Girl Scout council puts future of camp to vote

Friday, March 11, 2005

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- After 50 years of campfires, marshmallow roasts and nature walks, the Girl Scout Otahki Council is considering selling Camp Teata near Marble Hill, Mo.

Scouting leaders in that area say they plan to oppose the sale of the six-acre camp.

Teata, Cherokee for "new dawn," may be seeing its sunset as a camp if four of the seven volunteer associations across eight Southeast Missouri counties that make up the Girl Scout council vote to sell.

Denise Stewart, executive director of the Otahki Council, said that the camp is difficult to maintain and in the last 13 years, it has been used only 130 days.

"It's in an area where we have not had a lot of girls," Stewart said. "The council is trying to make wise decisions about a piece of property in a remote area. It's primitive. There are no bathrooms. We're not using it at all or very very rarely"

Diane Campbell of Marble Hill, who has seen her two daughters participate in Girl Scout activities at Camp Teata, now has granddaughters who attend the camp. Campbell said she could understand selling the camp if the council was in financial difficulty, but finances were never presented to the volunteer associations as a concern. Campbell said that she and other volunteers were told the council wanted to close the camp because it is in an isolated area, that safety is a concern, and that the camp doesn't get as much use as other, larger camps -- Camp Cherokee Ridge at Sam A. Baker State Park and Camp Sacajawea in Cape Girardeau County.

Those camps offer swimming and horseback riding. They have cabins with bathrooms, and sports fields.

Those camps are nice, Campbell said, and the Scouts she works with go to those camps, but Camp Teata offers girls a chance to have one-on-one time with an adult volunteer, to enjoy a quiet location and cook meals over campfires and work toward earning nature badges.

"We don't have gymnastics but we do spend time with them," Campbell said.

Campbell added that the camp's only expenses are for electricity and a telephone in the cabin, which serves as an activity center. It has running water, but no indoor bathrooms.

Patsy Chandler of Marble Hill, who has worked with Girl Scouts for 25 years, said the camp requires very little upkeep.

"There's really no reason to sell it" she said. "It's a pretty place. It's where a lot of girls roasted their first marshmallows and their first hot dogs."

Camp Teata may not attract large numbers of girls, but the girls who use it want to keep it. Campbell said Scouting is based on the premise that if someone can help one girl, it has succeeded.

"I believe we do help one girl," she said.

Stewart said this is not the first time the council has considered selling the camp. Whenever the issue was brought up before, she said, the volunteers at Marble Hill objected and said they would use it more and work at maintaining it.

"If we keep it, we will have to raise money to bring the camp up to standard," she said.

Campbell said that the council has promised in the past to spend money on Camp Teata, but instead spent it on the other larger camps.

"We were promised showers and bathrooms in 2005," she said. "Now they're telling us it's being brought up to sell. Why are they going to sell? They'll take that money and put it into the other camps.

"Our girls sell calendars, our girls sell cookies. They want their camp."

Since the property committee of the council has made the recommendation to sell, Stewart said it is now up to the volunteer associations. All of the volunteer associations have been given information about the camp, she said, and will meet in April to vote. The council will base its decision on the outcome of the vote.

"We will not proceed with the sale if four of the seven groups agree," she said. "The decision to sell is still going through the Girl Scout democratic process."

335-6611, extension 160

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