Girl Scouts Plan to Sell Baileys Harbor Camp

Area Girl Scouts will soon lose the opportunity to be part of a tradition that goes back generations. 

The Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes (GSNWGL) organization announced plans in October to sell Camp Cuesta, a 24-acre property with a gathering building on North Maple Lane near Kangaroo Lake. The camp was built in the 1960s and has become a home for the Scouts. 

In an emailed statement, Missy Brozek, director of brand and communications for the chapter, said the move is part of the Scouts’ long-term property plan. That includes the termination of two service-center leases and the full divestment of three camps, including Camp Cuesta.

“Over the past three years,” Brozek said, “GSNWGL has conducted property studies, partnered with a property task group, and carefully analyzed survey data, membership data, demographic trends, access to partners, property usage and other mission-critical criteria. This work led to us sharing with our membership the direction. 

“We are now in what is considered our discovery phase of the process. During this phase, we will begin to reimagine the future of our properties, which will include a timeline for divestment and enhancement. We expect this phase to take us into the summer of 2023, at which point a more detailed long-term timeline and action plan will be shared and implemented.”

The Scouts also plan to close their Green Bay and Schofield offices and consolidate the council into four centers. The closest in northeastern Wisconsin would be in Appleton.

The Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes organization announced in October that it plans to divest itself of several properties, including Camp Cuesta in Baileys Harbor. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

Brozek said the organization is establishing a valuation of the Camp Cuesta property and “will entertain conversations with local organizations as well as the Land Trust.”

Anna Knaap, a leader for local Scout Troop 4356, said the camp is a big part of Scout life in northern Door County. Her troop includes 11 girls in eighth through 10th grades. 

“They’ve used it since they were in kindergarten,” she said. “We camp there, hold activities with other troops, hike and do art projects there. We snowshoe in winter, do outdoor cooking. It gets used in a lot of different ways.”

The property is adjacent to property of the Door County Land Trust, which provides access to additional hiking and outdoor opportunities. 

“It would really leave us high and dry,” Knaap said of the sale. 

The camp became especially important for the troop during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many other facilities weren’t available for the Scouts to use as gathering places. 

“Camp Cuesta became our only place to meet,” Knaap said. “It has become very near and dear to our hearts.”

The regional office said the decision came as a result of years of discussions and planning sessions, but Knaap and fellow Scout leader Sarah Martin said they didn’t get any indication that the property was on the chopping block. 

“We had no idea that this reimagining meant they would or might close a camp,” Knaap said. “It was a really big shock to us.”

Trails on the property connect to nearby Door County Land Trust trails and provide great hiking opportunities for campers. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

Martin said most of the local Scouts found out about the sale on the nightly news. 

“About five years ago, we sat in on a couple meetings discussing the future,” Martin said, “but the impression we got was that it might need some improvements. It’s obviously devastating news. And it’s extra disheartening for the girls knowing they just put in all this time and money, and now it’s for nothing.”

Martin was referring to a fundraising and service project to paint the pit toilets and clean up the camp buildings. 

She and Knaap are part of a generational thread that runs through the camp. 

“Sarah and I both camped there when we were young,” Knaap said. “It’s a sense of tradition. When people are joining these orgs less and less, it’s even more important to keep Girl Scouting relevant and an option for girls. Camp Cuesta is what has connected them to the organization. It teaches self-sufficiency, independence. The fact we’ve kept these girls in Scouts here is impressive. A huge part of that is the time we’ve spent at Camp Cuesta.”

Martin said she holds out hope that the organization’s leaders will change their mind about Camp Cuesta. 

“I really feel like the council hasn’t really maintained or improved the property,” Martin said. “If they get rid of it, they’ll never have another opportunity to get property in Door County. If they invested in it, it could be a great opportunity for people to visit from Wisconsin and elsewhere. There’s potential for this property in Door County. We could do so much more up here for us and other troops.”