As we work with Mr. Sabella to forge a path for our girls to get back to camp, we have to ask ourselves, “what is our camp?” and “why is it ours?.” Camp Golden Pond belonged to Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA because Hemlock Girl Scout Council built it. For Camp Golden Pond to come back to us, we must earn it. No one is going to give us a whole camp. We must, instead, buy our camp back one dollar at a time. $5 here, $20 there, $100 over there, and before you know it, our camp will be ours again.
While our final capital goal is much more, $50,000 will pay a lease on the property for a full year. Just $50,000 and we are already over half way to that milestone!
This lease will give us unrestricted access so that we can ensure that nature does not reclaim the property. It will let us open the camp to rentals. It will let us plan and execute outdoor programs on the property. But most importantly, it will also prevent the camp from being sold piecemeal while we raise capital for our final purchase.
A lease will do all that and it will do it today. A purchase requires a surveyor, a bank loan, an appraisal, and more. That is time that our camp does not have. It is time that our girls do not have.
We cannot tell you enough – now is the time that we need you. Now is the time that we must fund our camp. If we want to keep our camp whole, we need you. Mr. Sabella is not going to wait for “one day” or “perhaps” or “maybe”. He wants us to tell him “yes, we want our camp and we want it today.” He has lost track of the number of people who have called him to ask about carving off 5 acres here or 10 acres there. If we cannot move forward, our camp will be carved into pieces and lost forever.
Schreyer. Palmer. Walker. Wald. These are the names that are inscribed throughout our camp. These are the names that gave our camp its first thirty wonderful years. Now, we need new names to give our camp new life. Hemlock Council gifted us with an incredible Legacy. We must honor it. We cannot let Louise Walker’s dream die.
Joan, Ann, Sharon and I are counting on you. We have taken that leap of faith. Nancy L. Habig, Maxine Brunner, and others are all taking that leap of faith with us. Now we need you to catch us.
For the past 30 years, Camp Golden Pond has been a Girl Scout Camp. However, this year our camp welcomed the New Year as a privately owned property. On December 14, 2018, John Sabella purchased Camp Golden Pond from GSHPA for $885,000 and opened a world of possibilities.
On January 5, 2019, the board of directors of Friends of Golden Pond met with Mr. Sabella to discuss a preliminary plan to purchase the property. Mr. Sabella was very sympathetic towards our mission and informed us that he would be interested in our completing a purchase of the property from him as quickly as possible.
While we work to finalize negotiations, we have been granted limited access to the property for our meetings and fundraisers. We hope to see all our supporters join us for a reception in Legacy Lodge on February 24. We will be giving tours of the property starting at 2:00 PM with a reception in the lodge at 3:00 PM. We will share with you our plans and progress as well as be able to answer any questions you may have about our camp’s future.
We cannot stress how important it is that you show your support for our efforts in anyway you can. Our camp will only be saved through the generous donations of individuals like you. While we have made great progress toward re-opening our camp, we aren’t there yet. Mr. Sabella has opened a door for us, but it is up to us to walk through it. We must decide that our camp is worth saving. You must decide that our camp is worth saving.
Why do we want our girls at camp? Why do we want to make it easy for our girls to get to camp?
I recently had the pleasure of helping a pair of Girl Scout Cadettes send a weather balloon to near space. Launching a weather balloon (and then retrieving it) is no simple task. It requires several hundred dollars of electronics for the tracking hardware, more money to buy the balloon, and even more money to buy the helium. It requires HAM radio licenses. It requires coordinating with the FAA. And then… after all that… you let it go, the wind takes it, and you may never see it again. The telemetry board might fail. It might land in a lake and sink. A lot can go wrong.
When we first asked the Cadettes if they were interested in launching a balloon, they had this look on their face that said “why on earth would we do that?”. For science. Not interested. For space photos. Not interested. It might end up stuck in a tree on top of a mountain five miles from the nearest road. Oh?
