Treasured Girl Scout Camp begins to rebuild
When Girl Scout Camp Covington lost 90 percent of its trees and camp facilities in 2005, it was hard to imagine one of the oldest Girl Scout camps in the United States might not survive. But after three years of planning for its redevelopment and the funding needed to make it happen, Camp Covington has begun the difficult journey to re-open.
“We are very excited to see our plans for Camp Covington’s redevelopment taking shape since the receipt of initial funding,” said Allison Pastor, vice president of properties for Girl Scouts Louisiana East. “We’ve been able to re-open the camp for day use and weekend camping with plans to offer resident camping next summer.” Pastor said contributions both large and small are helping the council rebuild the camp, with funding primarily coming from the William Edwin Montan Charitable Trust managed by Capital One in Baton Rouge and The McClure Fund through the Greater New Orleans Foundation, with in-kind contributions from David Guidry of Artesian, LLC.
According to Pastor, when the New Orleans-area Girl Scout council purchased the 23-acre site in 1927 with help from the St. Tammany and Greater New Orleans communities, different Covington community groups supplied the design, materials and labor for the construction of the original 10 cabins. Today, the four surviving cabins have received new foundations, roofs, beds, and mattresses. Two of the cabins now have porches and one has a handicap accessible ramp. The redesigned camping area affectionately known as Pooh’s Corner also includes a new fire circle and grill. The latrine cabin has been repaired, but funds are still needed to install a new septic system to meet environmental requirements.
The dining hall received the most extensive damage and now sits on a new foundation with a new roof and a 12-foot porch with handicap accessible ramp. But additional funds are needed to complete the kitchen and bathroom, purchase appliances, and complete all electrical work. While electrical power has been restored to the ranger’s cabin, plans are currently underway seeking funds to convert the entire camp to solar powered energy.
A new area was created for platform tent camping and now boasts ten new platform tents, beds, and its own nearby latrine. The strategic placement of the tents allows them to be used as two separate camping units, each with its own fire circle and covered area with picnic tables. To create the new elevated tent area, dirt was removed from near the entrance, creating two new ponds and a new gravel parking area. Nearby is a new day use area complete with two covered areas, picnic tables and a grill.
“We’ve also added a ½ mile Frisbee golf course with 18 holes that offers glow in the dark Frisbees for night time fun,” said Pastor. She said an archery course is being carved out and will be ready for use by February 2010 with new equipment. A new hiking path around the perimeter of the camp showcases other improvements to Camp Covington, including access to the Bogue Falaya River in two locations with a beach volleyball court and a fire circle area. Girl Scouts still love to hear the story about the 1940s movie star, Dorothy Lamour, who once earned her Girl Scout lifesaving award by swimming in the Bogue Falaya River at Camp Covington!
“Every Arbor Day for the last three years, Girl Scouts have come out to plant over 3,000 longleaf pine seedlings to help re-forest the camp,” said Mike Heyd, camp ranger for Camp Covington. “Some of the first tree seedlings planted are two to three feet high now.” Over 50 Girl Scout Daisies and adult volunteers recently attended Daisy Day at Camp Covington in October to get their first experience of day camping. A celebration to official re-open Camp Covington is being planned for Arbor Day in February 2010 but Girl Scout troops are already enjoying weekend campouts this fall.
“It was so nice to camp at Covington again,” said Julie LeBlanc, a Girl Scout alumna and volunteer who camped with a Metairie Girl Scout Cadette troop overnight last weekend. “It was hard to imagine the camp coming back after Katrina, so I love seeing the progress being made.”
Girl Scout’s mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. The local council, Girl Scouts Louisiana East, serves girls 5 to 17 in the parishes of Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana. For more information about Girl Scouting or volunteer opportunities, call the council office in New Orleans at (504) 733-8220, in Baton Rouge at (225) 927-8946, or visit its website at www.gsle.org.
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