Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Let My People...Go Outside

I have to admit it, I am being a curmudgeon in this post.  You know-getting all grumpy about A)something I can't control, and B)something that really doesn't matter.  But sometimes it feels good to get jiggy with my curmudgeon side, so today I am rolling with it.
Facebook, and chain e-mails, seems to love sending around the "remember when" ditty's.  Rememeber when gas was a quarter?  Remember when the sexiest thing on tv was "Love Boat"?  Remember how we actually had Christmas Vacation and not Winter Break?  Remember how we smoked during pregnancy AND snacked on lead paint chips?  I usually roll my eyes or jog down memory lane for just a wee bit, even though most of these are not to interesting.  However, there is one that always frustrates me.  Remember when we actually played outside and the street lights going on meant it was time for home?
I can't change the price of a loaf of bread, and I wish we could go back to the days of LESS reality tv, but seriously, if you want to see kids play outside, LET YOUR KIDS OUTSIDE!!  Seriously, we can solve this one. I hear people lament about this one all the time, about kids not going outside anymore, and it frustrates me because it is so easily solved.
Ohhhh, I know what people will say.  The possible bee stings, broken bones, or fights from bullies.  Kids can get bit by dogs, scratched by cats, or chased by rabid possums.  They could get weird germs from playing in the gutter, or the dog poop in my front yard.  What if they eat the weird berries, or worse, someone tries to abduct them? 
The truth is, statistically, kids are safer than ever before.  With bicycle helmets, immunizations, and sunscreens, kids today have protections most of us over 40 never dreamed of.  And while I wish abductions never happened, the truth is, most children are taken by someone they know.  So why are we so damn scared to let our kids out?  Every headline seems like our backyard.  The worst you can imagine may have happened half way around the world, but still, it happened, scarying us into fat kids who view the outdoors as the worst place to be.
Just because statistically kids are safer doesn't mean you have to let your guard down.  I don't send my kids out to play in highway traffic with hunting knives because hey, statistically they are safer now then 20 years ago.  I still go with my 6 year old to the restroom at the mall, and I never let my kids out in the front yard unless I am out front too.  Statistic might relieve my mind, but my heart still has to see those horrid stories about kids not coming home due to a predator.  However, what I can do as a parent is make sure I am giving my kids the opportunities I had.  I go out front so they can.  I let them play in my fenced in backyard, even though they could break something.  I watch them make up weird games, and sometimes pretend I don't see them poking at the dog poop so they can snickeer about it later.  And I would challenge any parent concerned that their kids weren't getting to watch the street lights come on in the summer, to do the same.  Childhood is calling...go enjoy it.  So there.........

Friday, May 11, 2012

Scout Properties

Regarding the Long Range Property Plan:

I have been a Girl Scout member since 1978 (an adult member since 1990).  My credentials are such that  I worked as a resident counselor at Arrowhead for four summers,  spent one summer doing Brownie Camp at Mountaindale, and I am currently gearing up for my fourth summer as a day-camp counselor.  In addition, I worked at outdoor school here in Oregon, and Pennsylvania, and spent a summer as a day camp counselor for Campfire.
My original intention was to comment on Homestead; the scout property closest to my service area.  After reading the report however, I find that I have several comments to make.
Considering the leadership that Girl Scouts had regarding outdoor programming in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, I am incredibly dismayed to discover so many of our properties with deferred maintenance issues.  Even the “best” of our camps, have adequate facilities at best.  Considering the role Girl Scouts has played in outdoor education, I find that leadership has let us down to have so many properties needing so much attention.  Particularly disturbing was Marilyn’s Place at Mountaindale.  Despite the apparent age of the facility, it is actually quite “young” compared to facilities at numerous other camps and yet there are already significant drawbacks to programming and general usage.  As we consider the future of our program, and what we have to offer, I hope that mistakes of the past, either mismanagement or poor planning,  can be avoided.  Buildings constructed should not be considered “past their prime” within a few decades.  Properties should not be allowed to disintegrate, and then hope they can be spun-off because of upgrading costs.  All of our membership deserves more than that. 
For decades, most outdoor opportunities for girls and young women was through the Girl Scouts.  Now that we have achieved so much, it seems as if scouts wants to push us back.  Our council sits on prime sites-either because of their ruggedness, or proximity to urban areas.  We have the ability to be leaders once again in this arena.  I would argue that we work to save all sites regardless of our personal thoughts.  Obviously I  will be biased to the ones closest to me, but I would argue that some of the sites I am unfamiliar with have their supporters as well.  Re-alignment is barely two years old.  Most of us are still grappling with the idea that Grants Pass, Newport, and Portland are all of the same council.  We should be given more time to explore some of these areas that are so new to us.  We should take into consideration the expected influx of “new arrivals” to the Pacific NW in the next twenty years, and especially look closely at ALL properties by urban areas. 