Suddenly they were excited. Where would the balloon take them? How would they get it out of the tree? How would they find the balloon when it was on the ground? The GPS would only get them so close…
In our push for getting our girls into STEM we often forget that STEM is not just programming computers, doing math, and building things. STEM is about exploration. At its core, STEM is about adventure. It is about challenging the world around us and making impossible things possible. It is about solving problems.
These girls weren’t interested in doing things simply because they can. “For science” didn’t do it. But the adventure! The chase! Setting off an adventure and not knowing where it would take them…
Not knowing if you will succeed but trying anyway… that is is the heart of what it means to be Courageous and Strong. Life is never certain. Life will challenge us and life will make us uncomfortable. In order to grow, we have to embrace our self doubts. We have to accept the challenge. The chase. The adventure. The uncertainty.
Try something new. Fail. A lot. These are at the heart of what it means to be an engineer or scientist. But we try anyway. Because there is a chance that we will change the world.
What happens without Camp Golden Pond? Where do our girls go to camp? Do they go to camp?
Every year for as long as I have been involved with Service Unit 416, they have hosted a Fall Camporee in conjunction with Service Unit 422. This year is no different. Service Unit 416 started their search for a new fall camp location almost as soon as Camp Golden Pond’s closure was announced. They settled on Camp Anderson and decided that this year Fall Camp would have a Pioneer Theme to symbolize the journey they have started. They put the date on the calendar and opened registration and waited to see who would come. Camp Anderson will be tent camping. No cabins, no lodges, no kitchen facilities at the camp sites. Of course there will be outhouses!
Camp Anderson is by no means primitive. It has chlorinated water. It has a bath house with flush toilets in a central location. The outhouses near the sites are well maintained.
When we toured the site with several of our older girls, they immediately fell in love with the creek, the bridges, and whimsical rhododendrons. They loved the secluded, natural feel of the camp sites. They can’t wait to try their hands at the rifle range.
But these were Cadettes and Seniors who had spent their entire Girl Scout life camping. Marg started her Girl Scout career as a Daisy at Camp Golden Pond. The other girls have practically lived at camp with their mother. These girls spend every possible weekend that they can camping.
Registration for fall camp opened slowly. When it closed we were left looking at numbers that show an almost 30% drop in attendance for an event that has sold out every year I have been involved with Service Unit 416.
Even more significant than the overall drop in attendance, the drop is concentrated entirely among the elementary aged girls. These are the girls who would start out in a lodge or a cabin, often with their mothers staying overnight with them. These are the girls we would teach that snakes are not to be feared and bugs are part of life.
We can try to blame the date. It conflicts with a Cub Scout Camp. But we have conflicted with Cub Scout and Boy Scout events before with no significant drop in numbers. We have even sold out a Spring Camp scheduled on Blue and White Weekend. The fact is, Service Unit 416 has over 400 girls to draw from.
Camp Anderson will be a fantastic camp for our older girls who already love camping. But what about the younger girls and the new troop leaders? The girls who do not have tents and are scared of bears? The girls whose parents lack the camping traditions?
Camp Golden Pond provided a safe, inviting experience to these girls. It let them go to camp and sleep in a structure with walls. It let them explore the woods without giving up flush toilets, running water, and refrigeration.
I was a Venturing Scout who loved camping and we did a lot of camping in state parks. The first thing we did when we got to a campground was send two scouts to spray the outhouse down with a can of Lysol and wasp spray. We will definitely be packing the Lysol and the wasp spray for the Camp Anderson outhouses and we will have a great time. We might even convince some of the doubters that tents are better than cabins.
But what happens to the rest of our elementary-aged girls? The ones who said tents and outhouses were too much and the distance too far? If these girls never take that first camping trip, how can they grow up to be the older girls running camp?
Camp Anderson is an amazing place that has a lot to offer our girls. But that only matters if we can convince them to show up. Camp Golden Pond was special because it provided a stepping stone for younger girls who had never spent a night away from home. All Camp Golden Pond asked of them was one little step. At Camp Anderson, that step has gotten a little bigger. A little farther. A little more rustic. The more that first step asks of our girls, the more they will say no.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.”
