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Girl Scouts plan to hang onto Joy Hollow

Thursday, October 14, 2010

(Photo)
Girl Scouts from western Iowa lead the Girl Scout pledge before a townhall meeting about the future of Joy Hollow Girl Scout camp in western Plymouth County. Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa leaders say plans are not to sell the camp.
The Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa plan to keep ownership of the girl scout campground in western Plymouth County.

This year, the possibility of the organization selling Joy Hollow Campground arose.

In early July, four groups together informally offered to buy the 360-acre property near Westfield.

However, at a Joy Hollow townhall meeting Wednesday at North High School in Sioux City, Girl Scout officials said that possibility was no longer on the table.

"We talked about it and came to the conclusion that now is not the time," said Laura Lindstrom, a member of the task force looking into possibilities for Joy Hollow.

"We want to look into other options," she said.

The task force's aim is to make sure the camp stays viable, she told the 75 people gathered for Wednesday's meeting.

"We don't talk about shutting it down. We talk about keeping it open," Lindstrom said.

Talk about the long-term viability of Joy Hollow arose as part of the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa's (GSGI) discussion about best using the organization's resources, according to GSGI leadership.

"Our primary goal in this group is to continue camping at Joy Hollow and enhance that experience," she said.

Lindstrom said the task group has not made any substantive decisions yet.

The group used input from the first townhall meeting and has continued to look into other opportunities that do not involve selling the property.

One would involve partnering with the Nature Conservancy, she said.

The Nature Conservancy's aim would mainly be to conserve Loess Hills land and prevent intensive development on it, Lindstrom said.

One of those possibilities would be to offer the Nature Conservancy right of first refusal on the property if it was ever to sell. In other words, if the GSGI would sell the property, the Nature Conservancy would have the first option to buy it.

In exchange, the Nature Conservancy might offer land management expertise.

Right now, she said, one person on the property maintains the buildings and campgrounds.

"They don't do forestry or land management with the desire to preserve natural prairie," Lindstrom said. "The Nature Conservancy would do that in exchange for something, like occasional use of the facilities. That would be one possibility"

Another possibility would be to sell the Nature Conservancy a conservation easement on the land -- meaning the GSGI would agree to never allow certain development on the land.

This easement could bring in money to support Joy Hollow, Lindstrom said.

Another possibility would be to create a new point of interest at Joy Hollow -- like a Scenic Byway stop, she added.

The Girl Scouts board agreed to allow conservation groups to appraise Joy Hollow and to require that GSGI get an independent appraisal before selling any rights to Joy Hollow, if it ever was to do so.

During the question and answer time at the townhall meeting Wednesday, several audience members raised issues.

Many had questions about money they thought had been set aside specifically for Joy Hollow before Sioux Trails Girl Scout Council merged with four other Iowa councils.

That merger took place in October 2007, as part of a national reorganization.

Cindy Agnes, of GSGI, answered to some of the financial questions.

At the time of the merger, there was no money set aside only for Joy Hollow, according to a certified audit, she said.

Previous gifts, designated specifically for the camp, were already spent before the merger took place, Agnes explained.

The camp finances now come from the overall GSGI budget.

Martha Krone, GSGI board chairwoman, said no immediate decisions about the future of Joy Hollow will be made.

The input gathered from Wednesday's townhall meeting will be used for long-term decisions.

One audience member asked what kind of long-term plan GSGI is looking for.

"I would imagine we'll come out with some kind of recommendation that could happen right away and some things that might be five or 10 years away," Lindstrom said.

The process of setting recommendations could take months, at least, she said.

Karen Grode, CEO of GSGI, said after the long-term plan is laid out, GSGI would like to host a capital campaign to raise money for each of the camps the organization operates in Iowa.

"It is the intention to continue working on how we can continue to make Joy Hollow viable," Brode said. "The heart of all of these people are to keep Joy Hollow viable."

One audience member said if Girl Scouts ask people for donations for Joy Hollow, they want to be able to tell those donors that the camp will still be there in five years.

"We just want to feel secure about the camp continuing," she said.

Another member commented on the importance of the camp.

"Joy Hollow is the only camp in the western third of Iowa," he said. "I think that's the reason for our allegiance here. It would really cut down the camping experience for so many girls. What we got, we want to keep."

Cindy Findley, who is working on the project, said the GSGI task force is working to preserve the camping experience for the daughters and granddaughters of those in the audience.

"We want this to work, and we're working hard for it," Findley said.



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