SANDPOINT — When she was just a young camper, a local Girl Scout discovered a trail that took her through the wooded acreage of the Kiwanis Club’s Camp Stidwell.
Over the years, however, the trail was forgotten as it became overgrown and cluttered with debris.
“Not only is that a fire hazard, but people can’t walk it anymore and they don’t know it is there,” said Caitlyn Smith, who is now going into her junior year at Sandpoint High School.
So more than a year ago, as she was looking for the perfect project in her effort to earn the Girl Scouts prestigious Gold Award, Caitlyn knew she wanted to do something to improve the camp that she has been going to for more than 10 years. After going to Kiwanis and the Gold Award committee for approval of the project, she got busy improving the trail.
As she recently completed the work, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and North Idaho honored Caitlyn last month as a Gold Award Girl Scout. The 16-year-old is the first in Bonner County to earn the honor in more than a decade.
“It’s pretty awesome, and that fact that she was able to bring this idea to fruition and show a lot of the littles who are in scouts at our day camp this year what they can look forward to when they are older,” said Darcey Smith, Caitlyn’s proud mother, as well as Girl Scout Troop 4808 leader and Service Unit #402 manager.
Smith said she can see the pride in her daughter for all she accomplished, not only in what Caitlyn did for the camp, but what she did for the local Girl Scouts in being the first in so many years to receive the highest Girl Scout achievement.
“And even though it is not this big grand project that a lot of girls go after, it’s still enough that it is going to affect a lot of other kids, all the groups that come down there — wilderness camps, Bible camps, fellow Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, they all use that campsite,” Caitlyn added. “And now that that trail is defined, they are going to be able to go through a lot more of that camp.”
Camp Stidwell is located on 160 acres at the south end of Mirror Lake in Sagle and, according to Kiwanis president Dick Vail, is on track to reach 5,000 user days by the end of this year. The trail, which is just under a mile round-trip, will someday take campers directly to a new area of the camp, dubbed Camp Wilderness. While Vail said they had hoped to complete the Camp Wilderness this fall, it was pushed back due to the busy season.
“(Caitlyn) has been working for over a year and a half on this (trail) undertaking and has well over 100 documented hours of effort and work for completion,” Vail said in an email to the Daily Bee, adding that she is a “quite a young lady.”
To get started on the project, Caitlin first had to get approval from Kiwanis, then the Gold Award committee. Once her project was approved, she garnered support from the community by getting donations. Then it was on to the main trail, cleaning it up by getting rid of the debris and all the overgrowth with the help of volunteers. She redefined the trail as well, she said, after which it was time to put in the wooden posts for trail markers and trailheads. With a total of nine posts, it became a family effort to get the holes dug and the posts set into the concrete.
She rented an auger, though with no ATV to get the equipment down the trail, Caitlyn’s dad helped her drag it by hand to drill the holes into the hard ground. Later, when Caitlyn had one post left to put in, her brother came out with a posthole digger and got it done so she could set the post that evening after her lifeguard shift at the camp was over.
The signs, which are made to last at least 10 years, were all done locally, Caitlyn said, as she strived to get all the materials from within the community.
“She went and spoke with different companies in town who were willing to donate supplies, which was wonderful,” Smith said. “She (Caitlyn), out of her pocket, paid for these beautiful maps. She went to the GIS department at the county and they worked with her, because they have an end goal to get all of the trails mapped in Bonner County. So she helped create the map that is on the trailheads down there.”
Now, just over a year, 144 email, 52 phone calls and more than 100 hours of work later, her mission is complete.
“Hopefully this trail will be kept up a lot more now that it is defined and people will, hopefully, be using it,” Caitlyn said, adding that it also opens it up for other groups to make further improvements or additions.
Caitlyn was also given the honor of naming the trail as well. After going through three different names, the trail was designated the “Golden Rule Trail,” which creates a tie between Kiwanis and the Girl Scouts.
“One of the Kiwanis’ objectives for their international club is the Golden Rule — treat others the way you want to be treated — and my Gold Award, so it ties in both of those aspects,” Caitlyn said.
The Gold Award is the final achievement in what is known by the Girl Scouts as the “precious medals,” Smith said, so Caitlyn first had to earn her bronze and silver.
The Gold Award is not only a prestigious honor in the Girl Scout community, as most colleges and the United States military consider it when looking at applications, because they can see the time and dedication the students put into the projects, Smith said. Some colleges offer scholarships to Gold Award Girl Scouts, and the military branches will sometimes start them out at a higher rank, she said.
The Girls Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho presented her with the Gold Award during a small ceremony at the camp on July 27.
“Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good,
and Caitlyn embodies everything this achievement stands for,” Brian Newberry, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, said in a statement. “Caitlyn addressed an issue that’s important to her — accessible and engaging outdoor recreation — for her Gold Award, and we congratulate her on this momentous accomplishment.”
Not only is Caitlyn staying busy with Girl Scouts and high school, she also works as a lifeguard at Litehouse YMCA, City Beach and Camp Stidwell. She is on the high school swim team as well, and “loves” the outdoors. After high school, while she is undecided on where she will go, she plans to attend college and major in wildlife biology or wildlife management.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.