A petition signed almost 10,000 times in 48 hours urges a state Girl Scout organization to continue offering overnight camp at its Susquehanna County location.
In November, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania announced plans to end overnight residential camp programs at Camp Archbald, citing low enrollment. The camp at 100 Camp Archbald Road in Brooklyn Twp. is the second-oldest Girl Scout camp in the nation.
This weekend, Tara Sottile, a local troop mother, started a petition to keep the programming. Samantha Pasternak, a service unit leader for Abington Heights, Lackawanna Trail and Tunkhannock Area school districts, has been bringing attention to the petition ever since. Those signing the petition say the camp helped mold them into better people, come out of their shells and make lifelong friends.
“We want them to see that we love the camp and we are using the camp and we want programming there and we are willing to use the programming there,” said Pasternak, who along with her mother and grandmother attended and brought troops to the camp.
Camp Archbald is under review by Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania and must meet certain utilization goals and benchmarks, said Amy Mountain, director of communications.
“At all of our camp properties, we take a look at how many Girl Scouts are using the camp, how many girls are registering for their events, and we adjust and evaluate the programs we offer based on that utilization,” said Mountain.
Enrollment in programs at the camp has been low in recent years. Of 17,000 scouts in Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, only 278 girls attended residential camp at Camp Archbald in summer 2017, according to the organization. The camp costs $527,000 annually to operate, the most of any camp in the state.
The sprawling property has multiple sleeping accommodations and activities throughout including Ely Lake where scouts can swim, canoe, kayak, boat and fish; an adventure course featuring a climbing tower, zip line and low ropes; and archery. The Laura Muia Dining Hall, which seats up to 200 people, was rebuilt and dedicated in 2014.
Pasternak argues that while Camp Archbald may be costly to maintain, it brings funds into the organization.
An audit from 2015 and 2016 reveals that Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania received $2.3 million in gas lease royalties from Cabot Oil and Gas for allowing the company to drill for natural gas on the 288-acre property.
While the residential camps, including week-long overnight camps and three-day troop adventure camps run by Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, are ending, Camp Archbald is still open and available to rent, said Mountain.
“People can actually visit GSHpa.org and reserve and rent the property as much as they want to,” she said.
Scout and unit leaders must rent the property for a fee — which goes to GSHPA — for day or weekend trips instead of GSHPA-offered programs for scouts to attend. The organization also offers resources for troop leaders looking to lead programs at Camp Archbald, Mountain said.
Pasternak, who was told usage numbers need to increase to keep the camp open, said not offering the residential program discourages Girl Scouts from using the historic property.
“We’re hoping they see this in the news ... and know that we don’t want to let this go,” said Pasternak. “This camp is so much more important than ‘we need to save money’... It’s a camp that’s 100-years-old.”
For details about Camp Archbald or GSHPA, visit www.gshpa.org.