Many Girl Scout leaders in southeast Missouri are upset about a recent decision to permanently close a local camp that’s been a popular destination for more than 50 years.

The Missouri Heartland Girl Scouts council’s board decided Friday to close the Cherokee Ridge Girl Scouts camp on Dec. 16, the Southeast Missourian reported. The board also approved selling the 1,100-acre Wayne County camp property along the banks of the St. Francis River.

Gabbie Hodgkiss, a Scout leader from Sikeston, said she received many calls from area leaders who were upset by the decision to close Cherokee Ridge, which first opened in 1966. She said Girl Scout members often visited the camp to ride horses.

“I think they didn’t see it coming,” Hodgkiss said.

Anne Soots, CEO of the Springfield-based Girl Scouts council, acknowledged the “emotional toll divesting Cherokee Ridge may have on some members.” But the council has struggled to manage its properties and fiscal responsibilities for 10 years, Soots said.

Council spokeswoman Lori Enyart didn’t disclose how much money would be saved by the Cherokee Ridge closure.

Board members also discussed whether to close Camp Latonka, which is also in Wayne County. Camp Latonka is situated on an 800-acre site near Lake Wappapello. The council’s board will conduct “additional research before taking any further action on this property,” said Enyart.

Hodgkiss said the board has been mulling over whether to close Camp Latonka for several years. If the board moves to close it, the nearest camp would be in Rogersville, which is 11 miles east of Springfield, Hodgkiss said.

“There would be nothing in this (southeast Missouri) area,” she said.

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