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Archive for Sunday, March 12, 2006

Scouts’ urban oasis a keeper

Hidden Valley Camp for girls not for sale

March 12, 2006

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Hidden Valley Camp's 40 acres of wilderness in the midst of a residential area likely make developers drool.

"We don't have any plans to sell," said Jeannie McClure, vice chair of the Lawrence Hidden Valley Committee. "That doesn't mean that developers don't want it."

Those overseeing Lawrence's Girl Scout haven say they're holding onto the property, though similar sites devoted to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in other states are being swallowed up by development.

It's an issue in many areas as towns expand into what was once country.

In Beaumont, Texas, a local Boy Scout council sold off one of its two camps in 2001, raising the ire of many who had visited over its 70 years. In Mahwah, N.J., in 2002, the Trust for Public Lands stepped in to rescue the 750-acre Camp Glen Gray from development. Other situations have arisen in Arizona, Florida, Michigan and Washington.

"The needs change," said Gregg Shields, spokesman for the Irving, Texas-based national council of the Boy Scouts of America. "Sometimes Scout camps that were once outside of town are swallowed up by sprawl, or they are no longer conveniently located."

The Lawrence Hidden Valley Committee owns and oversees Hidden Valley Camp for the girl scouts.

Girl Scout history

Today is a noteworthy day in Girl Scout history. On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Guides, which later became the Girl Scouts of America.

The camp, near Bob Billings Parkway and Kasold Drive, is valued at $942,190. Its users called it "urban wilderness," and they love it.

"Because of its location, it's extremely valuable to the people who use it," said Durand Reiber, camp manager. "Once you're inside, you forget you're in the middle of the city."

For young children, Reiber said, camping at the spot feels like a wilderness adventure. For parents, it's convenient and close to home.

It's been a Girl Scout site for 50 years, with the first 20 acres purchased in 1956 and the second 20-acre plot bought in 1958.

"There's three and four generations of girls and women using the site at this point," Reiber said.

Potential buyers have expressed interest in the property and have made offers, McClure said. The committee last summer surveyed the camp's users to gauge how much they valued the camp.

"One of the things that we found out is that the camp is well-loved and well-used," McClure said.

Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Assn., said while in-fill development was always encouraged, the camp was special and considered a community asset.

"I think it's just known that that is a retreat for girl scouts and is appreciated for that use," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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