ROCKVILLE — On a sweltering afternoon at the Yawgoog Scout Reservation, campers from Scout Troops 7 and 77 in Warwick are gathered under the trees, setting out the rules for a game they are about to play.
It’s peak season at Camp Yawgoog, as it is usually called, with 900 Scouts and 200 staff members on the 2,000-acre property. And this year, for the first time in the history of the 104-year-old camp, some of those campers are girls.
Girls in the newly formed Troop 77 have joined their male counterparts in Troop 7, and the two troops are sharing a campsite. Daniel Friel, communications director for the Narragansett Council of the Scouts, said some troops share campsites and in other cases, girls have their own sites.
“Their charter organization has approved that they can stay at the same campsite, so we here at Yawgoog allow them to share the campsite,” Friel said of the two Warwick troops. “But we do have girls’ units that come and stay in separate campsites, either by choice or their charter organization didn’t approve of it.”
Women have been working at the camp and leading Scout troops for many years, but now, girls can also come to Camp Yawgoog as Scouts.
In February, when girls were admitted to Scouting, the name of the Boy Scouts program was changed to Scouts BSA. Other Scouting programs, Venturing and Exploring, have been coed for more than 40 years. The Cub Scouts now also includes girls.
Welcoming girls to the camp was a big leap of faith for the venerable organization, but, as Friel said, “We haven’t changed our program at all. All we’ve done is we’ve expanded and offered this program to all youth.”
MacKenzie Puckett, Morgan Nathan and Claire Fitzgerald, from Troop 77, were halfway through their week at the camp and all three said they were having a terrific time. Puckett and Nathan are 16 years old and Fitzgerald is 13.
“We actually do a lot with the boys, we talk with them, we bond with them a lot,” Puckett said.
Nathan said she enjoyed the loud atmosphere in the dining hall.
“It’s just the camaraderie,” she said. “Like at dining hall, how we’re all really loud and we’re just friends and that’s fun.”
Fitzgerald said she also loved the dining hall. “It’s just really loud. It’s like a family,” she said. "I’ve learned a lot of things, just from bring around the boys.”
“They may be a little crazy,” Puckett interjected, “but they have helped us.”
Morgan’s father, Richard Nathan, is a troop leader and is also staying at the camp for the week.
“My son was here, he’s an Eagle Scout, and I thought I was done,” he said. “So I was just running the troop, running our program, and to get a second chance to go through it with my child again is wonderful. To watch her grab it by the horns has been very rewarding also.”
Nathan said he hadn’t seen or heard anything negative about girls at the camp.
“We have seen absolutely nothing negative from any Scouts,” he said. “We have a program. We’re inviting girls to participate in what we’ve done for 100 years.”
Troop 7 leader Michael Graves said it was great having girls at the camp this year.
“We really get along with Troop 77," he said. "We’re glad to have them here. It’s been an adjustment trying to work with two troops at one campsite, but we got the job done and we have a lot of fun. We’re all best friends. We have a great time.”
The camp welcomed its first campers on June 30 and will close on Aug. 27. Friel said there was some apprehension about having girls during the first week, but it was soon apparent that the transition to coed would be a smooth one.
“With this all being new, with the expansion of our program to all youth, not only in Cub Scouts but now in the older Scouting program, Scouts BSA, which launched February 1, there was a lot of fear," he said. "How would this go? How is this going to work in the summer camp program? And when it started it was all new. There was a lot of excitement, and then everyone just came to realize that the youth are resilient. The youth aren’t bothered by this.”
This year, the camp also has its first-ever female assistant director at Three Point Camp, Courtney Weaver.
Weaver, who lives in Pennsylvania and attends college in Maine, said she was used to being the only girl in the group because her family was involved in Scouting, but she said she was glad to see girls attending the camp.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “This is also the first year that they’ve had under-18 female staff here. Scouts BSA has finally opened up to all the youth.”
The Narragansett Council has undertaken a capital campaign to improve facilities at the camp, and some of those improvements will involve converting all restroom facilities to individual stalls.
“We’ll be moving towards that,” Friel said. “That’s going to be in our capital projects over the next three years. Not all bathrooms are individual, but the Scouts and the units know how to work around it. They’ve been doing it for years under our female leadership and our female staff. They’re prepared, and that is the Scout motto, ‘Be prepared.’”