The question always remains, how to provide AND pay for the things we wish to accomplish.  The obvious answer is that IF there are in fact no properties in the entire council area that NO ONE has emotional ties to, it should be sold, or otherwise dealt with accordingly.  I have already stated I have low hopes for that being the case, but if I am wrong, I support a sale.  I would also argue about the type of programming we can offer at these sites.  Most of the sites are poised for excellent outdoor education-from simple to extreme.  The first time hiker with a daisy troop should find access readily available, but some of the older girls would enjoy learning wilderness rescue, extreme camping, and outdoor survival.  And while outdoor education is always a positive, there are other ways to utilize these properties.  In the mid-1980’s, I attended an overnight in The Dalles with the sole purpose of completing a badge.  Our council overnight facilities can be used for this again.  Also let the membership know that girls from Portland might love to know where overnight facilities are in the Medford area, just as girls from K. Falls would love an opportunity to learn about the Columbia River Gorge.  Encourage troops to do educational trips to these “exotic” locales.  Council needs to “sell” these trips.  Maybe instead of “Wider Opportunities”, we do “Local Opportunities”.  Mini-trips planned around the location of the scout houses.  I myself can envision a four night trip to The Dalles to learn about the geology of the Gorge, or maybe a three night stay at the Albany or Eugene house for seniors in high school, to check out colleges in the area (Univ. of Ore., Ore. State, AND Western Ore. Univ. are all within an hour’s drive of each other).  There also might be opportunities for girls to partake in upgrading the facilities.  While building a brand new lodge is probably not realistic, older girls might relish the opportunity to learn how to build a new Adirondack at Arrowhead or Whispering Winds; saving money AND teaching useful skills.  Trail building, healthy forest management, painting simple outbuildings, are all activities that can be appropriately managed for different ages and skill levels.  We need to look “outside the box” of what the great outdoors is, and re-define it to be more acceptable to the 21st century.  We need to do the same with how we can utilize the valuable sites we have.

In regards to Homestead specifically, I find it disheartening that once again, a property on the east side of the Portland-metro area is in danger of being let go.  We in this area seem to have to fight for a space to send our girls.  And it certainly isn’t because we aren’t interested.  Arrowhead saw healthy numbers of participants, and yet was still allowed to disintegrate, seemingly with the hopes the membership wouldn’t want to spend money to preserve it.  The number of visits days Homestead is visited is listed as 105, a misleadingly low number.  That is not even half the days of a given year.  However, it does represent almost every single weekend, which shows the immense interest in this valuable site.  Those of us who live near this site are willing to take an active role in its usage and preservation.  We have shown our utmost dedication by actually using this site, repeatedly.  If this site is taken from us, where would we have the kind of access elsewhere?  The committee stated it was willing to make sure girls had access to other areas, if one site became unavailable, so where would east county go?  While Mountaindale and Arrowhead are both great areas, they are not as close in proximity as Homestead, nor are they as convenient for smaller programs.  I ask again, what would replace Homestead?

 I would bet that any service area would fight for the sites it deems emotionally valuable.  Council, and the committee, need to let us, the membership take an active role in not only Homestead but every site we have ownership of.  Because the girls are repeatedly begging for different opportunities, and we have the possibility to provide them, it needs to be done.  But we need new thinking, and new ideas, to get these properties ready for the future, and declaring them to decayed and bothersome, is not the way to do it.