Press release from soon-to-be official nonprofit group Friends of Camp Arrowhead:
Girls ages 7 to 17 have been experiencing the wonders of nature and learning valuable leadership skills at Camp Arrowhead in the Columbia River Gorge for nearly sixty years, but the members of the Girl Scouts Columbia River Council may soon lose their only summer resident camp property unless they can convince the Girl Scouts’ Board of Directors to withdraw the camp from a sealed-bid auction ending November 14.
Members were shocked to learn in September to learn that the Board of Directors had voted to sell the camp without soliciting any input from members. A group of adult volunteers and former campers and camp staff is currently organizing a letter writing campaign and a petition drive to convince the board to withdraw the camp from the scheduled auction, and may seek a legal injunction to stop the sale of the camp until the safety issues and needed repairs can be fully investigated.
Camp Arrowhead, located near Stevenson, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge, was closed this past summer due to problems with the camp’s water system. The cost of repairs was originally estimated to be $450,000, but now the board claims that repairs will be $800,000 to $1 million. The board also estimates that additional, unspecified property repairs needed would bring the total amount to $3 million.
Although members of the Girl Scout community are willing to put time and money into the project, the board claims that the property isn’t worth putting money into because of various safety concerns. The membership, however, isn’t convinced.
Members see problems with several of the reasons given for selling the property. For instance, the board claims that the property is unsafe due to danger of landslides. In fact, this particular site was chosen because it is stable, unlike some of the neighboring land. The board also points out that the camp is used by less than five percent of the membership during the summer. However, this figure does not include weekend usage during the school year, and the decline in usage is also due to decisions made by council staff that limited available weekends for troops and groups, and failed to adequately promote the camp to the membership.
Members are also concerned about the lack of communication with the membership during this process. The Board of Directors voted on August 16 to sell the property, and began informing the membership on September 18. Members and council delegates were given no opportunity to offer input, and didn’t even know that the board was seriously discussing the sale of the camp. The board has no more meetings scheduled before the auction ends on November 14.
Girl Scouts Columbia River Council has owned this property since 1948. It was originally called Camp Wind Mountain, and buildings and activities were centered on the property’s Home Lake. In 1962, the original lodge on Home Lake developed electrical wiring problems and was destroyed in a building fire. Soon after this, the land east of and around Home Lake became noticeably unstable, due to a slow-moving landslide known as the Collins Point Slide. The Girl Scout council decided to abandon the old camp buildings, and build a new resident camp. A geological study found stable land west of Home Lake, on a forested knoll of Wind Mountain, and the camp was rebuilt as Camp Arrowhead in 1968. This part of the land has remained stable since then.
Camp Arrowhead is uniquely suited to serving a wide age range of girls. For instance, girls can progress from sleeping in cabins to sleeping in tents or tepees further away from main camp. The camp also provides a wide variety of hiking opportunities, from simple hiking around camp to climbing nearby Wind Mountain and Dog Mountain, both of which adjoin the camp. Unique opportunities for nature study are available as well. The camp includes lakes, ponds, marshes, forests, meadows, and the infamous Collins Point Slide, which provides excellent opportunities for learning about geology.
The group working to save the camp has only a limited amount of time to preserve this land for generations of girls to come. Members are being urged to sign a petition requesting that a Board of Directors meeting be held as soon as possible to discuss and vote on withdrawing from the auction. Members are also urged to write letters to the Board of Directors asking them to hold a meeting as soon as possible.
For more information, contact Kathleen at skmcdade @ msn.com