Scouts trying to save camp
Last overnight Girl Scout camp in New Hampshire on the market
The 300-acre Girl Scout camp located in Antrim is nestled in the woods near Gregg Lake, and has functioned as a resident camp since 1996. Now the camp is on the market for $2.5 million. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
A picture of Gregg Lake in Antrim, as seen from the Camp Chenoa Girl Scout camp on Brimstone Corner Road.
Photo by Sarah Mansfield. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Girl Scouts performing at Camp Chenoa, in Antrim, during a summer camp session by Gregg Lake. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
ANTRIM — Camp Chenoa, New Hampshire’s only overnight Girl Scout camp, remains on the market with a price tag of $2.5 million.
That’s a lot of Samoas.
Now several New Hampshire Girl Scouts are taking action to spread awareness of the situation, in an effort to get their camp back for future generations of scouts.
Chenoa, a 300-acre camp on Gregg Lake, is one of many Girl Scout camps up for sale across the country. Chenoa went on the market in early September of 2013 due to declining enrollment over the past five years, according to camp administrators.
Several Chenoa campers from New Hampshire are trying to spread the word about the issues surrounding camps. Lifelong Girl Scout and past Chenoa camper Katherine Sprague of Dover said in an interview last week that she doesn’t feel the members of the Girl Scout council for New Hampshire and Vermont are working as hard as they used to.
“It didn’t hit me over the head until they put Chenoa up for sale,” Sprague said. “The council states that they use their resources wisely, but they seem to forget us, and we’re their biggest resources.”
The effort to recruit campers has changed, according to Sprague. She said the council seems to rely only on sending out books about camp to girls who were already Girl Scouts and hoping campers will spread the word about the summer camps they have attended. Sprague remembers Girl Scouts representatives coming to her school when she was younger and spreading the word on Girl Scout summer camp opportunities.
Sprague has started a Facebook page called “I stand for Camp Chenoa” to raise awareness with this ongoing issue.
“We want awareness. We desperately want the council to acknowledge us and work with us,” Sprague said. “I want people to know that we need to come together as a family.”
Sprague’s Facebook group has 54 members and another page entitled Save Camp Chenoa has 462 likes by Facebook users.
“We’re trying to get the word out and get more people to help out,” Chenoa camper Sarah Mansfield of Plaistow said on Thursday. At Chenoa, Mansfield met a lot of new friends and enjoyed learned from counselors that were from overseas. She hopes the web page will gain awareness and more girls willing to help the cause.
Mary Ellen Hettinger, communications manager for the Girl Scout council, said in an email on Wednesday that the Girl Scouts have gone through a long-range property planning process over the past few years.
“We have examined usage at all of our properties, and asked our volunteers and most importantly, the girls, what they would like to see,” Hettinger wrote. “These days, girls want to be connected or wired or have lab facilities for working on STEM projects [science, technology, engineering and math].”
Hettinger said that both Chenoa and Camp Farnsworth in Fairlee, Vt., have experienced declining enrollment over the recent summers and neither camp has operated at full capacity in recent years.
On Wednesday, Patricia Mellor, the chief executive officer of the Girl Scout council for New Hampshire and Vermont, said the council uses several marketing strategies, including web advertisements, attending camp fairs across the state, sending camp information to communities and open forums, to spread Girl Scout camp information and seek input from Girl Scouts.
Deb Holmes of New Ipswich, a troop leader for New Ipswich and Greenville Girl Scouts, said Wednesday that the decline in Girl Scout camp enrollment is “just another fatality in the economy crush.”
Holmes believes that the Girl Scout council is recruiting for summer camps but people just don’t have the finances to support camp attendance. With Chenoa on the market, the nearest overnight camp available for New Hampshire girls is Camp Farnsworth in Vermont. The almost two-hour drive to the camp for girls in the Monadnock region is an added cost.
“It’s a beautiful camp, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just too far for these people to go,” Holmes said.
She also said there’s no place to send younger girls who are not ready for an overnight camp.
New Ipswich and Greenville residents used to be able to send their daughters to one of seven troops within thee two towns. Now there’s just one — Holmes’s troop — which will be disbanding at the end of the school year. Holmes said her troop of girls are all seniors in high school who will going off to college in the fall. For the younger generation in these towns, there won’t be any troops for girls to participate with.
And with the future of Chenoa still unknown, the region may lose their only camp as well.
“There’s definitely a need for a camp in the area,” Holmes said. “I don’t know what these girls are going to do this summer.”
She said Girl Scout camp helps girls gain a sense of self.
“It’s empowering the girl. Yeah, you’re a girl, but that doesn’t mean you can’t climb a rope or navigate with a compass,” Holmes said.
Participating in an all-girls camp at a young age can help bond them together as young women and teach them to deal with young boys, who Holmes said can start to pick on girls in those formative years.
“At camp, they get a strong girl camaraderie and develop sisterhood. It teaches them responsibility and how to be a sister to everyone.”
She said the attempt of young girls to save Chenoa is “definitely worth the effort.”
Holmes said she often hears stories from Scouts counselors about their experiences going to Chenoa as kids.
“It sounds like it was a magical place,” Holmes said.
To follow the Facebook page to save Chenoa, go to www.facebook.com/groups/749969415021241/.