As Girl Scout volunteers, we are distressed by the recent decision of Girl Scouts of Central Maryland to sell half of the campground at Camp Ilchester in Howard County in order to finance office space for our headquarters because our current lease agreement is due to expire.
The news is that GSCM's "dream is to own a service center of at least 15,000 square feet to house conference and meeting facilities, a library and resource center, training facilities, program space, an expanded supply and equipment store and adequate office space for the 50 employees who service our 25,000 girls and 6,000 adults" of Baltimore city, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.
While this dream is a worthy one, why is it to be done at the sacrifice of selling campground which services the needs of those same 25,000 girls to have a direct experience with the outdoors in a controlled and safe setting?
Moreover, the churches, schools and community centers in the past have been there for scouts in providing space for many of the activities outlined above.
The mobile equipment and supply van which travels to the local communities should expand its service rather than a larger store downtown, which will be available to a limited number of Girl Scouts.
And, surely the needs of 50 employees cannot be outweighed by the needs of thousands of girls who could enjoy this property in generations to come and the needs of the leaders out in the communities to provide appropriate learning experiences for the girls. Camp Ilchester is used by hundreds of girls in day camp alone each summer.
In the past, one of the greatest benefits of being a volunteer for Girl Scouts was the ability to have access to campgrounds on a local level at a very reasonable cost.
The cost of maintenance of the campgrounds was supported by sales of cookies, to which the girls devoted a great deal of time and effort. Part of the girls' motivation for sales was based upon the understanding that their camping experiences on Girl Scout property were made possible through their own efforts.
The saddest part of the picture is that the girls and the troops who will suffer the most will be those from lower- and medium-income families who are unable to afford the cost of campgrounds that are to subsidized by Girl Scouts.
A great part of the organization's strength in producing the women leaders of tomorrow has been its emphasis on the out-of-doors. Without reasonable and accessible outdoors facilities, camping will become a lost art; It teaches the girls teamwork, adaptability, problem solving and a genuine love of nature.
It is clearly a question of who matters the most -- the adults running headquarters or the girls at the local troop level. It might be wise for the board of directors to ask a few Girl Scouts what they consider to be the priority, and to reflect again on last year's slogan, "The girls come first in Girl Scouting."
You may voice your concern by writing to GSCM Board of Directors, 730 W. 40th St., Baltimore, MD 21211-9961.
Havre de Grace
Naomi H. Carter