Monday, April 30, 2012

Letters from Girls ~ Columbia Falls Service Unit ~ Typed and Annotated by Ann Brooks

     Here's a typed up version of some letters from girls hoping to save Camp Westana.  I will copy the originals (they are wonderful, handwritten, and include colorful artwork) before sending them to council.  What I record here, then, is a typed, black and white, flat version of their letters.  In order to portray some of the authentic flavor, I'll include some of the events I overheard or otherwise gleaned from being present when pen (or marker) was put to paper (when I can).  Also I'll keep the author's original spellings.

“please help us save the Westana Camp.  Please because some people haven't been their And it looks fun! 
please save it.”  “By Jenisha 3433”.  (2nd Grade) This text also includes a drawing of a blue, white, and red flag on a pink pole. 

This letter and the ones following were written by a young troop, 1st and 2nd graders.  This is their first year as a troop and they have NEVER been to Camp Westana.  Ever. An older girl, a 9th grader, sat with them and helped them with their spelling and showed them a slide show of some of the things her troop had done over the past 9 years at Camp Westana.  One of the things that really caught the younger girls' attention were the photos of the Columbia Falls Service Unit retiring three American flags at Camp Westana.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Stay tuned and check back soon ~ More from Bill Beck and DNRC!

We are still working on refining all of the options we can bring forward to council at the up-coming town meetings (info here).

To bring anyone new somewhat up to speed, area members received a letter from Council (GS of MT/WY) asking for help in deciding what to do following a lease rate increase (from $5,000 to $25,000) and leaders in multiple towns started efforts to help.

Up here (Columbia Falls) we started with a facebook page and this blog, and things took off from there following really fast press coverage through Kalispell leaders that referenced our on-line resources.

Senator Bill Beck talked to council about his desire to help, and her reached out to leaders as well.  He's been keeping us posted, and DNRC has met with him multiple times to keep brainstorming.

The Senator and local DNRC leaders let me sit in with them yesterday, and the ideas I heard were extremely encouraging.  It was also great to see agency leaders empowered by their agency.....they are working to help and truly willing to explore ideas, so today we are grateful to Bill Beck for the bridges he's building and DNRC for their problem solving approach.

I can't wait to summarize all the possibilities.....the options and combinations of options possible make quite a long list when you put them together!

More soon!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Westana Letter you have to read ~ Ann Brooks, Troop 3964

To Whom It May Concern,

I'm writing this letter to let you know what Camp Westana means to me. Sometimes when things are taken away or lost, only then does their worth becomes apparent. I value this purposeful introspective, so I can appreciate what we have with Westana, while we still have it. So I know also, what the cost will be to me, if we lose it. Hopefully this will be a bit of premature nostalgia and we can go back to camping at Westana for years to come. So, here's what I noticed over the years.

Camp Westana has a gift to push an individual's preconceived limitations and to promote a troop's team spirit and disguise it all as fun. Our girls began going to Westana when they were six years old. They had preconceptions that they needed electricity, walls, roofs, floors, flushing toilets, and/or vehicle access to be comfortable. We had so much fun without these things that we went back in the winter. We had so much fun in the winter, that we went back, summer and winter, year after year. We had so much fun going back year after year, that we began inviting other troops to come with us. We had so much fun going back with other troops, we began to expand our visits to summer, winter, and fall.

The girls gained from all these experiences. While it's not like they'd ever put, “I could haul all the things I needed for a winter overnighter in on a sled when I was 10 years old” on a resume, it is something that becomes internalized. And when new obstacles confront that girl, what was once “impossible” is now measured with the yardstick of “Oh, I've done things I thought impossible before. And I loved them”.

I gained too. Camp Westana is on Lower Stillwater Lake. In order for the girls to go past their knees in the water I had to become a lifeguard. Swimming was never anything I did in the past and I had a preconceived limitation on my ability to swim 500 yards. Heck, I couldn't even conceive of how far 500 yards was on a lake. But if we were spending time on Lower Stillwater Lake, I'd have to swim 500 yards for the Red Cross certification. So I did. And then as a troop, we pushed the boundaries of what is considered typical and acceptable swimming standards by playing in pure muck. We swam, used logs as rafts, had mud fights, and discovered fish, snakes, turtles, and crawdads. We swam in the impossible (and showered quickly afterwards, I will admit).

Camp Westana has a gift of being a bridge to the community. Before we even got to camp, back in our own neighborhoods, selling cookies door to door, women would tell us about how when they were a Girl Scout 50 years ago, and they went to Camp Westana. They remembered and we felt a bond. And when we got to camp, as remote as Camp Westana is, we never lost that sense of being connected to something bigger. We never could. So many people came together to enhance our experiences there. Teresa at the USFS would set aside snowshoes for us to use each winter, so we could haul our sleds in. Kay would set out the key and tell us how deep the snow was that year. We had

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dates and times confirmed for town meetings ~ one in Columbia Falls!

Thank you GSMW!

We are excited for the town meetings.  Earlier dates were tentative, but Stefanie Harrington of Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming (GSMW, the council we are part of) confirmed the following dates/times/places:

Monday, April 30th, 7pm

Hampton Inn- Springcreek “A” Room

1140 Highway 2 West, Kalispell, Montana

Tuesday, May 1st, 12 Noon

Teakettle Community Hall

235 Nucleus Ave, Columbia Falls, Montana

Please share with anyone you think is interested in attending; council will also be working to communicate the info!

See you there, right?

