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September 11. 2013 9:13PM

Attendance down

Girl Scouts to sell Camp Chenoa in Antrim


New Hampshire and Vermont Girls Scouts plans to sell Camp Chenoa Girl Scout camp on Gregg Lake in Antrim include removing and moving the popular climbing wall to Camp Farnsworth in Vermont. (COURTESY)

ANTRIM — The Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains Council has decided to sell Camp Chenoa Girl Scout camp on Gregg Lake, citing declining attendance and girls choosing other Girl Scout programs.

"Although the decision was difficult, divesting of Camp Chenoa will enable us to invest in our other properties, to provide programming and improved accommodations so we can better serve girls in this second century of Girl Scouting," CEO Patricia Mellor announced in a statement Wednesday.

Though the council has several properties in Vermont and New Hampshire, Camp Chenoa is the only overnight Girl Scout camp in the state.

Profits from the sale will be invested into the other properties, including the remaining overnight camp, Camp Farnsworth, in Thetford, Vt.

Carrie Green, council director of girl leadership experience, said Wednesday the news is "heartbreaking" for former Chenoa campers and staff like herself.

Green was Chenoa camp director from 2004 to 2008.

"On an emotional level it's very hard to think about it never running as a Girl Scout camp anymore," Green said.

But from a financial standpoint the decision makes sense, she said, and means the best and most efficient use of Girl Scout funds.Chenoa is a 300-acre camp property on Gregg Lake that was once a Boy Scout camp, she said.

It fell into disrepair when it closed and sat on the market for several years, she said. It was placed on the market in the mid-1980s.

When the council purchased it in 1991 the structures had to be rebuilt.

The camp ran as a very rustic experience for Girl Scouts in the first few years, Green said.

Over those few years, instead of choosing a camp that offered activities like horseback-riding Girl Scouts could choose Chenoa and be part of the "Dream Builders," groups of campers who helped construct the camp buildings and made improvements to the lake front. The girls wore hard hats and learned how to swing a hammer, she said.

The New Hampshire National Guard also volunteered clearing the land.

"The first full summer of operation was in 1996," Green said.

Unlike Boy Scouts, who go camping with their Troop, Girl Scouts choose summer camps individually and once there are placed with other girls their age with similar interests, Green said.

Over the years Camp Chenoa became known for its adventure activities such as rock climbing, ziplining and indoor skydiving as well as Gregg Lake activities like boating and swimming.

Those activities will be brought over to Camp Farnsworth.

"Our climbing wall has always been very popular with girls, and will be moved or rebuilt at Camp Farnsworth," said Mary Ellen Hettinger, council communications manager, in an email Wednesday.

This summer just under 400 girls participated in the summer programs at Chenoa.

"But we have had as many as 800 in our summer camp programs," she said.

Parents have less money these days, so a girl may only come to camp for a week instead of two and the overall population of girls in New Hampshire is declining, affecting Girl Scout numbers, Greene said.

While Chenoa has only been owned by the Girls Scout for the past 22 years, Farnsworth has been a girl's camp for more than 100 years, first privately and as a Girl Scout Camp for more than 50 years, Green said.

Farnsworth was chosen over Chenoa for its location and potential for growth, she said.

"It is the geographic center of the council and it does have more flat and developmental land for expansion in the future," Green said.

Member surveys, and design charettes with an architectural firm were conducted to gather input from throughout the council.

The announcement was made to Girl Scout council members on Saturday at Camp Farnsworth, during an annual weekend camping and training event for Girl Scout volunteers.

A real estate agent has been contacted to help sell Camp Chenoa. Until it is sold, it will continue to be used for program activities, and is still available to Girl Scout troops and groups for camporees and events.

The council serves 18,000 members across New Hampshire and Vermont and is headquartered in Bedford.

A closing camp fire event is planned for this fall so that former Camp Chenoa campers and staff can come together and reconnect with the camp one more time, Green said.

Information about the event will be posted at girlscoutsgwm.org when available, she said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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