Dexter Statesman
The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman.

Closing of Camp Latonka looms ahead for Scouts

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It was announced this week that Camp Latonka, a Girl Scout Camp at Lake Wappapello, will be no more.

According to Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland's Chief Executive Officer, Anne Soots, it will be recommended to the Girl Scout Board at their June 14 meeting to end the current lease with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by September 2016. It will also be recommended that a timeline be developed in the days ahead to sell acreage owned by the council that is adjacent to Camp Latonka.

The recommendation, along with many others regarding other Girl Scout holdings across Missouri, came in an announcement by Soots this week following the polling of Girl Scout volunteers, the analyzing of property expenses and property usage, the reviewing of current and deferred maintenance needs of the Girl Scout properties, and perhaps most significantly, the conducting of volunteer input sessions in 11 communities across the council, including one held in Dexter in the fall of 2012.

In her letter informing the various volunteers and Girl Scout employees of the recommendations, Soots said, "The council property committee is committed to providing program properties that are relevant to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, support quality outdoor experiences for girls, and are fiscally sustainable through the best use of council resources to provide value for our girls."

Soots continued, "The committee understands that the matter of property in a Girl Scout council is very complex and stirs many emotions, but also realizes that the only reason a council should have property is to support the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. The committee has worked to provide a recommendation that aligns the needs of current and future girls with the leadership development mission of Girl Scouting."

In addition to the longstanding lease involving Camp Latonka, other actions with regard to Girl Scout properties include:

Cherokee Ridge Program Center (also in the Southeast Region) - to retain and develop into a quality resident camp facility, with an emphasis on equestrian programs. The plan for Cherokee includes the development of a master plan for the program center. Land which is not needed to support camp operations will be divested and proceeds used to support future capital improvements.

Finbrooke Program Center in the Southwest Region - to retain and develop into a high quality resident camp facility that also appeals to outside groups. The plan calls for reviewing and updating a master plan for the program center.

Friendship Fields Program Center, also in the Southwest Region - to retain, based on deed restriction, with a further review suggested for 2017.

Greenberry Acres in the Central region is to be divested and designated proceeds will be used for future capital improvements.

Mintahama Program Center in the Southwest Region - to retain until September 2015 and then begin the divestment process, with future proceeds to be used for future capital improvements.

Sacajawea East Program Center, also in the Southeast Region - to concentrate on the council-owned horseback riding program at Cherokee Ridge Program Center and divest Sacajawea East Program Center. Proceeds from the sale of the property will be used to support future capital improvements.

Sacajawea West Program Center in the Central region - to divest and designate proceeds to be used for future capital improvements, and to help service unit explore alternative sites for meeting place and storage.

Silver Meadows Program Center, also in the Central Region - to retain and develop a master plan for the program center.

Suzanne Program Center in the Southwest Region - The goal is to work with the local Boy Scout council to deed the Girl Scout's interest in the property to them with an end goal of the Boy Scouts assuming the responsibility for maintaining the property and allowing Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland to use it when requested.

The recommendations, Soots stated, are the result of vast input and countless hours of discussion. They will go before the council Board of Directors for discussion and vote at its June 14 meeting.

Soots says she understands the sentiment that is attached to the properties such as Camp Latonka, where thousands of Girl Scouts have utilized over the years.

"If approved by the Board of Directors," Soots explained, "this recommendation will create heartache for some of our members. However, I want to stress that Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland is committed to ensuring that as many girls as possible have access and opportunity to build friendships and learn leadership skills in the great outdoors."

Soots said that resident camp for 2013 will operate as scheduled at Cherokee Ridge, Finbrooke, Latonka, and Mintahama Program Centers.

"We know that Girl Scout property is important to many people," Soots said of the recommendations. "We understand the complexity and difficulty of this decision. We understand the good memories and emotional ties many people have to Girl Scout properties. However, most of all, we know that we must use the council's resources to provide the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to all girls across our council-to both the girls we serve today and to the girls we will serve in the future."