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Willamette Council Closes, Kilowan Sold

The following article was originally published in the Statesman Journal ( in August 2013.

Local Camp Fire chapter closes

Move affects children in six local counties

Camp Kilowan
FILE – Campers at Camp Kilowan cook hot dogs over a campfire in 1998. The camp was operated in Polk County by the Willamette Council of Camp Fire Boys and Girls. After almost 70 years, Camp Fire USA Willamette Council has closed. / Copyright 1998 Salem Statesman Journal
Written by
Justin Much
Statesman Journal

After almost seven decades, the Camp Fire USA Willamette Council has closed.

The official end was Wednesday, said Sandra Florip, the council’s executive director.

Formed in 1944, the Willamette Council was part of the National Camp Fire group, which was founded in 1910 as Campfire Girls.

The group became a co-educational program in 1980 and was known as Campfire Boys and Girls. The name changed again in 2001 to Campfire USA. The national group continues operating.

The Willamette Council’s area included Marion, Polk, Linn, Benton, Lincoln and Yamhill counties, and in the past year 7,789 youth participated in council programs, down from 8,623 participants the previous year.

“Over the last nearly 14 years the Willamette Council served over 100,000 youth in our programs,” said Florip, who itemized the services as resident and day camp, camp rental groups, clubs, and after-school enrichment programs.

She said at the time of the council closure, no children were directly involved.

“We closed down programs prior to closing the offices, so there are no current youth involved in programs,” Florip said. “They ran during the school calendar year.”

Reasons cited for the local chapter’s closure boil down to finances.

“Willamette Council was closed due to the downturn in the economic support of the council,” said Danny Bisgaard, former chair of the Willamette Council board.

Florip said much of the council’s focus was centered on after-school enrichment programs in places such as local schools, YMCAs, libraries and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Those included full kitchen and no-cook cooking classes, community gardens, mousetrap race cars, simple science, charcoal and watercolor art, arts and crafts, beading, jewelry making and babysitting courses.

Florip said the council felt the same pinch that other nonprofits have over the past decade. She noted that at one time it had a staff of 18. That count was down to three at the time of its closure.

“Many smaller nonprofits were hit hard after 9/11, as funding priorities were adjusted,” she said.

She also noted that competition for children’s activities is pretty strong around Marion and Polk counties, the core of the Willamette Council’s service area.

Willamette Council also owned Camp Kilowan near Falls City, which was recently sold to another, undisclosed nonprofit group with residual proceeds going to National Camp Fire in Kansas City. or (503) 399-6736, cell (503) 508-8157 or follow at


Source: Statesman Journal,


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Archived Article

 The following article was originally published in the Polk County Itemizer-Observer ( in April 2002.

Camp Kilowan

Summer camp program enters 21st century

Summer camp in Polk County still means canoeing and other outdoor activities, but as Camp Kilowan near Falls City enters the next millennium, the nature of summer camp is changing.Photo By Daniel Hurst

Summer camp in Polk County still means canoeing and other outdoor activities, but as Camp Kilowan near Falls City enters the next millennium, the nature of summer camp is changing.

Justin Carinci

April 30, 2002

FALLS CITY — Justine Jones still remembers the magical place she spent part of her summers almost 60 years ago.

Open air church services in a fern glade, swimming lessons in lake Kiloqua, eating around the lodge’s fireplace on rainy mornings.

And, of course, the camp fires.

Jones was a Camp Fire Girl. Her organization, now Camp Fire USA, has changed with the times.

But the place — Camp Kilowan — retains its magic.

Melissa Thiel directs outdoor programs for Camp Fire USA’s regional council.

“So many people in this area have been touched by Camp Kilowan in some shape or form.

Kilowan has been a part of Camp Fire since the 1930s.

That history means people recognize the organization.

It also helps older perceptions of Camp Fire USA stick around.

Founded in 1910, Camp Fire Girls gave girls opportunities boys had enjoyed in Boy Scouts.

Though Camp Fire Girls added boys in the 1970s, the organization didn’t change much over those years, said Herb Price, the council’s executive director.

While children’s worlds grew — with access to technology, transportation, opportunity and greater independence — Camp Fire had to adapt.

“Kids are much more savvy then they were in 1910,” Price said.

“Our programs today are more relevant and based on their interests.”

That means addressing issues like peer pressure and self-reliance.

In the process, the new Camp Fire has become a more welcoming organization. While Boy Scouts has defended its controversial policies of discrimination, Camp Fire hiked a different path.

“We’re all-inclusive,” Thiel said. “We just ask that you fit with the age range.

“And even then, some younger siblings tag along.”

Blending ages and sexes lightens the strain on busy parents, Thiel said. “Your kindergartner and third-grader can be in the same club.

“It’s a one-stop place to volunteer.”

Besides that practical aspect, boys and girls learn the importance of working together from the start. Whether it’s archery, building fires or knitting lanyards, all children can learn.

“Nothing is ruled out until you yourself rule it out,” Thiel said.

Thiel has focused on projects campers can make and take home, things like leather working and candle dipping along with science and engineering activities.

For all the new projects, summer campers can still take in the same rustic beauty Justine Jones saw at Camp Kilowan.

Teal Creek cuts across the 483-acres property, alive with tall firs and alders. Campers can peek at nearby beaver ponds.

