Make new memories at Camp Golden Pond
In September, Sara Mueller and Nathan Weyandt married at Golden Pond, where Mueller had camped as a Girl Scout. (Photo by David Silver)
From their first Daisy Troupe meeting, the Girl Scouts learn to “make new friends but keep old ones. One is silver and the other gold. No words rang truer when the time came for local Girl Scouts and Troop Leaders to team up with community members to keep an old friend, their beloved camp Golden Pond, as a Girl Scout treasure after its closure.
Located less than 20 miles south of State College, Camp Golden Pond opened as a Huntingdon County Girl Scout camp in 1988 when the Hemlock Girl Scout Council purchased 200 acres of campground which included Lake Louise, a seven-acre man-made lake. Prior to this purchase, the State College area Girl Scouts had camped at the now defunct Camp Barree, also in Huntingdon County. For over 30 years, the summer experiences and memories created at Golden Pond were more priceless than the camp’s precious metal namesake.
“Golden Pond has been home to many service units and troops over the years, allowing for deep bonds and memories that surround many outdoor activities such as archery, canoeing, hiking, camp day, outdoor cooking, camporees, singing, team building, nature exploration and so much more,” says Sharon Bloom, Friends of Golden Pond Board Member and Treasurer of the ‘organization.
In 2008, the Hemlock Girl Scout Council merged with the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) as the Girl Scouts of the USA realigned its assets and council boundaries across the country. In November 2017, the GSHPA formed a property committee to assess the condition of its seven camps and assess them for removal, overhaul, or retention. After operating Golden Pond for nearly a decade after the merger, GSHPA decided to close the camp, along with Camp Echo Trail in York County, and put the properties up for sale in 2018. That’s when Friends of Golden Pond, a local volunteer group formed to negotiate the purchase of the camp.
Although Golden Pond was officially sold to a private buyer later that year after purchase negotiations between GSHPA and Friends of Golden Pond failed, the group of volunteers were able to successfully negotiate a rental agreement for the 55 acres base camp.
Dawn Wolfhope, board member of Friends of Golden Pond and responsible for bookings for the group, said the camp reopened to public rentals under the management of Friends of Golden Pond in March 2019, in accordance with the lease of the band.
“Camp Golden Pond is a drive in Huntingdon County, but most efficient for groups in our area,” she says. “We felt that we had to conserve this resource at all costs.”
Bloom, who became involved with Golden Pond soon after it was purchased by the Hemlock Girl Scout Council, says that without Friends of Golden Pond, the camp would have been lost. The group’s efforts paid off in 2021 when it was able to secure a mortgage to purchase the 55-acre space, provided it had the required down payment and business plan to show the group could run the camp successfully.
“During the period that we had rented the camp, many people made donations which we set aside as much as possible to buy the camp,” says Bloom.
Wolfhope, who became involved with the camp 15 years ago when her daughters started attending camps run by Service Units (local groups of Girl Scout troops), says the deposit was raised through these donations, to numerous fundraisers and to the remaining funds from the group’s public rentals.
“This task was not easy,” says Wolfhope. “It took many hours of dedication and the wonderful hearts of our benefactors who donated the funds for the down payment of the mortgage.”
Now, as a camp owned and operated by the Friends of Golden Pond, Camp Golden Pond remains a resource for Girl Scouts, but also serves many other local groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, church groups, groups companies, clubs, alumni groups and families.
One such family with a story in Golden Pond is that of Sara Mueller.
In 1999, Mueller was a Brownie Girl Scout at camp. His mother, Lisa Harrington, volunteered at a weekend camp that summer. The following summer, Mueller and Harrington returned.
“After the first year, Mom started running the camps,” says Mueller. “I see now that she developed a dynamic team of women who were creating experiences for us young women and leading by example.”
Golden Pond quickly became a fixture in Mueller and Harrington’s lives, starting and ending their summers.
“Golden Pond contains memories,” says Harrington. “It’s a place where I’ve seen Sara and hundreds of other young women grow confident in friendships, outdoor skills, public speaking and leadership. I was also part of a phenomenal group of adults who befriended each other, bonding and trying new things ourselves.
In striving to keep Golden Pond open, Friends of Golden Pond offers the same opportunities that Mueller and Harrington experienced to other Girl Scouts and community members. Wolfhope highlights how Friends of Golden Pond has partnered with groups like Trout Unlimited and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to provide enhanced experiences for those visiting the camp.
“Golden Pond itself is a very healthy and functioning ecosystem,” she says. “I think it’s very important to teach today’s youth and adults how to coexist with wildlife, how to respect natural beauty, and how to coexist with an electronics-free group. This site gives you a haven to interact with someone, do something out of your comfort zone, and even learn a thing or two about the world around you.
As a reimagined camp, Golden Pond offers seven accommodation units of varying sizes, space for tent camping, a fleet of canoes and kayaks, equipment and an archery range, wall crossing, a gaga ball pit, picnic areas, two docks and educational workshops – all available to Girl Scouts and community members.
“Our mission is to provide an environment and programming at affordable costs to youth groups and organizations that promote and develop confident, courageous individuals who come to have a deep appreciation and understanding of nature and the outdoors,” said said Bloom.
Because of those amenities and the camp environment, Harrington says Golden Pond has always been a favorite when looking for a venue for Mueller’s Sept. 3 wedding to Nathan Weyandt.
“My fiancé and I are both in the natural resources business and have a strong connection to the outdoors,” says Mueller. “We wanted a place with water and woods, and my personal connection to the property made this place a must.
Wolfhope says it’s experiences like Mueller’s bringing her back to Golden Pond for her wedding that keep the camp going. She encourages community members to visit the camp to experience its wonders.
“We hope our future will be long and bright,” says Wolfhope. “We could use the help of the community to visit our camp, consider a rental, consider volunteering a day of your time, or consider a donation. We are a very special group and we work very well together. There are very, very few groups that can organize and buy a camp when placed in the same situation. You really need special people. It takes people who can put others first. It takes people who generally care about the community.
To learn more about Golden Pond and its available resources, visit friendsofgoldenpond.org. T&G
Samantha Chavanic is a freelance writer for Town&Gown and a former Girl Scout. This story appears in the October 2022 issue of Town&Gown.