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Girl Scouts may strike camp

Camp Henry Kaufmann may close to reduce costs

Friday, April 11, 2003

By Monica L. Haynes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Camp Henry Kaufmann, the Girl Scouts of Southwestern Pennsylvania's most popular campsite with the most accommodations, may close at the end of the 2003 season to reduce the Girl Scout council's overall camp operating expenses.

The council's board of directors formed a property task group in August to find a way to reduce by $230,000 the subsidy spent to operate the council's five camps. This year that amount totals $735,000.

The property task group is recommending that Camp Henry Kaufmann, just north of Ligonier in Westmoreland County, be sold or leased. They also suggest that fees for using the four remaining camps -- Redwing in Butler County, Timberlake in Washington County, Yough in Elizabeth and Weller in Preston County, W.Va. -- be increased.

"We have over the past few years cut some other programs," said GSSPA Chief Executive Officer Marcia Barber. "We're serving 1,300 fewer girls because of those programs that have been cut."

It was time, she said, to look at the outdoor programs and whether the needs of the girls could be met with fewer properties.

The board will be discussing the recommendation at its June 19 meeting. Barber said Girl Scout volunteers who have questions or suggestions have until May 23 to contact the headquarters office.

"We looked at all our camps, we looked at every combination of camps," said Fred Werner, property task group co-chairman. "It appeared to us that this was the best solution to meet the requirements that the board laid in front of us.

"This is simply a recommendation," he said. "The board has yet to act and I don't know what the board will do."

Last year, 3,988 girls and adults used Camp Henry Kaufmann. Camp Redwing had the second-highest number of campers with 3,530.

If the recommendation is approved, girls attending Camp Henry Kaufmann would use the council's other camp sites without any programs being eliminated.

In addition, the property task group recommends using camps owned by three other Girl Scout councils that are part a regional alliance.

Those camps are Camp Elliott, 101 acres, operated by Girl Scouts of Beaver and Lawrence counties; Laurel Mountain Camp, 112 acres, operated by Girl Scout Council of Westmoreland County and the Skymeadow Program Center, 371 acres, operated by Keystone Tall Tree Girl Scout Council in the southern tip of Armstrong County.

Donated to the Girl Scouts by the Kaufmann family in the 1960s, the 496-acre site was virtually empty, save for a small log cabin and one brick house, Barber said.

The site now has six winterized lodges and 11 tent units. It has more amenities than the council's other camps, including two dining halls, a swimming pool, pond, shelters and a small barn and 12 burros.

"Kaufmann's a beautiful camp," said Elizabeth Brown, leader of Troop 1743 in Fox Chapel. "I know it's huge and the upkeep is a lot so I can understand they're not being able to spend the money to keep it up."

She prefers Camp Henry Kaufmann to Camp Redwing in Butler County because Redwing doesn't have as many units and is difficult to reserve for a troop.

Carol Huff, a former Girl Scout leader in Fox Chapel and now a volunteer, said she hopes that solutions other than closing the camp will be found. She suggested linking with community partners to help with the maintenance and/or to share use of the camp.

Iris Hayes, who had served as a Girl Scout leader for six years with Troop 1304 in the East End, said she's taken a number of girls to Camp Henry Kaufmann for their first outdoor camping experience.

"One of the more varied opportunities you get in scouting is the opportunity to camp," said the mother of two scouts, ages 16 and 12. "It's an experience they don't get other places."

Monica Haynes can be reached at mhaynes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1660.

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