They still hike alongside the mossy creek trails, canoe, sing songs and roast marshmallows around campfires. Still sleep under the same stars.

But today, campers pass up Lake Kiloqua for a swimming pool. Not that Jones will complain.

“There were no pools then, just a big like with swimming instructors. The lake was murky, but we learned to swim and dive.”

Nostalgia tints Jones’ voice even when she remembers the food, which she diplomatically called “healthy.”

With sugar limited by World War II rationing, camp staff stewed fruits to sweeten breakfasts. “I remember those prunes.

“The oatmeal was warm, and you were pretty cold. But we had an awful lot of prunes.”


Source: Polk County Itemizer-Observer,

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Kilowan clean-up

Hello All,

I saw in the Polk County edition of the Statesman Journal this week that an AmeriCorps*NCCC group has been helping clean up Kilowan after the winter storms. Funny, it mentions a few times that they’ll be opening Camp on time thanks to the help, but opening to who may be the more important question.

Here’s the article:


Crew helps Camp Kilowan recover from storms
Americorps team includes members from rest of U.S.

February 25, 2007

Sean Allen of Bloomington, Ill., discovered spectacular waterfalls while hiking in the Coast Range earlier this month.

But the 22-year-old Midwesterner was not vacationing, sightseeing or on some unusual retreat: He was putting in hard hours on a project with eight comrades, restoring Camp Fire USA’s Camp Kilowan from extensive damages sustained during December’s windstorms.

The team is part of Americorps’ National Civilian Community Corps, a full-time, team-based residential program for people age 18 to 24. The team arrived at the camp, nestled in the foothills just outside of Falls City, during the first week of February and will stay through March 8.

Duties included clearing trails, mending bridges, clearing debris strewn on cabin roofs and building an amphitheater on the bank of the camp’s Kiloqua Pond. In addition, the team tends to daily-living chores, including laundry detail, exercise leadership duty, cooking and cleaning. Cooking can be especially tricky because half of the crew members are vegetarians.

Although the work often is arduous and the pay is modest, the rewards can be tremendous.

“I’ve always wanted to travel and see different parts of the country,” said Allen, a recent graduate of Greenville College near St. Louis, Mo., who majored in history and religion. “This is perfect for that.

“I really enjoy hiking, and there are tons of waterfalls up here. There was one of about 60 feet, and we spent a day clearing a whole trail near that falls.”

Allen reflects the sentiment of the rest of the team while describing the appeal of the unique assignment — or “spike” as it’s referred to by the corps — that took them deep into the Polk County forest.

All eight hail from east of the Rocky Mountains: team leader Alison Hoey, 24, Syracuse, N.Y.; Elizabeth Hartsell, 23, Gainesville, Fla.; Edmund Petersen, 18, Falls Church, Va.; Stephanie Baumli, 19, Greenville, S.C.; Andrea Rubin, 23, Fishkill, N.Y.; Kryss Fisher, 19, State College, Pa.; and Aubrey Frey, 19, Pacific, Mo.

Hoey, who is in her second 10-month spike, explained that participants normally are sent to initial training at the Americorps campus farthest from their hometowns. It’s part of the appeal — part of the adventure.

This team’s campus is in Sacramento.

Others are in Denver, Charleston, S.C., and Perry Point, Md. Sacramento serves Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the territories of Guam and American Samoa.

Realizing that storm damage was more than his simple resources could repair, Kilowan administrator Harry Garabedian summoned help from Americorp*NCCC and sponsored the team.

Although 75 percent of the network’s crews have been earmarked for Katrina relief (upon finishing at Kilowan, this crew will travel to the Gulf Coast for an eight-week assignment) the need for help at Kilowan was recognizable.

“We looked it up on the map and looked at pictures of the damage by the windstorms,” Hoey said of the moment her crew received its Oregon assignment. “We were really excited to get up here and clean it up.”

Although excited, the crew also realized that it would be no picnic.

“We’ve removed probably about 25 trees,” Hoey said. “And there have been so many limbs. A lot of the trails had trees down across them. … It’s very physically demanding work.”

For their efforts, which amount to 1,700 hours during 10 months, each member gets a stipend earmarked for either college or college loans. They also get a plug for their résumé. But much of the reward is personal.

“I love it,” Hoey said. “It changed my life, and it gave me a lot of direction. It’s unique because you get to go out and help people, but you help yourself as well.”

In her first 10-month tour, Hoey helped build a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk to a South Dakota national monument, tutored inner-city children in Denver, helped at a nonprofit horse ranch in Colorado, cleaned up parks in Minnesota and met former President Jimmy Carter while working in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity building houses in Benton Harbor, Mich.

Hoey attended Onondaga College in Syracuse for a year, then returned to the corps as a team leader. After initial training, she received custody of her team and marching orders for Oregon.

Meanwhile, 78-year-old Camp Kilowan, which has served thousands of Camp Fire girls, Blue Birds and campers from a variety of groups during decades, stands to open on schedule and with a new amphitheater.

“We like leaving an impression on this camp because it’s definitely leaving an impression on us,” Hartsell said.

“Camp Kilowan needs a lot of help to get ready this year, and I am just glad my team gets to be a part of it,” said Baumli. “I come from the city, but I like getting out to nature and seeing different things. … This camp provides a wonderful experience with nature that many people no longer experience.” or (503) 399-6736


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