Girl Scouts Use Social Media To Engage Girls in Development of New Camp

Contractors Help Girls Learn About Construction Methods, Careers

Girl Scouts of Gateway Council is building a new camp! They broke ground on the North Fork Leadership Center near Middleburg in June of 2009. It will serve girls in 16 counties of North Florida.

The purchase and development of the pristine 250 acre property bordering Black Creek was made possible by the council's largest Capital Campaign in its history. So far, over six million dollars in gifts and pledges have been received, and there are still opportunities for the public to help build the new camp through donations.

The North Fork Updates blog keeps interested parties informed about the development with pictures, video and writing by council staff, developers and the girls themselves. Pictures and video of the project are also posted on the council's Facebook Fan Page and on Twitter.

Teams of Girl Scout bloggers attend owners' construction meetings with council staff and contractors Dana B. Kenyon, and tour the construction site regularly photographing and writing about the project. The bloggers are tasked with keeping other girls informed and excited about the construction taking place while the property is closed to campers. They share news about the construction on their blog, North Fork Updates.

The team at Breaking Ground Construction have also been engaged to ensure that the construction of their new camp contains an educational experience for the girls.

Representatives from the woman-owned construction company are highlighting construction related career choices and offering a behind-the-scenes perspective on the construction process as it happens.

The size and ecological diversity of the property make North Fork a convenient setting for hiking, canoeing and kayaking, outdoor sports and environmental education.

One of just a handful of entirely new Girl Scout camps in the country, it has been designed and planned with input from the girls and adult volunteers who will use it for generations to come.

Phase One Plans
The first phase of development will provide overnight facilities for up to 146 campers at two themed camping villages.

At the top of a picturesque sloping creek bank sits The Fishing Village. The Towers Family Activity Center is a gift from Jean Towers Lyerly and family, who sold the land for North Fork to the Girl Scouts in 2002. Re-purposing the property's main house, the Fishing Village evokes classic Florida Fish Camp lifestyle. Water sports rate high among girls' favorite activities at camp, and with canoes and kayaks stored nearby, the Fishing Village offers convenient access to Black Creek. The Fishing Village also contains The Harriet Barrett Program Center, named in Mrs. Barrett's memory by her daughters and friends.

"We spent so many summers and weekends on our family farm and made so many happy memories. I am thrilled that it will become a camp for thousands of Girl Scouts who will make their own memories there."

- Jean Towers Lyerly, donor to the camp, whose family previously owned the land.

The Arts Village will feature amenities to encourage girls' creativity - things like extra sinks for washing out paintbrushes, art display areas and mural walls. The Arts Village will be a creative space ideal for girls to practice story-telling, drama, creative writing, photography and music.

One of the program shelters at the Arts Village is a gift to the Girl Scouts from The Suddath Family and The Suddath Companies. Additional support for the Arts Village at North Fork has come from Publix Super Markets Charities.

"Our grandmother was instrumental in developing Girl Scouts in Denver many years ago. We are very happy to participate in the campaign for a new camp."

Barbara Suddath Strickland, donor (with her family and The Suddath Companies) to the Arts Village.


Health And Aquatics Center
Sure to make a splash with the girls is their sparkling new pool, the central feature of the camp's Health and Aquatics Center - a multi-purpose salt-chlorinated swimming pool with a zero-depth or "beach" entry for handicap access, bathhouse and training center. Major funding for the pool was provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. The outdoor training center at the Health and Aquatics Center was funded by the Edna Sproull Williams Foundation.

"Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida is proud to encourage health and fitness through our support of the Health and Aquatics Center at the new Girl Scout camp."

- Susan Towler, Vice President, Public Affairs, BCBSFL

Going Green - From The Ground Up

It should come as no surprise that the design of the Girl Scouts' new camp includes many "green" construction techniques.
Lead contractors Dana B. Kenyon Construction are committed to employing environmentally friendly building standards at the camp, including locally-manufactured and recycled construction materials, recycled material for roadways, incorporating environmentally sensitive operating features such as solar and point-of-use water heating, natural ventilation, salt water chlorination and rainwater collection.

Speaking of "green" - Girl Scouts themselves have given $4.2 million toward their camp, including paying off the land purchase with the proceeds from the sale of their camp Chowenwaw in 2005. Girls and volunteers, along with every one of the council's staff and board members have contributed to the campaign. Significant community gifts have come from Helen M. Lane and the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation. The Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation has made an additional gift for Environmental Education Programming at the camp and at other council properties.

A Community Effort
Girl Scouts are seeking the support of the community in meeting a funding challenge from local philanthropists J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver.

After touring the new camp property, Mrs. Weaver contributed $250,000 to the campaign for the Girl Scouts new camp North Fork. In addition, the Weavers have offered Girl Scouts a challenge:

They will give an additional $250,000 - If the Girl Scouts can secure two other $250,000 gifts, and they're halfway there! Girl Scouts have secured one of those two gifts from a private family foundation.

They're seeking another donor to make that second gift - effectively doubling the return on their investment in Girl Scouting and the new camp at North Fork.


The Lois T. Graessle All Camp Amphitheater will be the spot where girls from all parts of the camp will gather - an integral part of the camping experience. Lois Graessle was president of the local Girl Scouts council during the 1960s. "Lois loved camp and bringing people together," says Council CEO Sandra Tysver. "The Amphitheater is an enduring gift to Girl Scouts by Dr. and Mrs. George Dorion and Mrs.Graessle's friends and family. It's an honor to her memory and an enduring reminder of her courageous spirit."

Several beautiful ponds will grace the property. A generous donation by J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver facilitated the expansion of the existing pond, one of the first glimpses girls will have as they enter the camp along the winding main road. While work is being done on the ponds, many of the fish were rounded up by the girls, measured, catalogued and transported to Camp Chowenwaw where they will stay until their habitat has been returned.

There is also a maintenance center, the site manager's residence, and the necessary infrastructure - roads, utilities, parking and drop-off areas.

This first phase of the camp development at North Fork is slated to be completed in the spring. Future phases call for a central dining hall, a welcome center, an equestrian center and a special area for day camp operations.

Opportunities are available for the public to make a contribution to the new camp, or to secure their name on a brick paver at the pool entrance area. The pavers can be engraved in honor of a current Girl Scout, or in memory of a treasured leader or friend. For more information, contact GSGC Chief Development Officer Linda Hull at 904-421-3484 or