After 90 years, beloved Camp Kirby could close

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Tobie Fehr flipped through an old family scrapbook. Four generations of cherished memories are captured in its pages.

Fehr, her mother, grandmother and daughters all spent summers at Skagit County’s Camp Kirby.

“It was one of the first places where it was okay for girls to go outside, learn about the earth and get a little dirty,” said Fehr, pointing to a picture of her grandmother from 1928.

The Campfire girls and eventually boys have run this camp on Samish Island since 1923. It remains mostly unchanged from those earliest days.

“We sing the same songs, play the same games, have the same rituals,” said Fehr. “While most other camps have changed with the world, we have stayed the same.”

But in 2003, things at the camp changed dramatically. What was essentially an attempt at a land grab by another organization became a six-year legal battle that crippled Camp Kirby. The Campfire organization eventually won that court battle, but it lost $100,000 doing so.

Still, some 2,000 kids a year count on the camp, including those sponsored by churches, schools and non-profits from across the state.

“I think it would be a devastating loss to the community,” said Executive Director Erin Baldwin.

Cutbacks have closed the gap, but the camp is still $57,000 in debt. The threat of closing the doors for good is very real.

“Things are dire,” said Baldwin. “I think we’ve come to that point where people are getting exhausted from trying to hand on and trying to keep things alive.”

Campfire is behind in its bills, and with the summer camp season still 6 months away, there's no income.

“We’re not sure what we’re going to do,” said Geoff McCann, president of the camp’s board of directors. “This place is part of so many people’s lives, we’re hoping they might help us continue to give to the community.”

“It’s such a special place,” Fehr said.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can help save Camp Kirby, visit www.campfiresamishcouncil.org.

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