Advertisement

La Cañada Boy Scout Troop 509 opens ranks to girls seeking more outdoor experiences

La Cañada Boy Scout Troop 509 opens ranks to girls seeking more outdoor experiences
Senior patrol leader Lainy Dickson, 16, of La Crescenta, and scout Allison King, 16, of La Cañada, use rope to lash three poles together during a Troop 509 scout meeting at Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena on Monday. (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

For years they watched as brothers and male classmates went on camping trips, kayaked and learned to shoot guns in target practice, adventures they themselves could watch and sometimes engage in but which weren’t for them.

Some may have joined clubs where activities focused on less active pursuits or espoused traditional viewpoints about girls and their interests, while others found coed alternatives or skipped scouting all together — but no more.

Advertisement

They are the girls of La Cañada BSA Troop 509, and now it’s their turn.

Boy Scouts of America announced that in 2018 it would begin accepting girls into its Cub Scouts program to “better meet the needs of modern families,” while developing a pathway for older girls to join and pursue the rank of Eagle Scout starting this year.

Advertisement

On Feb. 1, the organization’s Boy Scouts program morphed into the more inclusive “Scouts BSA,” allowing for the formation of a girls program within the existing troop structure.

La Cañada Troop 509 welcomed its first female members after a new girls troop, linked to the boys troop, was chartered on March 28 by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which was chartered in 1952. The process took a while, but JPL liaison Bruce Goldstein said the agency wholeheartedly supported the move.

“It’s long overdue,” Goldstein said. “I think it’s better to have boys and girls working together — that’s what life is going to be like when they grow up.”

Now, boys and girls share a troop name and number and, while rules stipulate they must camp separately, they attend regular weekly meetings as one uniform group.

Girls troop leader Gayle Hagegard said 16 girls so far have signed up compared to 140 or more male members. Many local families expressed interest because daughters wanted more outdoors experiences and chances to camp.

“Also, a number of our girls are siblings of the boys, so they’ve seen what their brothers are doing and say, ‘I want to do that,’” Hagegard said.

Scout Mathilda Barr, 15, of Los Angeles, ties one of the knots she will have to know to advance in rank at a Troop 509 scout meeting at Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena on Monday.
Scout Mathilda Barr, 15, of Los Angeles, ties one of the knots she will have to know to advance in rank at a Troop 509 scout meeting at Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena on Monday. (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

During a Monday evening meeting at Hahamongna Watershed Park, a cohort of about 12 girls hung closely together as troops divided into small groups for different activities. They made a human knot and tried to untie themselves in a trust building exercise, before moving on to learn how to lash together long wooden poles into a tripod formation.

Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Lucas Oh said the inclusion of girls is a bit of a culture change, but not an unwelcome one.

“I knew very little about it — they kind of just sprung it on us,” he said, admitting some male scouts were hesitant at first to open their ranks. “Now it feels like they’ve been here since the beginning.”

Lainy Dickson, a Crescenta Valley High School junior, said she and her mom were eagerly waiting for the announcement girls could join Boy Scouts. Still enrolled as a member of local Girl Scout Troop 13381, Dickson doesn’t disparage the traditional female scouting option. They’re just two different programs, she says.

“With Boy Scouts, I’ve learned to tie lashings, tie knots, pitch tents and use a knife,” the 16-year-old said. “I’ve wanted to do things my brothers have done for years. They’ve been rock climbing and white water rafting — I can’t wait to do those things.”

Dickson’s next challenge will be deciding if she wants to pursue both her Girl Scout Gold Award and Eagle Scout ranking.

“Right now, I’m more focused on my Eagle,” she confessed.

Advertisement
Advertisement