Girl Scouts who wish to use the 1,100-acre Cherokee Ridge Girl Scout Camp in Wayne County have only 11 days left; the camp will close permanently on Sunday, Dec. 16, and will be put up for sale.
The description of this camp certainly sounds inviting:
“Nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks in Wayne County, with a captivating view of Lake Potashnik, Cherokee Ridge offers three permanent camping units all with screened cabins, running water, established fire rings, and latrines with cold showers.
“One unit house includes a large sleeping area, fireplace, and full kitchen, while another unit has a lodge with electricity.
“The ADA-accessible dining lodge can house 100+ people, and has a full commercial kitchen, craft room, and bathrooms. Also available are two, 2-room log cabins with shower and toilet facilities.” (www.girlscoutsmoheartland.org/en/camp/programcenters.html).
The decision to close the camp has upset some Scouts and their leaders in this region, and has led to a number of rumors (see Letter to the Editor, page 5A).
Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland (GSMH) received a request for a special meeting of the corporation membership from some of the council delegates. The meeting was held Saturday, Nov. 17, in Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City and Joplin. The purpose of this meeting was to answer questions concerning the proposed sale of Council properties.
Members of the GSMH Board of Directors and leadership team were present in each location. The meeting began with an overview of the last 10 years of GSMH working to find a sustainable solution to managing its property portfolio. The remaining time was dedicated to answering questions from GSMH members and delegates.
A press release following the meeting states, “GSMH will continue to move our council forward by using its resources wisely and making decisions about its resources that are best for our council—for the girls we serve today and the girls we will serve in the future.”
It does seem to be incongruous that the theme for this coming year is “Year of the Outdoor Girl” and now one of the favorite camps for local girl Scouts has been closed. What prompted the decision to close the camp and put it up for sale?
The decision was made almost two months ago. The GSMH Board of Directors met on Friday, Sept. 21, to discuss the recommendation presented by the program property task group. The Board at that time decided to divest Cherokee Ridge.
(The Board also discussed Latonka Program Center, which is also located in Wayne County, but will do additional research before taking any further action on that property.)
“We understand the emotional toll divesting Cherokee Ridge may have on some members. This decision was not an easy one,” says GSMH Chief Executive Officer Anne Soots. “We have tried for 10 years to find a sustainable solution to managing our property portfolio while maintaining our fiscal responsibilities.
“The fact is, fewer than 10 percent of our girl membership attends resident camp. Our Board of Directors made this difficult, yet necessary, decision to move our council forward. GSMH must use its resources wisely and make decisions about its resources that are best for our council — for the girls we serve today and the girls we will serve in the future. We remain committed to providing Girl Scouts opportunities to build their leadership skills in the outdoors as we have done since 1912.”
The 2019 Camp Brochure was being put together at the time the Board made the decision. After the decision was made, all references to Cherokee Ridge were removed, since it would no longer be available, said Soots.
Although Cherokee Ridge did generate some revenue from timber sales, that revenue was not used to pay for that one camp; it was added to other revenue that supports the whole organization, Soots said.
The Board of Directors makes its decisions based upon “what is best for all of our girls throughout 58 counties,” added Soots. This was a tough decision but was what the Board felt was the best for everyone.
“There is no buyer lined up to purchase the camp. “We’re still working on the process with a realtor,” said Soots. “With the holidays approaching, little will be done this year, she added. “After the first of the year, we’ll move forward with the process of the sale.”