You can help spread the word by any means, no matter how old fashioned, and/or you can use the facebook event page ( to share/invite people, and/or you can find us on twitter and retweet (@SaveCampWestana)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Featured Interlake Article ~ 100th Anniversay and Interviews with Sago's

Girl Scouts celebrate 100 years of service
CANDACE CHASE/Daily Inter Lake

"Sally Leep, chief executive officer of the Montana/Wyoming council, said the organization has been resilient while remaining faithful to Low’s vision of a safe and supportive environment in which girls develop courage, confidence and character to become leaders.
“Since 1912, Girl Scouting has built its success on a deep commitment to  timeless values,” Leep said.
For Sago, the mother of three daughters who achieved Girl Scouts’ lofty Gold Award, as well as others in Montana, these 100th year celebrations became slightly bittersweet with the potential loss of the state lease for Camp Westana. Using an updated appraisal of the camp, the state raised the annual lease from $5,000 to a cost-prohibitive $25,000 a year.
Each of Sago’s daughters — Cassandra, 22; Deirdra, 19; and Kendra, 17 — put in 65 or more hours making improvements at the camp to earn their Gold Awards. Deirdra, now a community college student, and Kendra, a junior at Columbia Falls High School, worked on the camp last summer."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Town Meeting(s) Rescheduled

Too tired to type much tonight, but please take note of the new info (more on the related tab at the top of the page):

April 30 in Kalispell
Possibly a second meeting in Whitefish or Columbia Falls

Stay tuned....and contact council if you'd like them to know that a C Falls meeting is important to C Falls troops, parents, leaders, and community members (


Today's food for thought:  Sleep is very important.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Representative Bill Beck to Girlscouts: You're not alone

Yesterday's post may have made our progress sound a little....stagnant?  We've found that our limitations so far are pretty darn limiting....hefty and grounded in law and policy decisions that are so far not at all in our favor.  Issues we can't address with cookie sales!

So far, our camp is in the wrong place at the wrong time politically, but she is still standing where she belongs, so we are still ready to do whatever it takes to keep her there.

Which brings me to today's happy event....a phone call from Bill Beck, who wanted to let us know that we're not in this alone, and that solutions are being sought.  He's begun meeting with agencies and organizations that could help with solutions or play important roles, and he has more meetings to come.

He sees that there are win-win possibilities here, and it is EXTREMELY heartening to know that those with the resources and skills to do what we can't are engaged and active in doing so!  Stay tuned, campers!

Today's food for thought:
This is the day, in 1962, that Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Count-down to Town Meetings ~ A couple of weeks to go

Times and places are still to be determined, but council is looking at the 30th in Kalispell, then hopefully another in Whitefish or Columbia Falls.

STAY TUNED and stay active: To save Westana, our hill is still pretty steep!

We have some very achievable goals, and some that are pretty challenging (ahem, $500,000 is a lot of cookies, as pointed out in last week's Missoulian article).

We still need letters to council!

We still need strong attendance at the town meetings!

We still need ideas and local commitment to long term support once the camp is saved!

We also know there are an awful lot of stories out there we haven't heard yet.

Please stay tuned, we need you, council needs you, Westana needs you, and local girlscouts need you!

Today's food for thought:

To take a service unit on a campout for two nights in the Flathead Valley can be more expensive than you might think, even on public land.  Without Westana as an option, our bi-monthly Service Unit campouts may be too much for local troops to afford.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Court ruling halts law to cut lease rate increases (cabin/residential leases)

This article pertains to a different type of leases than ours, but us relevant to school trust lease lands and the idea of capturing full market value for all school trust lands.  Not great timing.  The relevance/need for regulatory relief is further discussed elsewhere on this blog, including the easement option page.

Friday, April 6, 2012

New Research Confirms Lifetime Benefits of Girls' Participation in Girl Scouting

New Research Confirms Lifetime Benefits of Girls' Participation in Girl Scouting

Approximately one in every two adult women in the United States was a girl scout at some point, according to this article.  Society/Community benefits to active scouting are enormous....remote areas need resources and support to keep scouting alive (in some cases staff, in some cases trainings, in some cases a facility like Westana makes a huge difference in what troops can do....and in our case, whether or not we can keep up our campouts....this is the return I feel we need, in an area removed from a lot of the resources troops in larger areas may have more ready access to).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Missoulian Article April 3 ~ 'Cut Girl Scouts Some Slack'

Happy 100th anniversary, Girl Scouts! Now cough up $25,000.
That’s essentially Montana’s poorly timed message to the state chapter of the national youth organization. The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation recently let the Scouts know that their annual lease payment for Camp Westana is ballooning from $5,000 to $25,000.
State officials met with leaders of the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming and agreed to extend the lease for one year. Even so, the Girl Scouts say there’s no way they can pay the new rental price, which came as a result of a reappraisal on the 7.2-acre property on Lower Stillwater Lake just north of Whitefish.
Last month Girl Scouts of the United State of America celebrated its founding 100 years ago, when Juliette Gordon Low hosted the very first Girl Scouts meeting in Savannah, Ga. The organization now counts 2.3 million active Girl Scouts nationwide.
Some of those Girl Scouts are now planning town meetings in Whitefish and Columbia Falls to drum up public support for Camp Westana and come up with ideas to save the beloved property. A Facebook campaign – at – is already under way.
But surely the state can cut this youth organization some slack. State government leaders need to work with the Girl Scouts to determine a more reasonable long-term lease payment.