While the tall pines and pristine waters at Camp Low Echo are nearly silent, new caretakers of the decades-old Girl Scout camp are creating a plan to preserve its history as they await the return of excited campers.
Ashland historian George Kramer is helping new owners Sid and Karen DeBoer collect stories about the camp, from fathers creating a lodge from salvaged building materials to campers rescuing a baby porcupine to girls singing, cooking, swimming and exploring.
Located at the southeastern tip of Lake of the Woods, Camp Low Echo was constructed by donated materials from Camp White at the end of World War II after the Winema Girl Scout Council decided to venture away from the annual rental of the Boy Scout camp across the lake.
Girl Scouts used Camp Low Echo for some seven decades before maintenance issues and a merger with surrounding councils forced property consolidation.
The DeBoers donated $3 million to the renovation of the camp and, in 2014, purchased the buildings and the Forest Service permit allowing them to turn the camp into a recreational site for all ages.
The DeBoers then donated the 32-acre camp to the Ashland Family YMCA.
Kramer, tasked with creating a museum in the camp's one-time infirmary, dubbed "Unit Band-Aid," is putting out a call for stories, memorabilia and photos related to the history of the camp.
Kramer said trinkets and memorabilia tacked onto the walls of Beaver Lodge, named for the camp's first director, have been packed away in preparation for the museum.
"I'm hoping there are kids out there that went to camp and have snapshots of groups, children taking archery class, things like that," Kramer said.
"We have the old triangle that the cook would bang to call the girls to dinner, artwork that decorated the buildings, stuff like that. Even though, by the point, the camp has been vacant for a long time now and is a little pathetic, you can so tell it was a place that people loved so much."
Bette Eppinger, a lifelong Scout who took three generations of her family to camp at Low Echo, was encouraged that the camp would continue to serve local youth and that the Girl Scouts' time there would be honored.
Eppinger, who served in a range of capacities from camp director to Scout leader, said she hoped the museum would have a small tribute to the camp's first director and lodge namesake, Marjorie "Beaver" Hopkins, whose ashes Eppinger scattered around the camp after Hopkins' death.
"I had gone up there for so many years. First as a girl and then taking my own girls up there. When my girls were sophomores, juniors and seniors, we went up one year and 'opened camp,'" Eppinger remembered.
"We had maybe 100 girls up there the first year and we didn't have a boat dock, so we found a big log and rolled it down the hill and tied the boats to it. Then someone said, 'Well, now we need a swimming dock.' So we found another log and rolled it down to mark off the swimming area."
Ty Hisatomi, development and special projects manager of the Ashland YMCA, said he looked forward to the stories that would be collected by Kramer for the museum space.
"It's just really a way to appreciate and respect what has gone on there and so that it will still be a part of the camp when it's redone," he said.
"Campers and Girl Scout staff who come up will have a sense that the memories of the camp were still honored, that it's not really gone."
Former campers with stories, photos and memorabilia from the history — early or more recent — are asked to email Kramer at email@example.com.
— Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.