fall, Apple said, as the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland plan to use the camp for programs through the end of summer. Apple also noted that programs and services offered at the camp’s Clementine Peterson Activity Center and Caitlin Dunbar Nature Center would be re-imagined and relocated to ensure “continuity of services for our members.”

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Funds from the sale will be used for GSCM’s outdoor programs at its three other camps in Maryland: Camp Conowingo in Cecil County and Camp Woodlands and Camp Whippoorwill, both in Anne Arundel County.

“Our actions today allow us to work toward the long-term sustainability of our council programs, which achieve critical organizational goals,” Apple said. “Girl Scouts of Central Maryland is 100% committed to investing in a sustainable future and increasing our ability to deliver the Girl Scout leadership experience to our Girl Scouts across Central Maryland.”

Girl Scouts of Central Maryland was established in 1962 and serves an estimated 20,000 girls in 2,000 troops and groups in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.


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