Time to roll up the sleeves to help the scouts

By Bob Satnan Contributing Columnist

March 28, 2014

Local Girl Scout leaders aim to put girls on a trail to success, and one way they hope to do that is by re-establishing the trails at Camp Sacajawea.

Over the past few years, fallen branches and trees as well as an overgrowth of brush have built up and taken over the trails that girls used to make their way through the camp’s wooded areas. Local leaders are hopeful that community groups and individuals will invest some “sweat equity” in the camp — and maybe load their firewood bins as compensation.

Kim Rapp, a registered Girl Scout for 25 years, is chairwoman of the camp’s maintenance committee and is a member of service unit for Pettis County Girl Scouts. She has started reaching out to groups in an effort to fill weekend work days, with the goal of having Camp Sacajawea in good shape before Girl Scout day camp in June. But she and other scout leaders know the project will take more than a few weekends.

“This is a three- to five-year project,” she said. “We have a lot of acreage and it cannot be done over one summer.”

But for now, the goal is to fill Saturday and Sunday work shifts starting this weekend. The work will need to be done in stages, so those offering to help need to schedule time with Rapp and not just show up at the camp. Volunteers will need to bring their own tools and equipment.

“Because of safety, we can’t have people with chainsaws in an area where we’ll have people dragging stuff out,” Rapp said. “We have to have a rotation, it has to be planned out and organized.”

Debbie Busker, service unit manager for Pettis County Girl Scouts and the Camp Sacajawea property committee chairwoman, said, “It’s not really one thing, it’s been a long chain of events,” that led to the camp’s wooded areas falling into their current condition.

“There was a horrible ice storm six or seven years ago that downed a lot of branches and trees,” Busker said. “Right when the storm came through, Girl Scouts of America decided to realign all the councils. At realignment, they put through an order that nothing could be done to properties except for what had to be done. So the woods were put on freeze.”

Through that realignment and consolidation process, about 65 counties were put under one council, and emphasis was placed on day-to-day operations with the girls. Focus on property maintenance became a secondary concern, and the issues with the camp’s wooded areas continued to grow. Re-establishing the trails now is a priority for Busker.

“The woods really mean a lot for the facility,” she said. “Any time we do an event (at Camp Sacajawea) and do an evaluation, the one thing that comes up year after year after year from the girls is that they want to hike in the woods. As the county service manager, that is the one thing I have to do for them.”

To get that done, Rapp has started reaching out to area groups and service clubs. She’ll be on the grounds with a group on Saturday, but Sunday is open and she welcomes any interested group to contact her to arrange a work day. Other available work days – all Saturdays and Sundays – are April 12 and 13, each weekend day in May and June 7 and 8. Saturday work begins at 9 a.m., while Sunday sessions start at 1 p.m.

“Those are just the workable dates we have for now. We’re not sure if we will extend into the summer,” Rapp said.

Those who volunteer will be able to take home any firewood created on their work day, so long as they are willing to haul it themselves.

The Girl Scouts are about a lot more than just selling cookies every spring. Rapp said that she concludes all of her scouting-related emails with the phrase: “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place.”

Volunteering a little elbow grease will help ensure that mission continues.