Hope for the Hills: ExtraOrdinary Give donations will be invested in Camp Furnace Hills

By on November 16, 2017


A 2008 flag ceremony at the Girl Scouts' Camp Furnace Hills in northern Lancaster County. The 320-acre camp, which began in 1947, may be sold.

Camp Furnace Hills has gotten a reprieve, with the Council of Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) deciding to retain 50 acres of the original camp for Girl Scouting programs, instead of the 10 acres originally announced in late August. This Friday’s ExtraOrdinary Give could benefit the popular camp even further.

Located in Clay and West Cocalico townships and heavily used by Lititz-area Scouts, Furnace Hills has been a cherished part of the local Scouting tradition for more than 70 years. A fierce wind storm last February destroyed hundreds of trees on the property as well as a number of buildings at the camp, putting the future of the facility in jeopardy.

Months before the storm hit, Furnace Hills was already part of a comprehensive review plan by GSHPA as one of seven camps owned and operated by the council.

Over the past year, GSHPA conducted an evaluation of outdoor programs and properties throughout its 30-county footprint, said Amy Mountain, director of communications for the council.

“We had a long-range planning committee evaluating all of our properties, and Camp Furnace Hills was one of those,” she said. “Then the storm hit and the storm forced us to make an earlier decision about Furnace Hills.”

The August decision to keep only 10 acres of the camp was a response to a mandate from an insurance company that gave the council a deadline, Mountain said.

“A lot of that first decision came about because historic buildings are located on those 10 acres, including Foxfire House, and we wanted to make sure they were retained for future use,” she explained. “That was something we didn’t want to lose.”

The program center, although not historical, is also on those 10 acres and is a good resource for Scouting programs, she added.

The 50 acres GSHPA decided to retain are all located to the east of Girl Scout Road.

Deciding the fate of seven camps which are owned by the council has been difficult, Mountain said.

“We went through reams of data, with so many different factors to consider; we were inundated,” she said. “It’s been a complex process that’s taken more than a year. It’s also been a very emotional process. People have memories and experiences with the camps that they don’t want to lose.”

Public opinion played a big part in the decision, she said.

“The most important part of this is the girls’ input,” Mountain said. “We’re asking troops what they want to see, what kind of programs they want to have at the camp.”

Focus groups and council and troop meetings will all work toward deciding future programs at the camp, she said.

Of the counties that make up GSHPA, the three with the highest membership are Dauphin, York and Lancaster, Mountain said, with each county having between 3,200 to 5,000 members.

One of the camps that will be closed, Camp Echo Trail in York County, inadvertently contributed to Camp Furnace Hills staying open.

Closing Camp Echo Trail meant a full camp in South Central Pennsylvania would no longer be available, so it made sense to expand Camp Furnace Hills, Mountain said.

As an example of why some camps have been marked for closing, Mountain said utilization of Camp Echo Trail was low, and the camp had some “fairly serious water issues.” Wells on the property were no longer producing water.

Because of the infrequent use of the property, it was hard to justify pouring a significant amount of money into the camp to repair its infrastructure, Mountain said.

In recent months, Camp Echo Trail was only available for “primitive camping,” meaning no running or potable water was on site.

On Friday, Nov. 17, GSHPA will participate in the Lancaster Extraordinary Give, a 24-hour online “giving” event, Mountain said.

“All proceeds that day will go toward opening and investment in Camp Furnace Hills,” Mountain said. “We’ve been blessed by a few donors who have committed to matching funds.”

The online giving is much like a 24-hour “GoFundMe” account.

“We’re going to invest in Camp Furnace Hills so we can offer more programs and different kinds of programs,” Mountain said.

A volunteer work day will be held the next day on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Camp Furnace Hills.

Marylouise Sholly is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at weezsholly@verizon.net.


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