Marie Sabo spent the halcyon days of her childhood at the Girl Scouts' Camp Low Country near Huger.
But future generations of girls likely won't get that summertime experience unless someone miraculously shows up with a big donation to save the 153-acre camp.
The Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina, struggling with budget woes, has decided to sell the property 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 will hold on to a small part of Camp Sandy Ridge so Girl Scouts still can camp there.
"We're financially not where we should be," the group's chief executive officer, Loretta Graham, said of the organization. "We looked at all properties and decided we had to put everything up for sale." She is not yet sure of the asking price for Camp Low Country.
Sabo, who is now 34, loved the horses best. She learned to ride, care for the animals, and even clean stalls. She attended the camp, a former plantation that the Girl Scouts purchased in 1963, for about five years in the 1980s.
She even participated in the counselor training program when she was 14.
Sabo said she was sad when she learned that the Girl Scouts were selling the property. And she wonders if the group could have saved the property if it had gotten the word out earlier that the camp was in jeopardy. "Maybe they could have found other adults with fond memories to save it," she said.
The group's financial problems escalated after a 2005 decision by the national organization to merge councils, Graham said. Two eastern South Carolina councils merged, she said.
The move was supposed to save money, but it had the opposite effect. Legal and other merger fees were costly, and the new organization lost members. That meant fewer Girl Scouts were selling cookies and participating in other fundraising events.
The good news is that membership is rebounding, Graham said. In 2009 the council had 7,800 members, and that jumped to 8,400 in 2010. But the numbers aren't growing fast enough to save Camp Low Country, she said.
The group reached a point where it was borrowing money each year to operate the camp, she said. And the camp had many historic structures, which the group simply couldn't afford to take care of.
Sabo, who doesn't have children, returned to the camp recently with a friend, Libby Heise, a Girl Scout leader.
The camp was run down, she said, with many historic buildings rendered uninhabitable. But the site on the Cooper River is beautiful, she said.
Heise, whose 11-year-old daughter, Caetlyn, has been attending the camp for the past five summers, said it's a unique place for girls. "And there aren't many places just for girls anymore," she said.
Losing her summer outdoor experience at Camp Low Country was bad news for Caetlyn. She will miss riding horses, climbing a rock wall and archery.
"There's a lot of stuff there," she said, "and it's really cool."
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.
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