Girl Scouts from across the country have become trailblazers in Shenandoah National Park.
After spending two weeks repairing a stretch of the White Oak Canyon trail, the first all-female Girl Scout trail crew was recognized last Friday by SNP, Girl Scouts and Student Conservation Association officials for their work that including building steps and a drainage ditch along one of the park’s most popular trail.
“[They] have done something that’s never, ever been done before,” SCA President Jaime Matyas said of the first all-female SCA and Girl Scout trail crew anywhere and the first all-girl SA trail crew in Shenandoah National Park. “… We will all look back, telling the story of the first all-Girl Scout crew and that it all started at Shenandoah National Park.”
The 10 Girl Scouts, one from as far away as Arizona, and two female SCA leaders not only worked on the trails, but also did their own cooking, slept outdoors in tents – some girls even seeing bears for the first time – and made lifelong friendships.
“Two weeks ago, I got the chance to meet and to work with some of the most dedicated and hard-working people,” said Alexis Motko of Page, Ariz. “My fellow crewmembers will probably agree when I say that the work we did on the trails was hard, but it was a lot of fun.
“There aren’t many cases where 12 people can meet for the first time and begin working as a team the next day,” Motko said, “but teamwork is what got us through that first day and what got us through every day after that.”
Matyas said the idea of an all-Girl Scout trail crew came together after the Girl Scouts of America did research that showed a lot more of their girls were interested in outdoor nature activities than their troop leaders were comfortable in leading.
“If a Girl Scout troop wants to go do something outdoors, our leaders will help them in that activity,” she said. “We’ll have a lot more Girl Scout troops [taking part in conservation efforts] because of SCA leaders being able to do things in the out of doors.
“Starting in September, we will have SCA crew leaders like the young adults that worked for the year, working with the five councils, providing day-long outdoor experiences for the different Girl Scout troops,” Matyas said. “We expect a subset of those girls would be interested in doing this kind of immersive experience over the summer.”
SNP Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Flynn said the park has had a long-standing relationship with the Student Conservation Association and roundabout ties to the Girl Scouts.
“SCA interns have worked at all facets of park operations over the years at Shenandoah, from interpretation and education, to scientific research and monitoring to backcountry management and much more,” Flynn said. “We are proud that [the Girl Scouts] would continue that tradition this summer.”
“We came together as strangers, worked together as friends and now leave each other as a family,” Motko noted.