Camp Low Country

For potential buyers:

For more information, and to learn about potential buyers’ tours of the property, contact Loretta Graham from Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina at 614-2417. You also may contact Brent Murdoch, Rachel Smith or Jim Smith at Carolina Auction Team at 800-292-9666

For former campers or volunteers:

The last get-together at the camp will be held at 2 p.m. on July 12. Contact Loretta Graham from Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina for more information at 614-2417.

The Girl Scouts have owned Camp Low Country for more than 50 years, but it will only take about 30 minutes to auction it off.

Thousands of Girl Scouts and volunteers have fond memories of riding horses, singing around campfires and swimming at the camp along the Cooper River in Cordesville. It will be sold at an auction at 1:01 p.m. on July 26 on the property’s Great Lawn.

The group put the 152-acre property on the market for $7 million in 2011, said Loretta Graham, executive director of he Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina. It received offers, but they all were too low, so the group’s board decided to sell it through an auction.

Carolina Auction Team will hold the “absolute” auction of the camp, which is the former Richmond Plantation. It will be sold to the “last, final and high bid,” Graham said.

She expects the auction to bring in a buyer who will pay more than the offers the group received when using a traditional real estate broker. “And the auction process is open, fair and transparent,” she said.

The Girl Scouts, struggling with budget woes, decided in 2011 to put the property on the market along with three others — the Girl Scout Building on Cross County Road in North Charleston, the Florence Service Center building and about 400 acres that surround Camp Sandy Ridge in Bennettsville.

The group plans to hold on to a part of Camp Sandy Ridge so Girl Scouts still can camp there. None of the properties have been sold, Graham said.

Meta Waldon, 63, worked at the camp as a counselor in 1968, and as camp director in 1975 and 1976. She will miss the place where many girls learned new skills, and relaxed and had a good time. But she understands that leaders have to do something to ensure the group’s survival.

Waldon, who is black, said that in 1968, the camp was fully integrated. It gave girls the opportunity to become comfortable in a diverse group, which was an important lesson in those days, she said.

She remembers going into town with some white counselors to do laundry. Someone at the laundromat told her she couldn’t use a certain part of the facility, but the counselors stood up for her and said she could. “The memories are in our hearts,” she said, “not the bricks and mortar.”

Graham said the Girl Scouts continue to have financial needs despite increasing enrollment. Membership had dropped to around 7,000 in 2009, but has climbed to more than 10,000 today.

The national office recommends that chapters keep a reserve equal to six months of operating expenses; the Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina now has less than two months of expenses in reserve.

The Girl Scouts haven’t used the camp in the past two years, she said, and some of the historic buildings, especially the manor house, have fallen into disrepair.

George Ellis, a co-founder of the brokerage firm E.F. Hutton, built the house as a hunting lodge in 1927, about three decades after Richmond Plantation’s previous main house burned down.

The property is under a conservation easement, Graham said. It’ can’t be subdivided. The buildings on the property can be maintained or torn down and replaced in their current footprints.

The Girl Scouts on July 12 plan to give former campers and volunteers one more chance to spend time at the camp. It will give people a chance to reminisce, Graham said. People are sad about letting go of the camp, she said, “but they have accepted that this is what we need to do.”

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.