Q: What are the four outdoor properties involved in the Property Master Plan?
A: Camp Ella J. Logan, Syracuse IN, Camp Soni Springs, Three Oaks MI, Camp McMillen, Huntertown IN, and Camp Wildwood, Logansport IN.
Q: Why are we doing Property Master Plans?
A: All of the current master site plans are old (created in the mid 1990’s) and do not address the wants and needs of today’s girls and volunteers, nor do they address the necessity of serving a younger audience. The assumptions made in the current plans need to be rethought in light of this particular portfolio of properties. Coordinating the updated plans with the retained properties in mind will maximize what this particular portfolio can be made to do for the membership.
The updated site plans must ensure that any and all improvements are well planned, properly sited and done in compliance with an overall coordinated effort that integrates the offerings each site contributes to the overall. They need to incorporate creative planning and flexible designs which can accommodate a multitude of uses. The newness of realignment combined with the tough economy has prompted many Girl Scout councils to come up with totally new and different approaches for how they are going about providing these life changing experiences for the girls of today and tomorrow in ways that increasingly promote wise conservation and utilization of council resources.
Finally, as we near our 100th Anniversary, we are looking at our camp property portfolio and how we can bring this important body of assets into the 21st century, modernizing our camps and providing a 21st century outdoor leadership experience for our girls.
Q: Why are you spending money on a master planning consultant?
A: Our competency is girl leadership, not property planning. In August 2010, the Board of Directors voted to divest the council of several properties and to invest the proceeds into the properties that remained. At the time of that action, one future action that was recommended was the completion of Master Site plans for the entire property portfolio that would include critical and preventative maintenance.
At the end of March, 2011, an RFP was sent to four qualified firms. After a thorough interview process with staff and volunteers, the firm of Brandstetter Carroll Inc. was chosen. Not only will they be able to provide the council master site planning services, but they also have experience in the creation of outdoor program plans that can be used to propel our outdoor programs into the future. Their emphasis was on the process of creating site plans rather than the architectural aspects and the interviewing group felt that this focus was what set them apart.
Q: Who is Brandstetter Carroll and what are their qualifications?
A: Brandstetter Carroll is a firm of Architects, Engineers, Landscape Architects and Planners founded in 1979 with the purpose of providing environmentally responsible development and design services to public and private sector clients. In January of 2009, BCI expanded its market capacity to provide Camp Master planning and Architectural Services with the addition of Richard T Parker, AIA, LEED AP. Mr. Parker has a 30 year reputation for award winning design and development of camps and environmental education centers. This firm has been or is currently involved in Master Planning for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, Girl Scouts of Gateway Council and Mr. Parker was involved in the outdoor program plan and master site planning for Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. Mr. Parker is the principle from Brandstetter Carroll who will be completing GSNI-M’s Property Master Plan.
Q: Will there be any place for tent camping (not platform tents, but real and true tents) at any GSNI-M facility?
A: While our camps desperately need modernizing, we also know that there is a contingent that wants the ‘back to basics’ camping experience. We are very early in this master planning process and are hoping to hear more about what program activities and opportunities our membership, both girls and adult volunteers would like to have available.
Q: Why has GSNI-M waited until the ‘end of the optimal life’ on some of our facilities to revamp?
A: It is definitely unfortunate that GSNI-M is in this situation today. All of the legacy councils had outdoor properties in need of upgrading. In most instances, they were only able to invest in the most critical, emergency fixes necessary at each camp. While we are immensely grateful for the outstanding results of our cookie program, it unfortunately does not cover the full cost of doing business at GSNI-M. Our camps cost us approximately $731,000 to maintain each year and we bring in only a fraction of that as revenue from those camps. Filling that gape each year, as well as setting aside capital for the most emergency needs, has been priority one. Our goal is to work toward filling the expense/revenue gap with facilities and programs that resonate with today's girls and volunteers.
Q: How will we fund the upgrades to the properties?
A: The Property Master Plan will be long range, covering a five to ten year window in property development needs. Once the plans are complete and approved, we will have a prioritized list of upgrades for each property as well as for the entire portfolio. We will then determine the best course of action for funding. The board designated fund that was established for the funds gained from the sale of properties will be used to partially finance the most urgent of needs. A capital campaign, several smaller campaigns, or designating a certain percentage of each box of cookies sold to capital development at the camps, are just a couple of ways this can be accomplished.