On July 28th, 2018, Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA officially closed Camp Golden Pond. The last arrows were shot. The last fish were caught. The last canoes raced across the lake. The last campfire was built and the last s’more was eaten. After thirty years, the last songs were sung and the last flag was lowered.
The Western Region of Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA comprises 7% of GSHPA’s 17,000 membership. That’s over 1000 girls who have just lost their camp. These are the girls who live in Huntingdon, Centre, Miflin, Juniata, and Clinton counties. But it is not just these girls who have lost their camp. Girl Scouts from the Altoona and Tyrone areas relied on Camp Golden Pond. Cub Scout packs and other organizations have relied on Camp Golden Pond. Eagle Scout projects have improved the property and couples have been married in Legacy Lodge.
Camp Golden Pond has spent the past thirty years as a community resource.
The annual report from Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA lists the operating cost of Camp Golden Pond at $90,000 per year. Their reports list $11,612 for utilities, $10,919 for insurance, and $45,710 for maintenance. That means that sending a girl to camp costs less than $100 per year. $8 per month. That’s it!
Are our girls worth $8 per month? We think so and we hope you do to. Friends of Golden Pond is committed to reopening Camp Golden Pond so that our area girls can continue to have affordable camp experiences, but we can’t do it without you.
We are now officially launching our capital campaign. We are seeking to raise $446,860 in order to acquire Camp Golden Pond. This sum will allow us to finance the initial acquisition of the camp. In order to support us, you can donate via our by check. If you would like to join our Capital Campaign Committee or find our how to help, please contact us.
Camp Golden Pond is more than a piece of land. It is more than cabins and beds were we can sleep. It is more than hiking trails and a lake and an archery range. It is where we have spent the past thirty years growing up. It is the place where we put our kindergarten daughters in their first canoe and teach them that the bugs and critters are nothing to be afraid of. And then, almost a decade later, we watch those tiny, tiny girls leading camp.
Camp is where our leaders can go to form lifelong bonds of friendships with women they had never met before.
Camp is where we learn how to make do with what we have. It is where we learn that its ok to make mistakes and sometimes things don’t quite work the way we wanted. And we learn how to overcome these challenges.
Camp is where our girls find the sisters they never knew they had.
Our girls have always assumed they would be attending camp at Camp Golden Pond their entire lives. Our Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors have always assumed that one day, when they are old enough, they will be the big girls taking the new Daisies on their first Fairy Hike around the lake.
Our older girls have always known that one day they would have their “last” camporee. But that last camporee was supposed to be the camporee before they went off to college and became adults.
The closing of Camp Golden Pond has broken the hearts and crushed the dreams of countless girls.
Together, we can revive all those hopes and dreams.
If we do nothing, the camp will die. The woods will reclaim the trails and the buildings and silence will settle on the lake. But if we work together, we can ensure that the laughter of Girl Scouts continues to fill the woods of Camp Golden Pond.
Your donation will allow us to acquire the property, make needed repairs, and help get our girls back at Camp Golden Pond. But time is not on our side. With every day, our girls are growing up and the property is slipping further into decay. We need your help and we need your help today.
Thank you to everyone who made it out to our community meeting. Camp Golden Pond is a valuable resource that was gifted to us through the hard work of the Girl Scouts who came before us. We will not be the generation that loses it.
We need your help.
We need you to write letters to your newspapers and your TV stations. We need you to tell your friends and neighbors. We need our communities talking about Camp Golden Pond.
Those are types of questions people keep asking me.
The question should be “Do you want this?”
Do our girls want to go camping? Do our girls want to canoe? Do our girls want to do archery? To fish? To go on a nighttime hike around the lake? Sleep in a cabin? Sleep in a tent? Learn how to extract a snake from a tent? Build a fire? Tie knots? Tow a pair of younger girls back to shore? Put the flag up and take it down?
To save our camp, there are many paths we can follow. One of them involves finding 1.7 million dollars. Another involves entering into a maintenance contract with GSHPA. Another involves leasing it.
If we want this… If we are willing to put the work in…. We can get our girls back in our camp.
