Lifting a century-old tradition could breathe new life into San Juan County’s Cub Scouts.
Last year ended with about four boys in the county’s sole pack, but, in fall of 2018, changes made by the Boys Scouts of America Board will allow girls to join. Leaders of Cub Scout packs, nationwide, can decide to create all-girl dens starting next year. Dens are smaller groups, within packs, and boys and girls would remain separated, with different leaders.
“I think it would be awesome if girls are able to join,” said Carey Musburger, who, in previous years, helped with the county’s only Cub Scout pack, which is the younger version of Boy Scouts. Currently, the pack doesn’t meet regularly. “It would be a huge benefit, especially for such a small island,” she said.
In the past, leaders of Cub Scout pack 4090, which is based on San Juan Island, had to turn down girls, who were not allowed to join according to the national organization’s rules. Having children of the same family in one pack, continued Musburger, could increase the island’s membership and enable over-stretched parents to only volunteer for one organization, not multiples.
“A lot of parents are on the assumption that it’s a drop-and-go program, where you drop off the kids and go, but it’s not,” said Musburger. Parents, she added, need to assist scouts in earning badges and man the pack’s board to manage operations like finances.
A statement, released by the Boys Scouts of America, states that a recent survey of girls’ parents showed “90 percent expressing interest in a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent expressing interest in a program like Boy Scouts.” “Convenient programs that serve the whole family,” continued the press release, appeal to guardians, especially single parents.
Plus, according to a representative of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, San Juan County did not have a troop in 2017 due to a lack of interest. The area’s sole troop for about three years, based on Orcas Island, closed the year before due to members graduating high school. Currently, there is one registered Girl Scout in the county, and while she can still earn badges, she is not affiliated with a troop. The Boy Scouts of America’s changes could open more doors for girls to earn badges together.
There are plenty of local youth eligible for the new rules too. The 2010 U.S. Census states that there were 539 children ages 0 through 4 in San Juan County, including 258 boys and 281 girls. Today, that would make them ages 7 through 11 — about the age for Cub Scouts. An Orcas Island pack is also in the works, though it is not determined if they would allow girls.
While they are still not permitted to join the older dens of Boy Scouts, in 2019, girls will be able to earn Eagle Scout — the organization’s highest rank.
“It could be very viable that girls would want to participate,” said Chris Hallock, the scoutmaster for Boy Scout troop 4090, which includes 13 boys, ages 11 to 18 on San Juan Island.
Hallock said about 2 percent of Boy Scouts earn this privileged rank, including his son, who received an advancement when joining the U.S. Marine Corps thanks to the designation.
According to Duan Rhodes, scout executive of the Mount Baker Council, which oversees San Juan County’s packs, girls have been permitted to join the high-school-aged subsections of the Boy Scouts for about 50 years. These programs include Sea Scouts, which focuses on boating skills and Venturer, which focuses on the outdoor activities and started under a different name. San Juan County does not currently host these mixed-sex programs.
However, Lorin Geiser, the assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout troop 4090, said girls, like his daughter, wouldn’t be interested in activities with boys.
“I have three boys and a daughter and can see a difference in how young men and women act,” said Geiser. “I am not equipped to teach young women how to grow up.”
Though a decision to create a local girl den has not been made, Musburger has already heard from a mom on the mainland, whose daughter plans to be a Cub Scout next year, not a Girl Scout.
“Girls want to do the same cool things their brothers or friends are doing,” said Musburger. “It’s a good thing for the community.”
For information about the local Cub Scouts, contact Musburger at 239-292-3371.