Girl Scouts back at Tapawingo
BEEKMANTOWN — Camp Tapawingo opened as a Girl Scout summer camp for the first time in six years with a week-long session attended by 53 campers.
A recent open house, which also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America, included a traditional scout flag ceremony, cookout lunch and a show with skits and songs performed by the campers.
Those affiliated with the Girl Scouts put in many hours preparing the grounds of the camp for the occasion, said Diane Germano, Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York major gifts specialist at the Plattsburgh Service Center.
The road that led to this summer’s reopening was a long one, as the camp had been forced to close for a variety of reasons, she said.
The Ernest Turner Memorial Fund Inc., which has owned the camp since 1954, specifies that Tapawingo could be used by the Girl Scouts, Germano said. But it wasn’t clear whether the Turner Fund or the Girl Scouts were financially responsible for maintaining the grounds and keeping the camp in usable condition, and this led to problems, she said.
While the camp’s water supply meets state standards now, that wasn’t always the case.
In 2000, the New York State Department of Health ruled that camps couldn’t use lake water.
In an attempt to solve the problem, the Turner Fund drilled an expensive well. But water samples from the well were determined to be unsafe because it was drilled too close to the lake.
The nature of the camp’s geography was essentially the problem, said Nikki Hilchey, grantwriter for the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York’s Plattsburgh Service Center and former director of Camp Tapawingo.
With the promise that water would be boiled or bottled water used instead, Tapawingo was permitted to stay open in 2005 and 2006.
But because the Health Department could not approve the camp and the water problem had not been solved, Camp Tapawingo closed at the end of the summer of 2006.
And the Girl Scouts were not able to take action to keep Tapawingo open, Hilchey said.
“Because we don’t own that property, we had no control over that,” she said. “It was very difficult.” The water issues have since been resolved.
Hilchey has a personal connection to the camp. Years ago, she was a camper there and later went on to be a program aide and a staff member before she became director.
“It’s a site I absolutely adore,” she said.
The transition was made easier for her because, in 2007, she began a job as a full-time employee of the Girl Scouts.
Hilchey applied for funding from United Way of the Adirondack Region last year to help girls with the cost of attending Girl Scout programs.
“When we applied for the grant, we didn’t know it would be for Tapawingo,” she said.
A $1,500 seed grant was secured and set for use in last summer’s programs, but an extension on the grant was requested because not enough girls registered for camp.
It was used for this summer’s week of camp, reducing the price of a week from $180 to $80 for girls who qualified.
In past years, six or seven weeks of camp were offered at Tapawingo, but this year’s budget allowed for only one week, Hilchey said.
To participate, girls had to be registered with the Girl Scouts but didn’t have to have any previous experience with the organization, Hilchey said.
Girl Scout activities are organized into six “pathways:” troop, camp, series, events, travel and virtual.
A scout may choose to just participate in camps, for instance, Hilchey said.
The open house gave members of the Turner Fund Board and Girl Scout representatives an opportunity to compile a history of the camp.
Its history isn’t well known, Germano said.
“We’re hoping to get a true documented record of everything,” and that process began at the open house.
Hilchey said the two main buildings at the camp, Rainbow Dining Hall and the Arts and Crafts Shack, were built in 1987. A camp staff member donated the funds to build an outdoor pavilion in the early 1990s.
Hilchey and Germano are pleased that lasting memories were once again made at Tapawingo.
This year, former campers sent their daughters, and parents whose older daughters went to the camp sent their younger siblings, Hilchey said.
“We’re all so excited that this facility is being used and the girls can have the experience that so many of us have had,” she said.