Girl Scout camp’s fate still unknown

For a moment, a group of Girl Scout moms thought they’d saved Camp Telogia.

The woodsy Parkland acreage is the only camp in Broward County for Girl Scouts, and the organization’s administrators wanted to sell it to developers.

But even though the County Commission failed to allow its sale in October, and supporters raised $67,000 in private pledges to keep it open, its fate remains in limbo, subject to a decision by the Scouts ruling body.

The Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida still might close the camp on Holmberg Road, rejecting the donations and returning the taxpayer-donated land to Broward County.

Over the years, thousands of girls have roasted marshmallows, sang songs around campfires, and held sleepovers on the patch of natural space in Northwest Broward. But as the Girl Scouts struggle with dwindling membership, administrators thought the cash from selling the camp could be poured into two camps outside the county, attracting new scouts and persuading existing ones to stick around.

Girl Scouts want to sell taxpayer-donated camp to developer

Girl Scouts want to sell taxpayer-donated camp to developer

The only Girl Scout camp in Broward County — woodsy acreage donated by taxpayers — could be closed and sold to developers — if county commissioners agree.

More than 600 Broward girls used Camp Telogia last year, and local Girl Scout leaders say it’s cherished. But their parent organization, the…

The only Girl Scout camp in Broward County — woodsy acreage donated by taxpayers — could be closed and sold to developers — if county commissioners agree.

More than 600 Broward girls used Camp Telogia last year, and local Girl Scout leaders say it’s cherished. But their parent organization, the…

(Brittany Wallman)

Lisa Johnson, chief strategy officer for the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, which covers six counties, said the matter will be decided by year’s end.

“At this time, the options regarding Camp Telogia remain under review,” she said via email. “The restrictions required in order to accept the pledges will be considered by our board of directors at their next meeting.”

The Girl Scouts is a non-profit leadership development organization founded in 1912 to “build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”

Girl Scout leader and mom Marilyn Bonilla Krantz said the donors want assurance that Camp Telogia would remain open, and that their donations wouldn’t be spent on anything else. She and Joy Smith, also a Girl Scout mom and leader, said that after a series of emails about the donations, administrators with the Girl Scouts stopped responding.

Girl Scouts fight to save Parkland’s Camp Telogia

Girl Scouts, volunteers and troop leaders flocked to Parkland City Hall last week, imploring city officials to ask the County Commission not to agree to a request from the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida Inc. to lift the deed restrictions on Camp Telogia in the city, the only Girl Scout camp in…

Girl Scouts, volunteers and troop leaders flocked to Parkland City Hall last week, imploring city officials to ask the County Commission not to agree to a request from the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida Inc. to lift the deed restrictions on Camp Telogia in the city, the only Girl Scout camp in…

(ARUN SIVASANKARAN)

“Everybody’s waiting for this and the pledges are sitting out there, and we really should let everyone know,” Krantz said.

The camp costs the Girl Scouts $17,900 a year to maintain — a fraction of the overall $4.6 million budget. The donations would pay for maintenance and improvements at the camp.

Krantz and Smith said the $67,000 in pledges, garnered in just one week, includes $20,000 that Broward Commissioner Lois Wexler said she would contribute from parks bond funds she has spending authority over.

Broward County sold the land to the Girl Scouts for $1 back in 1961.

The virtual donation came with conditions: The land was to remain in use for Broward Girl Scouts, and it could not be leased or sold without county permission. If it goes unused, ownership reverts back to Broward County.

The Girl Scouts asked county commissioners earlier this year to release the restrictions so they could sell it and keep the money. But that request fizzled when Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who sponsored the controversial county agenda item, withdrew it in October. Already, it was drawing criticism from other commissioners, and from girls who use the camp.

Parents sent emails.

Among them was an email from Dean Sperantsas to Ritter: “The most accomplished women of our country — US Senators, astronauts, and leaders in many professions — were Girl Scouts. We ask that a wonderful, traditional venue for preparing our local girls to serve our nation continue to serve as a camp site.”

Another parent, MaRhea Lascano, wrote that “Telogia is a safe environment where a group of girls, as young as 5 years old can be safe. I’ve heard of experiences where a troop camped at a Broward County park and were exposed to a group of college fraternity males at a neighboring campsite smoking marijuana.”

Ritter convened a meeting in October, hoping to broker a peaceful compromise between the volunteer parents and the paid administrators. It failed. Hostility was thick.

“I tried to facilitate something where we could come to a consensus, but neither side is moving,” Ritter said at the meeting. “So I don’t see the point in continuing this conversation because each side has its preset agenda.”

The camp crisis is but a symptom of the Girl Scouts’ larger problem: Nationwide and locally, girls are dropping out. The organization is focused on how to attract and keep Girl Scouts, Johnson and others explained. Many local Girl Scout groups are selling their real estate and using the money to bolster their programs. In this case, the money from selling Camp Telogia’s 9.5 acres, plus an adjacent 3 acres the Girl Scouts own, would have paid for improvements to Camp Nocatee, southwest of Clewiston, and Camp Welaka, adjacent to Jonathan Dickinson State Park on the Palm Beach-Martin County line.

Parkland Mayor Michael Udine said his city is supportive of the volunteers who want to see it remain in use for Girl Scout camping. But if not, he said the city wants it to remain as open space.

Though Ritter said she was told the city wanted the land for a charter school, Udine said that’s not the case.

“If the Girl Scouts aren’t going to operate it and it comes back as a passive park,” he said, “the city would be OK with that.”

bwallman@tribune.com or 954-356-4541

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/fl-camp-telogia-fate-20151125-story.html

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