LAKE WYLIE -- The giggles and shrills of rambunctious Girl Scouts won't be heard on Lake Wylie this summer.
Camp Catawbaw, home to the York County Girl Scout Day Camp each summer, has been sold, Girl Scout officials confirmed Tuesday. The sale signals the end of an era for York County Girl Scouts as development -- slowly creeping in on the once-rural camp in recent years -- again wins the battle for land on the western shores of Lake Wylie.
"It's really sad because we're losing a place where so many girls have made memories," said Marlene Ennis, the camp's archery instructor.
Details of the sale, including the buyer's name and the selling price, were not disclosed. However, the 27-acre camp's lake frontage and location along the fast-growing S.C. 274 corridor should fetch a big check.
Ironically, two years ago the Girl Scouts were part of a group of conservationists whose $13 million bid for a large tract of land along the Catawba River in eastern York County was trumped by Newland Development, which now plans to build houses on the site.
The growth around Camp Catawbaw, located off Hands Mill Highway near the Big Allison Creek bridge, has escalated recently. Million-dollar homes have sprung up within shouting distance, and a project to widen the highway bordering the camp to five lanes is under way. Across the lake, Crescent Resources owns hundreds of acres that soon will be developed, including offices for truckmaker Freightliner.
The increasing population has raised concerns about security at the camp, said Sally Daley, executive vice president of the Girl Scouts Hornets Nest Council. In recent years, the Scouts have had trouble with trespassing and littering from outsiders, she said. "We've really lost all our security buffers," she said.
Regional council growing
Internal growth also influenced the decision to sell Camp Catawbaw.
Daley said the Hornets Nest Council of Girl Scouts, all the troops in the eight-county Charlotte metro area, including York County, has grown by 65 percent in the past decade to more than 14,000 Girl Scouts and 5,000 adult members.
That growth has put a capacity crunch on area camps. Daley said the Scouts conducted a long-range study about five years ago that called for a new, larger camp to serve the growing organization. The group recently purchased a 700-acre site in Iredell County, N.C., to serve that purpose, she said, but smaller camps are being sold to pay for it, including Camp Catawbaw and Camp Occoneechee near Lake Lure, N.C.
A national organization realignment scheduled for this year will expand the Hornets Nest Council to include most of western North Carolina, and officials believe the larger camp will be needed.
"Basically, we're doing a land swap to get this other property," Daley said, noting the decision to sell didn't come without protest by some members. "When you're dealing with Girl Scout camps, it's very emotional. Many of our members grew up going to camp there and now have children camping there. But they know this is what's right for the girls."
For decades, hundreds of kindergartners through sixth-graders converged on Camp Catawbaw for its day camp every June and weekend events throughout the year. The camp hosted up to 90 campers at a time for overnight trips and offered swimming, canoeing, crafts, hiking, archery and other outdoor activities.
The camp also has been a training ground for older Scouts. Teenage Girl Scouts organized the day camps each summer as part of special projects.
Ennis, the archery instructor, whose two teenage daughters have attended Camp Catawbaw since kindergarten, said local Scouts officials are hoping to find a new location for Girl Scout activities in York County because traveling to an overnight camp in North Carolina isn't feasible for many participants.
"It was our local place. Not everyone could afford to go overnight to another camp," she said. "It was a really great local camp."