Some Girl Scouts in Ohio are refusing to participate in cookie sales this year, to protest the closing of some rustic campsites and the opening of more modern camps. One apparent point of contention? The new camps, called Premier Leadership Centers, will feature indoor plumbing.
Rebecca Shaffer, the director of marketing and communications for the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, told Reuters News, “It saddens us that we have this disagreement over the camps in our area,” she said . “We surveyed the girls a few years back and the number one response to our questions about what they wanted was more inside plumbing.”
Leading the camp-closure protest is Lynn Richardson, one of the organizers of a group called Trefoil Integrity. According to their website, “the main problem is not fewer camps–it’s the way the board has dealt with the issue.”
Full disclosure: I’m a Girl Scout mom. I have three daughters who are active in scouting, and our council is one of many across the country that’s faced with the likelihood of closing down campsites due to financial issues. With my daughters’ troop, I went camping last summer at a Pennsylvania campsite that’s slated to be shut down. Despite the platform tents and (gag) pit latrines, we all had an amazing time. That campsite, though rustic, is in the midst of exceptionally beautiful wilderness.
Suspecting that flush toilets were not at the heart of the issue, I spoke with Lynn Richardson today.
“It’s not really an outhouse-versus-flushy issue at all,” said Ms. Richardson.
“The camps that the board wants to sell, ironically, are not entirely rustic,” she continued. ”The camp that I’m primarily associated with, Camp Crowell-Hilaka, does have historic buildings, built in the 1920s an 1930s, but they do have flush toilets. Of course, there are other parts of the campground that do use outhouses.”
Ms. Richardson said that there is not an organized, formal boycott of cookie-selling, but that the Girl Scouts in individual troops in their council have decided not to sell cookies this year.
“With the camp closures, there will only be three camps this year. Our council is comprised of 18 counties and 40,000 girls. There won’t be enough camping accommodations. Since most of the cookie profits go to the Council to maintain campsites, some of the girls are choosing not to sell cookies, to send a message to their Council.”
I asked Ms. Richardson what she’s hoping that the girls will learn from this experience.
“Girl Scouts is about leadership,” Ms. Richardson pointed out. The girls are learning about justice, and that justice isn’t automatic. They’re also learning that yes, we may fail. If we’re successful, I hope they learn that if you have people who are determined, and working together, you can change the course of things. But it really needs to be everybody standing up together. If we’re not successful, it’s going to be a major disappointment to these kids, but I still hope this can be a tremendous experience for them.”
“If we save these camps, we will get world leaders out of these kids,” Ms. Richardson added.
Just like the rest of us, Girl Scout Councils across the country are dealing with the financial reality of the economy, and many are shutting down campsites that are near and dear to the hearts of many. At the camp we went to this past summer, some of the volunteers were in their 70s, and had camped there as girls. It’s difficult, and heartbreaking, but I get it: no one wants to let these Girl Scout councils bankrupt themselves into oblivion.
I tried to reach the office of the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio by phone and email, but haven’t heard back yet. Even without speaking with them, I know: they’re being hit financially, just like every other Girl Scout council across the country.
Would I rather have a flushing toilet? Absolutely. So would my daughters, and the entire rest of their troop. By the second day of our camping adventure, at least half the girls had “stomach aches” because they were scared to poo in the pit latrine. But, I will say that roughing it is kind of the whole point of camping. Besides having no flushing toilet, we also had no cell phone access and no electricity, which meant the girls were unplugged from Webkinz, Wii, and texting for a whole weekend.
No one wants to shut down historical sites or close off camps to Girl Scouts. But I give major props to the girls involved in this boycott, because win or lose, they’re going to learn about what really motivates people: the almighty dollar.
In an unrelated boycott, a California teen is advocating not buying Girl Scout cookies this year, because she opposes the Girl Scouts of the USA allowing transgendered children to participate in scouting.
(Images courtesy of Friends of Crowell/Hilaka)