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A Scott County judge has upheld the Girl Scout Council’s right to sell its camps, including Camp Tahigwa in nearby Dorchester.

In a ruling Tuesday morning, the judge did not find in favor of the five plaintiffs – Debby Stork, Kelly Gilhooly, Sherry O’Keefe, Lisa Tank and Michele Weber – who filed a petition last summer seeking an order from the court allowing registered voting members of the Council to have a say on the issue of selling any camps owned by the Council.

The plaintiffs’ action came following a vote by the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois (GSEIWI), which would permit the Council to sell all camp land that is “not needed,” and to build a new “high-capacity” camp on a portion of land now known as Camp Conestoga in New Liberty.

According to the court documents, the judge determined “GSEIWI’s ownership of camps is not essential to the Girl Scouts’ mission and that selling the camps would not fundamentally alter the existence or purpose of the organization nor would that prevent GSEIWI from carrying out its mission.”

According to an article in the Quad-City Times, Diane Nelson, chief executive officer of the GSEIWI, said she was “relieved by the verdict” but maintained the Council does not currently intend to sell the camps.

 

Local reaction

Mary Lou Cotton of Decorah, a former Girl Scout troop leader who has volunteered with the Scouts for almost 45 years, said she is “not happy” with the judge’s decision.

“The Girl Scouts is supposed to be a member-driven organization. I disagree with the notion the camps are not a necessary part of the Girl Scout program,” said Cotton.

“The outdoor program is a key component.”

 

What’s next?

According to petitioners, the ruling leaves an uncertain future for Camp Tahigwa in Allamakee County, Camp Little Cloud in Dubuque County and Camp L-Kee-Ta in Des Moines County.

In a statement prepared by the petitioners following the verdict, they said, “We are disappointed with the ruling and remain committed to our central mission of our case, which is the right of our membership to vote on the future sale of camp property. We continue to believe that the experience that our Girl Scouts get at the camp properties is fundamental to the delivery of the Girl Scout mission. We believe in preserving the properties for future generations of Girl Scouts. At this time, we are evaluating our options.”