2010-05-05 / Front Page

Volunteers ready Camp O’Fair Winds for summer season

BY PHIL FOLEY 810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

Abby Wattenberg (right), director of camp operations for Girl Scouts of Southeast Michigan, and Ann Goss work outside a Camp O’Fair Winds building on Saturday. Photo by PHIL FOLEY Abby Wattenberg (right), director of camp operations for Girl Scouts of Southeast Michigan, and Ann Goss work outside a Camp O’Fair Winds building on Saturday. Photo by PHIL FOLEY OREGON TWP. — It’s been a year since supporters of the state’s first Girl Scout camp and the Girl Scouts of Southeast Michigan (GSSEM) found themselves at odds over the closing of the camp.

Now Camp O’Fair Winds is reopening and the two groups have kissed and made up — sort of.

The 80-year-old Camp O’Fair Winds is opening May 15 for what Girl Scouts refers to as Troop Camp.

“We still have issues, said Lynn Goss, a 20-year volunteer who at one point last year called for a boycott of Girl Scout cookie sales.

Saturday 25 volunteers gathered at the 465-acre camp that wraps around McKeen Lake to get it ready for this year’s camping season.

Abby Wattenberg and Lynn Goss (right) survey the grounds of the Oregon Township camp. Photo by PHIL FOLEY Abby Wattenberg and Lynn Goss (right) survey the grounds of the Oregon Township camp. Photo by PHIL FOLEY Also on hand was Abby Wattenberg, GSSEM’s director of camp operations.

While there were a lot of smiles on the shore of the spring-fed lake, there were also a lot of concerns. At the heart of it is a decline in Girl Scout-age girls in Michigan. GSSEM officials predict the number of girls in the K-12 age group will fall 7.2 percent by 2014.

The Fair Winds Council, which served Lapeer and Genesee counties, ceased to exist a year ago January when it merged with three Girl Scout Councils in Southeast Michigan as part of a statewide Girl Scout consolidation. The new organization now serves some 40,000 girls in Genesee, Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland, Sanilac and St. Clair counties, as well as parts of Livingston, Monroe and Wayne counties, with service centers in Flint, Port Huron, Clinton Township, Detroit and White Lake.

The new group found itself with more properties than it needed to serve the number of girls enrolled in Scouting, but it also found itself in a collapsing real estate market that made selling off land a poor option.

Goss and others, like Wally Green, whose parents sold the original land for Camp O’Fair Winds to the Girl Scouts became alarmed last May when GSSEM shuttered the facility. As GSSEM began shipping cots and canoes to other camps, Goss and others became convinced the camp they grew up with would be put up for sale.

GSSEM, said Wattenberg, now owns 2,500 acres of land, which puts the group’s 500 acres over the limit for property tax exemption.

Girls Scouts operate two different types of programs at its camps — residential and troop camps. Residential camps, explained Wattenberg, is where girls come to camp individually, staying from two days to three weeks; eat in dining halls; and participate in programs organized by camp staff. Troop camps, she said, is where Girl Scout troops bring everything except tents and provide their own programs.

Two other GSSEM facilities the Playfair Program Center near Lexington in Sanilac County and The Timbers near Traverse City will also be available only for troop camping this summer. Depending on the demand for camping at Camp O’Fair Winds, said Wattenberg, the camping season there might be extended longer than six weeks.

Green, who grew up across the lake from the Girl Scout camp and still lives there, said he’s “thrilled” to see the camp reopen after being quiet all last summer.

Among the volunteers helping spruce up the camp was 80-year-old John Nagy. “I was camp ranger here for 25 1/2 years,” he said as his daughter-in-law, Debbie, scrubbed dishes in Daisy Hall in preparation for the expected campers.

While GSSEM officials continue to mull over the future of Camp O’Fair Winds, Green and others hope it will attract enough campers this summer to keep it open for future generations.

Return to top

Copyright © 2009-2017 The County Press, All Rights Reserved

Click here for the E-Edition
2010-05-05 digital edition

Unrestricted access available to web site subscribers

Subscribers to the County Press newspaper can now purchase the complete online and E-Edition of the paper for as little as $5 for three months. If you want a six month subscription to the online edition it is $10 and a full year can be purchased for $20.

Non-subscribers can sign up for the online version for $15 for three months, $30 for six months and $60 for an annual subscription.