This blog chronicles some of the early steps in the Save Westana movement. It was initially intended to give more detailed information about the steps and options we were facing, at the time that I was able to be involved. It now serves as early-on background, with some occasional news from a more peripheral perspective, if and when I have any to share.
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 www.facebook.com/SaveWestana – 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.
The Girl Scouts have used the camp year-round for 50 years now. Countless Girl Scout volunteers, parents and participants have used the site, which includes 300 feet of lake frontage as well as extensively renovated facilities.
The state says the property is now worth about $500,000 – so that’s how much it would cost the Girl Scouts to purchase a permanent easement, assuming they could get a qualified third party to handle the transaction for them. Their other options are to partner with another group and share the costs and the property, or swap a similarly valued piece of land with the state.
If the Scouts can’t come up with a whole lot of money or an alternate solution, they will lose their lease – and lose a gem of a camp.
Let’s see – at $3.50 a box, the scouts would have to sell 7,143 boxes of cookies a year to cover the new $25,000 lease. Maybe the state will consider accepting payment in Thin Mints.