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LOWER OXFORD -- Girl Scout leaders and volunteers in Chester County are disheartened yet hopeful that something can be done to save Camp Tweedale.
The Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, the council that oversees Camp Tweedale and local troops, announced last year that they were divesting Tweedale and two other camps (Hidden Falls in northeastern Pennsylvania and Tohikanee in Quakertown) and planned to enhance the facilities and programs of three others.
For the campers and alums loyal to Tweedale, which sits along the Octoraro Reservoir, the announcement came as a blow, and they organized to try to turn the tide of the decision. But so far, their efforts have apparently landed on deaf ears, as the council continues to insist that its initial plans are unchanged.
“We’re very frustrated. They’re ignoring us. We’ve written letters suggesting other alternatives,” volunteer and former leader Karen Wilson of Malvern said.
She added that if the council has plans to close Tweedale, she would at least like to know with the time frame is.
On Friday, Wilson and Avon Grove area leader Chris Carr manned stations outside the camp on checkout day and gave literature to parents coming to pick up their daughters asking them to write in support of Tweedale.
Most parents said they were behind the effort and agreed that Tweedale should not be closed.
Carr echoed Wilson’s concern. “We haven’t heard a word,” she said.
Last August, the council held a meeting at the Mendenhall in along Route 52 in Kennett Township to listen to the concerns of Tweedale supporters.
Some of those concerns were that the scouts of Chester County would have to travel very far to access the other camps, that the council was giving up one of the few quality primitive sites it had, that Tweedale was the only camp that had boating and swimming access, and that the study recommending the closing of the three camps was flawed.
More recently, lifelong Girl Scout and leader Linda Ingenthron of West Grove said the council is violating its mission statement by not bringing its camping program to 30 percent of the membership in the Philadelphia area. She added that she senses much of the discussion of Tweedale in done in secrecy and that even with an offer by Chester County leaders and volunteers to carry on a fund-raising effort to establish an endowment, their offers have gone unanswered.
Earlier this summer, the council sent out a letter announcing its rededication to upgrading and enhancing camps Mosey Woods in White Haven, Wood Haven in Pine Grove and Laughing Waters in New Hanover.
The decision is based on a study conducted by Domokur Architects, that appeared to indicate that campers would prefer more modern and comfortable surroundings.
The letter also announced two upcoming meetings to detail the master plan to the three upgrades. They will be held on Aug. 21 at Camp Shelly Ridge in Conshohocken and on Aug. 23 at the Allentown YMCA.
In a telephone message on Friday, GSEP Chief Development Officer Kim Fraites-Dow said the meetings are being held to outline the future of the remaining camps and not Tweedale and Tohikanee.
She added that the council has not changed any plans about the closings of the three camps and that there will be no meetings held in Chester County to discuss the camps in question.
As it stands right now, Camp Hidden Falls will close to camping at the end of September 2012. Tweedale and Tohikanee will remain open through summer 2013.
“An announcement with a firm timeline for these two camps will be made in the fall of 2012,” the letter said.Longtime Girl Scout and former board member of the Freedom Valley legacy council (Freedom Valley has since merged with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania) Shelley Mincer said a contingent of Chester County leaders and volunteers will nonetheless travel to the Aug. 21 meeting.
She said that in her mind, Camp Tweedale will probably have to be kept open to more than another year to accommodate campers while the other camps are being upgraded.
She said it is important to remain positive and try to work with the current Properties Committee by offering alternative uses for Tweedale like keeping it open for training and troop camping.
She said she would also like to hear a statement from the council on why they seem not to be marketing camping in southern Chester County.
Mincer said that in an ideal world she would love to have Tweedale continue as a resident camp forever, but if that is impossible, she would like the council to consider alternatives.
Camper Chris Carr, 15, who was concluding her session on Friday, said she wants to continue at Tweedale as a counselor-in-training and then a counselor.
“I hope every kid gets to have the experiences I’ve had,” she said.