FORT ANN, NY (April 8, 2015) —Thanks to the dedicated efforts of a united group of former campers and staff and community supporters, a wilderness camp that for more than 70 years has taught generations of young women life skills and environmental stewardship has been purchased by Friends of Camp Little Notch (Friends of CLN) from the Open Space Institute (OSI), and will continue operating in Adirondack Park.
Friends of CLN and OSI began a collaborative effort to save Camp Little Notch in 2010 when OSI purchased the beloved camp from the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York and entered into a partnership with Friends of CLN. Under the agreement, Friends of CLN leased 443 acres from OSI, with the ultimate goal of purchasing the land outright.
Harnessing massive grassroots support as well as funding from the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, Friends of CLN has just purchased the land from OSI for $1.09 million. The deeply discounted purchase price was the result of a conservation easement—made possible by both groups’ mutual interest in protecting natural resources on the property—which will be retained by OSI. Situated between Lake George and Lake Champlain, the property is an important migratory pathway for large mammals and a vital part of the Lake George Watershed region.
"We are so grateful to OSI’s Northern Land Program Director Katie Petronis and everyone at OSI who, from the beginning, believed in and supported Friends of CLN in this endeavor," said Jo Lum, founding Friends of CLN Board President. "Camp Little Notch gave me the strength, resilience, hope and courage to be the person I am today. Completing the purchase of this property is truly the realization of one dream held by hundreds of people and is an affirmation of our enduring commitment to this land and community.”
“Camp Little Notch is one place where the benefits of OSI’s conservation work are strikingly and tangibly on display,” said Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “It is heartening to think that this landscape is being preserved for generations of young women to experience and cherish. We thank Friends of Camp Little Notch, whose accomplishment in preserving this hallowed place is truly amazing.”
The accomplishment of saving Camp Little Notch is virtually unparalleled: to date, it is the only former Girl Scout camp in the United States to have been purchased by an alumnae organization and to be operated as an independent, American Camp Association-Accredited camp.
The journey to preserving the land started in 2008, with the announcement by the Girl Scouts that the camp would be closed, and the land sold. That was when a bold, dedicated, visionary group of former campers and staff decided to take action, with the dual goals of preserving the property, complete with a private, 80-acre lake and a Civil War-era smelting blast furnace, and continuing to offer programming at the beloved camp.
Supporters formed Friends of CLN the following year and later teamed with OSI, a leading regional conservation organization, to first accomplish the goal of preserving the camp as a wilderness. OSI purchased 2,353 acres from the Girl Scouts for $3.95 million, then leased a 443-acre inholding to Friends of CLN, which re-opened for summer programming in 2012 and has operated the camp ever since.
In terms of programming, Friends of CLN honors much of what was wonderful about the past, while, as an independent camp, provides for new experiences as well. As it always has been, life at camp is rustic: girls live in platform tents in the woods and spend their time hiking, swimming, boating, singing, cooking over campfires, creek-walking, stargazing, and having some unstructured time for themselves each day. It is an intentionally diverse community, with tiered payment options and camperships to support attendance by lower income campers. The ethos of the camp, to be a welcoming and affirming place for all, has survived intact.
“For girls and young women to have opportunities to discover and become who they are, in a supportive place, and for them to be able to slow down, unplug, be in a wilderness environment and really listen to their own voices is an increasingly rare and powerfully important experience,” said Board Vice President Dr. Janet Witte, a Camp Little Notch counselor turned psychiatrist.
One important legacy of the movement to save Camp Little Notch is the birth of the Friends group supporting it. From a nascent organization, Friends of CLN has grown to a solid, membership-based organization run by an elected Board of Directors. “I am proud to contribute to a strong organization that is not only preserving the land, but also operating a fun and safe camp,” says Lindsay Farrar, previous Board President and lifetime member.