Dublin campers say they feel more welcome in the first summer camp season in which Boy Scouts included girls

  • Grace Audette is the trading post manager for Camp Wanocksett. Girls were allowed to attend Camp Wanocksett as Scouts BSA this summer. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Audette’s all-girl Scouts BSA Troop 13, from Groton, Massachusetts, at work in the handicraft pavilion. Girls were allowed to attend Camp Wanocksett as Scouts BSA this summer. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Girls were allowed to attend Camp Wanocksett as Scouts BSA this summer. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Girls were allowed to attend Camp Wanocksett as Scouts BSA this summer. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/21/2019 5:07:36 PM

Camp Wanocksett in Dublin wrapped up its summer season on Friday – the first summer that girls could attend camp as members of Scouts BSA.

On-the-ground changes were minimal for the Boy Scout camp, which had been welcoming female campers and staff for years, but the distinction was important to staff members like Grace Audette, who returned for her second summer on staff as an official Scout BSA.

“It is about time, in my opinion,” she said, and believes the camp environment is changing in a positive way.

Previously, girls could only participate in Boy Scouts as Explorers and Venturers, two co-ed subsidiary programs of Boy Scouting.

In February, Boy Scouts of America formally allowed girls to enroll in every component of programming, from Cub Scouts up through Eagle Scouts. Troops are now distinguished as Scouts BSA boys’ troops and girls’ troops, although boys’ troops can also still be called Boy Scout troops.

Audette is 16 and from Groton, Massachusetts. She joined Venturing as soon as she became eligible, at age 13. Venturers do not earn badges, and focus on high adventure and teambuilding activities while at Camp Wanocksett, she said. Scouts, on the other hand, can earn three or more merit badges in a week at camp.

Audette said it was important to her to be able to earn merit badges, in part because some are required for the Eagle Scout award. Scouts can start completing requirements for the award at age 11, or even 10 in some cases. She noted that older girls like her who are new to scouting are pressed for time to complete the Eagle Scout award by the time they turn 18.

Camp Wanocksett facilitates rank-advancement intensives, which are now helping newly-formed girl’s troops earn important badges. Badge requirements involve developing skills like plant identification, knot tying, first aid, as well as citizenship and finance activities. Program Director Will Neville said that staff members are encouraged to earn badges during summer sessions, and that Audette initially contacted the Ledger-Transcript as a requirement for her Communications badge. She earned the badge, she said, which also involved delivering a five-minute speech, and role-playing salesmanship techniques with other campers.

Todd Lamison, Scout Executive for the central Massachusetts-based Heart of New England Boy Scout Council, described this summer as “scouting as usual, for the most part… It hasn’t been much of a change in the logistics of running a camp.”

He said that, although most people ask about the logistics of showers, latrines, and housing, the camp had already been accommodating girls and women.

“We’ve had female participants since the 1970s ... and we’ve had coed staff for decades,” he said.

Camp director Danny Megan said this summer, Wanocksett hosted 1,200 boys, and 90 girls – 65 of which were Scouts BSA members rather than Venturers. The camp employs 80 junior and senior staff members, and this year 18 were female: “the most, ever,” said Megan.

“It’s been great,” Lamison said, to have girl’s troops in the council, and said they’ve already witnessed several instances of sisters bringing their brothers into the Boy Scouts.

Audette works as the trading post manager at camp. She said last year, she was one of seven girls on staff. She didn’t always feel welcomed by camp attendees. This year, she said she’s noticed more positivity about females in scouting.

Her newly-formed Scouts BSA troop attended camp during the summer’s last session. In the handicraft pavilion, they assembled a banner to hang in the dining hall as music played and a boy’s troop worked on a collaborative drawing project at the adjacent table. The girls said they didn’t feel like they were treated differently at camp, and expressed excitement about attending as a troop for the first time.

“It’s been more interesting than I thought,” one camper said.

This was the third summer on staff for Erin Donelan, 17, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. She joined a Venture Crew at 13, and joined a Scouts BSA troop this past year. She was working with Cub Scout groups at the end of the summer, and previously assisted with special needs attendees.

Donelan applied to work for the camp at her brother and father’s suggestion.

“When I first started working here I was the only girl,” she said, adding there was also one female senior staff member. “There was a lot of, ‘Oh. There’s a girl here.”

Donelan believes other girl campers didn’t realize they could work at Wanocksett before seeing her on staff, she said. This summer, she said she saw “a lot more acceptance and a lot less judgment” about girls at camp.

“I feel like I stand out less,” Donelan said.

Junior staff member Stella Finocchio, 17, supervises arts and crafts activities in the handicraft department. She said she didn’t notice a difference in camp culture between this year and last, aside from girl’s troops attending.

“It was already pretty accepting when I came here,” she said.

Stephanie Mullen, 17, added, “It’s not as weird as a lot of people would think it is.”

She lifeguards for the camp, and previously worked with younger campers on rank advancement requirements. She serves as the Venturing Officers Association President for the Heart of New England Council.

Camp Wanocksett was founded in 1924. About half of attending troops come from the Heart of New England Council, the other half attend from other areas in the Northeast – with one troop from Florida visiting this year. Troops and individual campers aged 11-17 can sign up for one-week sessions, and there are seven sessions per summer.

Most of the local Monadnock district’s Boy Scouts camp at the Griswold Scout Reservation in Gilmanton Ironworks, or one of the other camps owned by New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster Council. However, troops from Antrim, New Boston, Swanzey, Peterborough and Jaffrey attended Wanocksett this year.

Ruth Webber, leader of Jaffrey Troop 33, said her troop has been camping at Wanocksett for 25 years. She did not see the integration of girl’s troops as an issue at all.

Michael Redmond, the scoutmaster for Troop 2 of Antrim, said his troop visited Camp Wanocksett for the first time this summer, and had a great experience. Redmond said that only one girl has expressed interest in joining their troop.

“There is not enough population to support a female troop in our town as of yet. We pull from five towns just to get the boys we have,” he said.

Peterborough’s Cub Scout Troop 8 has been welcoming girls since March 2018.

Brian Beihl of Antrim said Keene and Hillsborough formed Scouts BSA girls troops in February.

Susan Ruel, the troop committee chairman of Keene’s Troop 350, said they formed Feb. 1, the first day girls’ troops were eligible to register.

There are currently nine girls in the troop. Ruel said they meet most Wednesday nights, year round, from 7-8:30 p.m. at St. Margaret Mary’s Rectory Building, 33 Arch St. in Keene, and they are recruiting: interested families can contact her at (603) 309-2138.


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