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Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018
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Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

ODESSA — The 63-year-old lakeside summer camp had no air conditioning or electricity. Cabin floors were often covered in grime, and cobwebs clung to the windows.

But under new ownership, the 18.6 acres of Florida woods known as Camp Scoutcrest to members of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida will transform into a secluded retreat for a Tampa family.

Thompson Lykes Rankin Jr. and his wife, Courtney Rowan Rankin, purchased the camp on Jan. 8 for $1.1 million, records show. That’s slightly above recent appraisals, which ranged from $1.05 million to $1.07 million, Girl Scouts’ officials said.

The Rankins’ did not respond to requests for an interview. The couple told Girl Scouts officials they plan to eventually build a single-family home on the property but until then may use it for camping and boating.

Although Scouts will no longer spend summers sailing Crescent Lake, woodworking in rustic cabins or hiking tree-shaded trails, the local branch’s leadership said money from the sale will help other campgrounds appeal to a new generation of members.

"The Camp Scoutcrest sale is just part of the overall story of the revitalization and investment in our properties and outdoor educational opportunities for all girls," said Nicole Gonzalez, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida.

Gonzalez said the Girl Scouts’ leadership has promised to invest all proceeds from the sale into renovating and expanding the Girl Scout’s four remaining west-central Florida camps: Camp Dorothy Thomas in Riverview, Camp Indian Echo in Hudson, Camp Wai Lani in Palm Harbor and Camp Wildwood in Wildwood.

But it was the lack of amenities at Scoutcrest — and the bare-bones, no-frills camping experience Girl Scouts got there — that led troop leaders like Andrea Weaver to launch a months-long campaign to thwart the sale.

"We’re absolutely still upset about it, but we realize there’s not much we can do about it," Weaver said. "We knew it was coming."

When Scout leadership began the conversation in mid-2015, attendance at area camp sites had shrunk to just 5 percent of the more than 19,300 girls in the organization’s troops.

Camp Scoutcrest, on Woodstock Road in the northwest corner of Hillsborough County, was built to hold about 160 campers. Yet only 393 girls camped at Scoutcrest in 2014, and only 376 attended the following year.

Still, Weaver and her fellow troops launched the "Save Our Scoutcrest" campaign. They wrote letters and made phone calls to rally support.

After multiple meetings with Girl Scout leadership to ensure the girls’ get their money’s worth from a sale, Weaver and other troop leaders capitulated. In February 2017, Camp Scoutcrest was officially put on the market.

From March 2017 to October 2017, officials considered three other offers for the property from other camp operators, individuals and developers, Gonzalez said. The Rankins’ broker presented an offer in October and Girl Scout leadership unanimously approved the sale.

"Most other bidders lacked financing, the ability to close the deal, or their bid offer was significantly below the appraised value," Gonzalez said.

When details of the offer were first presented to the Girl Scouts, H. Tyson Lykes II disclosed to his fellow members on the organization’s board of directors that Thompson Rankin Jr. is his distant cousin, Gonzalez said.

Both are descendents of Tampa pioneer Howell Tyson Lykes. a doctor-turned-rancher who founded Lykes Bros. with his sons in 1904.

Lykes II "recused himself from any discussions or vote on the recommended offer," Gonzalez said. "The board’s decision did not include Mr. Lykes’ input or vote."

Now, the Girl Scouts can afford to outfit the four remaining camps with bigger, air conditioned cabins, Gonzalez said. The remaining camps feature zip lines and ropes courses. One has a rock-climbing wall.

Before deciding where to spend the proceeds, Girl Scouts officials surveyed about 700 members and their parents on what amenities they would want in a "dream camp." Weaver’s 13-year-old daughter, Breana Weaver, participated. The girls were given stacks of blueprints showing what the money could buy at each camp and got to vote on their favorite plans.

"I was a little shocked they decided to sell Camp Scoutcrest at first, but now we’re using the money to make the other camps better and I can see where the adults were coming from," the daughter said. "It was a gorgeous camp, it was my first sleep-away camp, but I still absolutely love being a Girl Scout, even though they did sell Scoutcrest."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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