A little history was made at the Boy Scouts’ 2018 Camporee. The first two-man saw race was not won by men nor boys.
It was an all-girls patrol unit called the Blue Jays, formed solely for the weekend, who rocked a bucksaw fastest through a fir log outside of Fort Vancouver.
The fact that the Boy Scouts of America six months ago reversed a century-old policy that prevented girls from joining as Scouts was not lost on people nearby, who turned to watch the girls shear off a victory. Then they cheered.
“You knew that was coming,” said Mike Filbin, chairman of the Fort Vancouver District of Boy Scouts of America, laughing.
So went the first full day of the camporee, a weekend camping event where Scouts compete in activities like saw racing, building a fire, throwing tomahawks and navigation.
More history was apparent in that this year was the first located at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Scouts could pitch tents on grounds where U.S. Army soldiers bivouacked in the 19th and 20th centuries.
And it was the first year that the Cowlitz Tribe participated, providing drum ceremonies and raising a flag to harken back to the fort’s earliest days as a trading post. Cowlitz tribal members taught Scouts the Chinook trade jargon known as Chinuk Wawa.
Part of the history, too, was a new push for female involvement. Among the 300 Scouts in attendance, just over a dozen were girls who local organizers hoped would take interest in leading programs that are still taking shape.
Since January, younger girls have been able to join Cub Scouts, while girls aged 11 to 17 wait until next year to join a girls program that mirrors the Boy Scouts curriculum.
Dakota Monro, a 14-year-old Portland resident, wants to help lead the first cohort of girls. She said these new groups will help correct the convention that girls won’t leave the comfort of indoors.
“There are a lot of girls I know that want to be outside and generally people think it’s only the boys,” she said. “I’d love to see how girls learn to be leaders in this community.”
Girls have been able to join coed programs within the Boy Scouts organizations for decades, but their roles have been secondary to boys’ — as have the privileges.
For example, Eagle Scouts who enlisted in U.S. military can be given an immediate promotion and a bump in pay. They are also afforded more scholarships and can generally trumpet that experience for greater gain.
“As a business owner, it may not help you get a job — it will get you an interview,” said Filbin, owner of Filbin’s ACE Hardware.
The immediate challenge, Filbin said, is getting girls interested. A new Cub Scout Pack for girls was recently founded in Ridgefield, but convincing older girls right now could take something extra.
The Cascade Pacific Council, an umbrella organization for 20,000 young members in Oregon and Southwest Washington, recently received a $25,000 donation to help pay for older girls to attend a youth leadership training course in the summer.
“How do we develop girl leaders for the program and prepare them to lead?” asked Cathy Sbur, a troop leader.
Organizers said they have not heard many concerns about recruiting more girls, but they know they exist. But Filbin said this is part of the Boy Scouts “evolution.” Plus, it could help, given that membership has dropped by 45 percent since its peak in the 1980s.
Monro was optimistic, as she watched an all-girls patrol try to hoist a flag as fast as possible. They put it on upside-down, struggled and laughed as they reconfigured it.
“After (next year) I think there will be a ton of girls that join,” she said.
Troy Brynelson: 360-735-4547; email@example.com; twitter.com/TroyWB