Local scouting groups react to Boy Scouts of America decision to admit girls

SILVER SPRING TWP., Pa. - The area's Boy Scouts council is supporting the decision taken by the national council to include girls in scouting activities beginning in 2018.

Girls will be allowed to take part in female-only cub scout dens using a similar curriculum starting next year. Local chapters will have the discretion to create the girls-only cub scout dens based on demand. A program for older girls will be created by 2019.

Local councils like the New Birth of Freedom Council in south-central Pennsylvania have been receiving feedback for the last few months on the topic, with plenty of it suggesting that there is a desire for families to take their children to one scouting organization.

"There's always been a little bit of 'Is there anything for younger girls,' and I think that kind of suggestion coming from families has kind of driven this conversation," said Ron Gardner, scout executive for the New Birth of Freedom Council with the Boy Scouts of America.

One question that has come up is what impact this will have on the Girl Scouts, which is a separate organization. While many national representatives have criticized the announcement, some lifetime Girl Scouts say it might be beneficial, potentially serving as a wake-up call to the national Girl Scouts organization.

"If there is a program not being met out there for the girls, and the Boy Scouts are making it available, there's a disconnect there," said Patti Wilson, a lifetime Girl Scout.

For Megann Wilson, a recipient of the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts' highest honor, she feels there are unique opportunities in both organizations. Her brother was a Boy Scout and she thinks there could be enough of a difference in program offerings for both to co-exist.

"I went overseas with Girl Scouts and I camped all over the United States with Girl Scouts, but he did very recognizable Boy Scout things, so there's a difference," she said.

The Boy Scouts already have their Venturing and Sea Scout programs that have been open to teenage girls for years, and leadership wanted to expand opportunities to girls of all ages, Gardner said.

"Every young person who participates in scouting has the possibility of their life being changed for the better, so when you think about that, you want to try and involve as many young people as possible in that process," Gardner said.