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Girl Scout camps up for sale

Girl Scouts of the USA logo.

Jeremy Hobson: The Girls Scouts are selling more than just cookies these days. Money is tight and so the not-for-profit group is taking a cue from corporate America. The Girl Scouts are merging local groups and selling off part of their most valuable asset: land -- as in the scout's much loved summer camps.

Marketplace's Sally Herships has the story.


Sally Herships: Amber Harrison is a 15-year-old Girl Scout in Ohio. Her mom Kathleen is her troop leader. They're standing in front of a local Girl Scout camp, Hilaka, about 45 minutes outside of Cleveland.

Kathleen Harrison: Over here, we have the lodge where all the cooking is done.

Amber Harrison: The latrines.

Kathleen Harrison: And of course, the latrines.

Everything is green and peaceful. But camps are expensive to run. And local Girl Scout councils around the country are selling off camps like Hilaka.

Amber Harrison: I wish we could tell them that this isn't what we want. We don't want this.

Five camps in the Harrison's area have been sold. And five more are on the list, leaving just two. But the local Girl Scout council says it has a plan: to take profits from the sales and give their remaining camps a makeover, creating what it calls premier leadership centers. One of the first things to be renovated would be the latrines.

Kathleen Harrison: If they gave them a survey and said would you like flush toilets, every single one of my girls would say yes. But do they need flush toilets?

Nationally, membership in the Girl Scouts is down.

Brent Gardner: When occupancy is down, you study why occupancy is down and sometimes it's facilities.

Brent Gardner is on the board of directors of the Harrisons' local council. Locally, Gardner says, they're not seeing as many campers as they'd like. He says the camps his council is responsible for are from the 1940s and '50s, when there were 30 girls in a troop.

Gardner: Well today's troops are 10, nine, seven, 13.

Gardner says many of the local camps are in poor shape. Fixing them up would cost the council $30 million. It wants camps to include aquatic
programs, computer labs and communications facilities. The Harrisons are more the latrine type.

Amber Harrison: It wouldn't be the same. Like if we had like hot water and stuff, it would just be like camping at home.

But the Girl Scouts national office says today's parents want camp to include a learning aspect and sometimes the great outdoors might not be enough.

I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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