GSHPA is selling the camp because they do not believe that we want it. They gave us usage statistics that show the camp is only occupied 15% of the time. We have been asking the service units how many girls the camp serves. In 2017 service units 414, 416, 422, 431, and 221 offered 9 service unit camping events and hosted 664 campers. In 2018, these service units have already hosted 7 camps. Three more camps are scheduled for the month of June, and an 11th camp would traditionally be offered in the fall. Were the 2018 camp season to continue at Camp Golden Pond, we would expect the service units to host over 900 campers.
The service unit camping records show camp demand is increasing. Service Unit 416 added two additional winter camps for 2018. Notably, these winter camps were planned BEFORE the camp closure was announced. A number of the camps offered were limited by camp capacity, not demand.
GSHPA told us in the long range property planning report that Camp Golden Pond costs $90,000 per year to operate. At 900 campers, that is $100 per camper. Are our girls worth $100?
$100 is 154 boxes of cookies.
And that $100 per girl starts getting even smaller if we include the troops and service units who used the camp that we did not collect participation numbers for. In 2016 (the last year that GSHPA gave us numbers for), Palmer lodge was rented for 40 days by troops. If each of those rentals was a weekend, that is 20 weekends of Girl Scouts camping.
GSHPA told us that our girls can camp at Small Valley. Service unit 221 drives past Camp Small Valley to get to Camp Golden Pond. Camp Small Valley is booked for council programs and the council programs are full. Mini-camp at Camp Small Valley costs $200 per girl. Our Service Units can run a weekend camp for as little as $20 per girl. Our girls can’t camp at Small Valley.
GSHPA told us they are selling the camp because they cannot afford to fix the deficiencies. For the most part, there is nothing wrong with the camp that we could not take care of over a series of volunteer work weekends. Even the crack in the wall in the craft house can be fixed for less than $10,000.
So do our girls want to camp? Will you help us paint buildings and trim shrubs? If the answer to those questions is yes, then we do not need $1.7 million dollars.
Right now we need you to tell us that you want our girls camping at Camp Golden Pond next summer.
Right now we need $600 to file our tax-exempt application with the IRS.
And then we will need $446,860. If we lease the property, that amount will let us make all the corrections GSHPA has identified. If we need to purchase the property, that amount will let us make a down payment.
We will be having a community meeting at the State College High School on June 6th from 7-9PM. At this meeting we will explain our plan to success and we will gauge how much community support we have. If you want our girls to be camping next summer, we need you to show up. Even if all you do is tell us that you want our girls to go camping.
My daughter has many smiles, but a special one that exudes adventure, joy, and a free spirit happens at Camp Golden Pond. When I see that smile it makes me want to know more about the place that causes it. Unexpectedly, what started as research into a camp about to be sold became the story of a thousand smiles across thirty years with a legacy stretching back decades more. It’s about the smiles that were remembered from days gone by at Camp Barree from 1938-1983. It’s about the smiles that broke the earth at Camp Golden Pond in 1987 and dedicated Lake Louise in 1988. More than that, it’s about the smiles that won’t happen if the camp closes. Camp Golden Pond is advertised as “Camp Golden Pond where girls always find their shine!”
This summer smiles that have lit up the faces of our local Girl Scouts for thirty years, with a legacy of half a century more, may cease shining at Golden Pond. Hopefully, they won’t. Even so, their story deserves to be told.
Huntingdon Daily News, May 7, 1987
The first shining smile I saw was in a newspaper photo of a Girl Scout atop a bulldozer (Huntingdon Daily News, May, 7 1987). The ground for Golden Pond was broken by the girls. It was not broken by the ceremonial shovel toss of someone in a suit. It was not broken by the workers. The ground was broken, just like the camp would be maintained and improved, by the girls. It’s fitting that Hemlock Council did it this way. After all, so many trails, facilities, repairs, and improvements were done by the small hands that love Golden Pond in pursuit of bronze and silver awards, and a place where the gold award ceremony was held.
