Cookies Versus Popcorn

“A couple times a month we get unsolicited offers for Camp Crowell,” says Charlene Meidlinger, Assistant Executive Director for the Girl Scouts National Capital Council.

“I always tell them ‘no,’” she laughs.

Camp Crowell, a 60-acre camp in Oakton, Va., is a short 20-minute drive from the Washington, D.C., Beltway, is easily accessible to more than 50,881 Girl Scouts and 22,036 adults, often providing the only link to nature the local city-locked scouts can enjoy, and is located in Fairfax County, arguably one of the wealthiest counties in the country.

Case in point: the average cost of a home in Oakton is $648,900, and a recent review of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which lists all of the properties for sale in the area, showed nearly a quarter of the homes for sale were listed at more than $1 million. Several of those were approaching $2 million.

With money like this around, it’s no surprise that the offers Meidlinger receives are in the “the tens of millions of dollars range.”

It’s also not a unique situation. Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are watching this scenario play out all over the country as rising real-estate values clash with declining numbers of scouts, forcing organizational realignments and programmatic concerns. Here’s how three different groups are dealing with the fallout.

Girl Scouts In The Nation’s Capital

Why does the National Capital Area Girl Scouts Council summarily dismiss these stratospheric offers for its property?

The short answer is, it doesn’t need the money, but the long answer is more revealing:

1. Camping is part of the council’s culture and as the concrete of local property development swallows open space, the camps and outdoor education centers/programs become all the more important.

2. Camp Crowell is busy year round – running programs during the day and evening in the summer as well as every weekend throughout the year.

3. As a priority, the eight camps owned by the council are well maintained and funded. The last two capital campaigns resulted in $7 million of upgrades and added facilities.

4. Strategic plans and operating budgets are in place to ensure the camps are available as long as interest in camping survives.

And that, it seems, is the key point. As long as interest in camping survives, so will Camp Crowell. This philosophy is not without precedent. In the 1970s, another Fairfax County camp, Camp Hollin Acres, was sold with two camps to reduce the number of properties owned by the council from 11 to eight. Camping was on the decline then, staff was different, and the Girl Scouts were in a reinvention period.

Today, camping in the capital is alive and well and thriving. Camp Crowell is a “dearly, dearly loved” camp that has provided first-camping experiences for many staff and generations of girls, volunteers and leaders. “Our volunteers would hang us up by our thumbs if we ever sold Camp Crowell,” summarizes Meidlinger.

Could that interest decline in another 20-30 years? Possibly. But as far as Meidlinger is concerned, Camp Crowell will be there forever.

The Camp Flying Eagle Fracas

When the Southwest Florida Boy Scout Council received an unsolicited offer of more than $12 million from a Virginia homebuilder for its Camp Flying Eagle property, located on the banks of the Manatee River in Bradenton, Fla., nobody anticipated a community-wide battle.

The camp has a noble and popular history, having hosted Boy Scouts and jamborees for 77 years, but this unsolicited offer immediately polarized the community. Petitions, news articles, editorials and lawsuits have created a Hatfield and McCoy-type atmosphere, and even the county has become involved, actively revising land-use laws to prevent development on the site, against the wishes of the landowners. In the end, the ongoing battle has created, as one paper’s headlines read, “Misadventure.”

Here’s the story…

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