Camp demolition plans on hold

A month after a regional Girl Scout governance meeting, the future of Camp Archbald may have taken another turn, according to local Girl Scout troopers and property owners across picturesque Ely Lake.
The Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania have said they will now temporarily hold off demolition of some Camp Archbald buildings, a move previously planned to take place in June at the Brooklyn Township camp.
GSHPA spokeswoman Amy Mountain confirmed the decision was made as a result of Girl Scout member input, much of it from the newly formed Supporters of Camp Archbald, or SOCA.
“I can confirm that GSHPA has temporarily suspended the original demolition plans, after talking with SOCA and other members at the Scranton governance meeting, held in Dunmore on Feb 28,” Mountain said in a recent e-mail.
On the eve of that meeting Mountain had previously reiterated GSHPA’s plans to demolish some buildings.
SOCA members, comprised of scout leaders, former Camp Archbald campers and other interested people, quietly applauded GSHPA’s decision and welcomed it as an opportunity for the GSHPA council to reflect on its decisions, if not reverse them entirely.
“Originally they were going to start demolitions, so it put it off for a little bit,” said SOCA Secretary Jaime Puchalski.
Concern over the future of the camp intensified last month after GSHPA’s surprise announcement in January, met with vocal complaints from local scout leaders, that it would no longer offer resident, or overnight, camping at Camp Archbald, which has been operating since the 1920s.
As a result, scout leaders, former Girl Scouts and other interested parties banded together and formed SOCA.
In the meantime, SOCA has been busy planning and organizing, Puchalski said.
“We have committees, we have officers, we’ve been doing a lot of different work,” she said.
“It’s pretty exciting. As a group they’ve very passionate and we want to do a lot of stuff,” she added.
George Otto, whose family has owned lakeside property for generations, shares the concerns of others about keeping the lake’s present ambience and positive ecological footprint.
“As a long-time neighbor and lakeside property owner, I’ve probably taken Camp Achbald’s presence for granted at Ely Lake,” Otto said in a recent e-mail.
Otto called the Girl Scouts “good neighbors for decades” who have over the years intelligently managed the land around Ely Lake.
Like other lakefront property owners, Otto reacted with surprise and some concern after hearing of the GSHPA’s plans to sell off large portions of Camp Archbald.
However, with the recent announcement that GSHPA would at least temporarily hold off on demolition plans, Otto said he hoped the council’s decision marked a turning point.
“It’s heartening now to see scout leadership responding to members’ concerns about the possibility of losing the camp, and at least rethinking some of the more immediate plans for reducing camp services and footprint,” Otto said. “It would be great to see the Supporters of Camp Archbald and GSHPA find a solution in which camping opportunities can continue and the lands can be kept intact and preserved for future generations.”
In November GSHPA announced a broad reassessment of seven regional properties, including the 288-acre Camp Archibald. Camp Archbald, the second oldest Girl Scout camp in the country, opened after its acquisition by the Scranton Pocono Girl Scout Council from the Ely family, whose name still adorns the postcard perfect, 10-acre lake.
GSHPA had planned to demolish some camp buildings after announcing in November that fiscal constraints would force it to retire about 144 acres, or half of the Camp Archbald properties.
GSHPA has characterized Camp Archbald, one of seven Girl Scout camps it operates throughout Pennsylvania, as too expensive to run at a cost of $527,000 a year. But critics have challenged that claim as the properties have earned the Girl Scouts over $2.3 million in gas lease revenues since 2009. By comparison, national revenue from the sale of Girl Scout cookies is estimated to be about $700 million annually.
Like other scouting camps, Camp Archbald offers swimming, boating, hiking and many other activities for Girl Scouts.
Since its inception SOCA has worked with GSHPA to help insure that future Girl Scouts will continue to enjoy those same activities. One early result was the return of resident camp, if only for a week in July. The SOCA Facebook page has topped 1,000 members and a website is under development.
“They agreed to support us if we were going to run a week of resident camp,” she said.
The camp will be run by SOCA volunteers, July 15-19, but without financial support from GSHPA. Campers will pay a fee to cover basic costs.
Also scheduled is a May 12 clean up date and a separate visit by engineers to evaluate buildings. Any reports will be shared between SOCA and GSHPA.
Media reports have indicated that nationally the Girl Scouts, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which regularly solicits tax deductible donations, have slated other camps for closure and sale to compensate for underfunded pensions. Some groups local to those camps in other states have formed non-profits and some have sued successfully to take over the camps.

Be the first to comment on "Camp demolition plans on hold"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.