KINSMAN, Ohio – Keira Orr confidently paddles the canoe she’s riding with her fellow Girl Scouts on the lake at Camp Sugarbush.
Five years ago, canoeing was intimidating to the soon-to-be fifth-grader from Mathews Local Schools. But her time at Camp Sugarbush has alleviated those concerns.
“I thought we would tip and I would fall in the water,” she says. “But they put a life vest on me. So I knew that I wouldn’t sink or anything. So I was safe.”
In addition to building her confidence, Girl Scouts has taught Orr to respect nature and enjoy being outside, she says.
“I’ve learned how to actually have fun and not just play on your electronics all the time,” she says. “You could just go outside and be free.”
Those experiences are at the heart of Camp Sugarbush, one of three camps operated by the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio – the others being Camp Ledgewood and Camp Timberlane. Sugarbush is the only camp in Trumbull County.
From canoeing and kayaking to archery, the camp offers girls opportunities to experience what they otherwise wouldn’t, says Shelley Taylor, scout volunteer and co-owner of Paige & Byrnes Insurance in Warren.
Taylor’s own daughters enjoy what she calls “creeking.”
“They walk down the creek and look for salamanders and frogs,” she says. “They can come to places like Camp Sugarbush and experience those things in a way that they can find a love of the outdoors, a love of nature and appreciation for things like this.”
To expand its offerings, the Girl Scouts of NEO will soon break ground on a $100,000 capital upgrade at the camp. Taylor is co-chairman of the project along with Mary Jeanine Pipino, a volunteer and past troop leader for 25 years.
At the heart of the upgrade is expanding the lake by three acres, up from about one.
“The lake is too small to bring great adventure to the bigger girls who are in scouting,” Taylor says.
Other upgrades include a new pavilion and dock by the edge of the water, purchasing additional canoes and kayaks, and building a storage shed.
Gallery images include the Camp Sugarbush sign, entrance, lake and bus stop, as well as pictures of Scouts canoeing and doing crafts. (Last three images provided by Girls Scouts of NEO)
The council also looks to roll out training for Sugarbush staff, as well as scholarships for scouts to attend camp regardless of income, Taylor says.
The project will allow Girl Scouts of NEO to bring more children from other counties to Camp Sugarbush “and put paid staff here in order to run the programs,” she says.
The significance of the project is not lost on Pipino.
Ten years ago, the camp was under threat of being closed, Pipino says. But peaceful protests involving Girl Scouts and troop leaders from Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties saved the camp, Pipino says. And now a project is underway to enhance the camp.
“When they asked me to chair this, I was thrilled because Camp Sugarbush is a gem,” she says. “And we’re going to make it shine a little bit more and give the opportunities for girls and leaders to experience a bigger lake and what Camp Sugarbush offers.”
Support for the camp means a great deal to Taylor as well. She’s excited to see the project complete.
“My mother came here as a scout. I came here as a scout. And I love that my kids love to come here,” she says. “It’s really special to me that this is passing to the next generation.”
Fundraising for the project is ongoing. To make a donation to the Camp Sugarbush capital campaign, visit GSNEO.org/sugarbush, or go to GSNEO.org/donate and select “Camp Sugarbush Capital Campaign” from the designation menu.
Pictured at top: Volunteers Shelley Taylor and Mary Jeanine Pipino co-chair the capital project.