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Camp Dark Hollow goes on the auction block

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Camp Dark Hollow goes on the auction block

Modern Girl Scouts want modern amenities, the Virginia Skyline Council says.

By Cody Lowe

The Roanoke Times


Today's Girl Scouts want an outdoor experience, but they'd like to have it with hot showers, flushing toilets and modern kitchens.


That was the conclusion of the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council in 2004, when it decided it was time to sell off the three most primitive of the five camps it owned.


Monday at noon, the last of those three -- the 400-acre Camp Dark Hollow on Virginia 311 at Hanging Rock -- will be sold at auction.


"Things continue to change in Scouting," said Jen Ward, director of marketing and communications for the Roanoke County-based council.


"There's been a decline in use of the camps," she said, and Girl Scouting nationwide has been working "to develop programs for girls that they want to do, so they'll stay in Girl Scouting and not be seeking opportunities in other places."


Dark Hollow, purchased in the early 1950s for $12,000, has always been a relatively primitive camp. There are two wells on the property to serve the bunkhouses and kitchen. Electricity is available in some buildings.


But the outhouses, lack of showers and absence of a large flat outdoor spot for sports and other activities were a drawback. There is a stream on the property, but not large enough to be used for aquatic activities.


There are still girls who are interested in primitive camping experiences, Ward said, and in traditional activities such as archery.


But there's also a demand for other types of activities that today's Girl Scouts' moms probably never thought of, such as crime scene investigation.


The council hopes to replace Dark Hollow with a smaller, more convenient camp somewhere near Roanoke. It is looking for about 20 acres, with 5 acres or so open and flat for sports and other activities, and with access to water such as a lake, pond or river.


"Preferably, there would also be existing infrastructure there -- water, electricity, flush toilets and showers," Ward said. "We want hiking and primitive camping to be available, as well as progressive camping."


In fact, such sites technically aren't even called "camps" by the Scouts anymore. "We call them 'program centers,' but we still give them camp names," Ward said. They are home to a variety of programs, she said -- science, technical programs, computers -- as well as outdoors activities and sports.


Much of the Dark Hollow property is steep and rocky and most of it is still wild. Woltz & Associates, which is handling the auction, believes that is a great selling point.


"Its potential use is limited only by the imagination of the bidders," said Jonna McGraw, who's handling the sale. The Web site describing the property received 40,000 hits its first week online, she said.


Prospective buyers have talked to her about continuing to use the site as a camp or retreat center, as a hunting camp, or even as a "family compound."


The property has been subdivided into five tracts, which range from 26 to 274 acres.


"We tried to divide it in a way to appeal to most people. There are smaller tracts for a single-family buyer, and a larger tract with more wilderness area for outdoor sports, recreation, hunting," McGraw said.


The property is zoned for agriculture use, so any proposal to create additional subdivisions or more intense development would require rezoning by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors.


No one is making a guess on the total revenue the property may bring, but McGraw said she hoped it would be higher than the tax assessment, which last year was $776,000. Subdividing the site into five tracts, which will be sold singly or in whatever combination brings the highest bid, can help generate a higher sale price, she said.


There is no minimum bid on any parcel.


The sites will all be served by the current access road running through parcel 1, where most of the buildings and other improvements are located. All of the sites have been tested and approved for septic sites, McGraw said.


Such a site so close to the interstate is rare, McGraw said. "There are beautiful old trees, wildlife, wildflowers; it's pretty neat."


And, she said, "The good thing about the sale is that the money will go to buy a new camp."


The Skyline Council spent some of the money from the sale of Camp Shawnee in Southside Virginia and Camp Massawomee in the northern Shenandoah Valley on improvements to the remaining two operating camps, Ward said.


Camp Sacajawea near Lynchburg and Camp Sugar Hollow near Crozet serve the two other major population centers in the council's service area.


The decision to sell Dark Hollow was a tough one, Ward said. "The board decided that we needed to move forward ... and that it would not work for what we needed."


The board sought feedback from the 11,500 girls it serves. "We have to listen to the girls," Ward said. "If we don't, we're doing them a complete disservice.


"Girls will always have new interests. We're trying to keep up with them."



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