But as I looked at the first article I found, and assumed it was my starting point, I discovered I was wrong. I was off by about fifty years. Small hands don’t stay small. Small smiles don’t stay small. Small dreams don’t stay small. And the article, and others, made it clear that Camp Golden Pond was born out of the love and dreams fostered at Camp Barree. And it was the now grown, strong, and capable hands of the women forged by their experiences at Camp Barree that made sure the ground for Camp Golden Pond would be broken.
Huntingdon Daily News, June 29, 1984
Camp Barree was the first Girl Scout Camp that served Huntingdon and Centre area girls. It opened on July 10, 1938. The camp was on state land and as the state expanded the park system, Camp Barree was closed around 1983 when negotiations between the state and Hemlock Council broke down. The Council owned the buildings and the state owned the land. And in the end, Camp Barree was gone. No matter how hard the Girl Scouts fought, it was gone. But that only energized Hemlock Council and the former scouts who would not let camping and outdoor experiences be only a memory and removed from the area. Prominent families like Walker, Palmer, and Wald teamed with the entire community, and would not rest until the local scouts had a camp. And four years, thousands of hours of work, and a massive fundraising campaign of 2.9 million dollars later, comes the picture of a smiling girl on a bulldozer.
Camp Golden Pond was envisioned and promised to serve for girls for generations, not just one and a half (Clearfield Progress June 12, 1988). At the dedication of Lake Louise, beautiful words were spoken by Alan Walker to his mother Louise:
“It is a gift given to honor the past with something to be used in the
present and the future. We can never repay all you have done for us and the thousands of sacrifices you made for your family over the years. But this gift is a very small way of saying thanks for being one very, very special mother”
But it was not just the Walkers. The Palmers supplied Palmer Lodge and a substantial donation for the land. Phyllis Henry provided major support in the memory of her sister Solveig Horn, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Wald (Clearfield Progress June 12, 1988).
The connecting thread in all of this, from prominent families to fundraising brownies was a love of scouting. The families mentioned and thousands of supporters who are nameless gave so many hours to both Boy and Girl Scouts. They gave their love, time, money, and effort to make sure the dream of a local Girl Scout camp did not die. And at the dedication, the head of Hemlock Council said: “We’re beginning to see our dreams become a reality.” Through the efforts of council and community together, that dream was realized.
Huntingdon Daily News, July 20, 1995
I slowly moved through decades, mostly thanks to The Daily News out of Huntingdon, PA. There were Girls at a sheep dog trial (Daily News, April 25, 1994). There were girls at the hug a tree event (Daily News, July 20, 1995). The “Every Girl Matters” campaign in the late 1990’s to 2000 that raised 3 million dollars (Daily News, October 31,2000). There was the large celebration at the dedication of the Schreyer Great Hall in May of 2000. That article title now has a ring of sadness: “Golden Days Ahead At Girl Scout Camp” (Daily News, May 20, 2000). And even as late as 2011 there was the five year plan ending in 2016 that intended to use some of the money raised to add cross country skiing to Camp Golden Pond (The York Dispatch Dec 11, 2011). So much has changed in two years.
This summer the smiles might end for the girls in our area and our local residential camp. Thirty years ago Hemlock Council teamed with all those formed by the love, smiles, joy, and adventure of Camp Barree to build Camp Golden Pond for the generations to come. Little hands grown strong, little dreams grown big, and little girls grown into relentless women joined with their families and council to build a new camp when their old one was taken away from them.
But this time, there will be no new camp with the ground broken by the girls and then maintained and improved by their love and dedication marked in bronze, silver, and gold. The only hope to preserve Camp Golden Pond for the generations it promised to serve is for the families and community to come together to buy it for the girls from Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. The smiles of the past wait to see if they will fade away without a place to anchor them in memory. The smiles of the future wait to see if they will be allowed to shine in our area.
We will be holding a board meeting on May 23rd at 7PM in the Forum Room of the Centre Region Council of Governments building (2643 Gateway Dr, State College, PA).
We will discuss important corporate items such as our application for tax-exempt status and launching our capital campaign to raise the funds needed to save our camp. If you are interested in getting involved, have questions for us, or just want to show your support, we would love to see you.