An American flag has flown since early June at Lewis & Clark Trail State Park, nestled at 36149 US Route 12, between Waitsburg and Dayton.
The ability to raise the stars and bars there didn’t exist until a group of area Girl Scouts caught wind of its pole-less status and took action.
The girls from troops in Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton and Waitsburg visit the park for summer camp, said Sue Asplund, Girl Scout Service Unit 492 manager.
While at the park the scouts may listen to interpretive talks from park staff and always do a service project, such as building bat boxes or house wren nest boxes for threatened birds or raking needles, said Clara Dickinson-McQuary, program specialist and volunteer coordinator for the Blue Mountain area at the park through the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
“When I called to see if we could get permission to hold flag ceremonies on their flagpole, I was told they didn’t have one. We brought portable flags to hold flag ceremonies for a couple of years but they kept falling over in the wind,” said Sue, who’s starting her 44th year as a Girl Scout.
About a year ago, Sue suggested to Clara the scouts could help the park get a flagpole through a service project.
Yet the process for such a change takes time, Clara added, as the park must consult with a planner, environmentalist and archaeologist about removing the earth in a certain place and permits had to be applied for. The pole was on the park’s list of things to do, Clara said.
“We were happy to partner with the (scouts) on that. We’re really excited they wanted to do that. Sometimes it lights a fire to get something going,” Clara said.
With Troop 5381 leaders Brandi Hollingsworth and Megan Strickland in Waitsburg and Troop 5383 leaders Amber Lambert and Shannon Schaff at the helm, their multi-age scouts in Daisies, Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes ranks glued 5,850 Popsicle sticks into 400 American flags painted red, white and blue. Stars and either refrigerator magnets or hangers were added last. The flags sold for $5. They raised more than $2,000 because donors often contributed more funds for each flag, Sue said.
Members of the American Legion Frank E. Bauers Post 42 in Dayton helped a lot with fundraising, Sue said. The girls sold their flags at Legion-hosted Veterans and Memorial Day breakfasts and Hometown Christmas. And the scouts helped at a free salmon dinner the Legionnaires served that accepted contributions for the scouts’ flag project, including one person’s $100 donation, Sue said. Once the flagpole arrived the park maintenance team installed it in late May. They also put in a solar-operated light to keep it let after dark. “The pole fits right there, at the entrance to the campground and is visible going both directions from the highway,” Clara said. “It’s a wonderful gift they gave us. We’re happy to have that addition to the park.”
The scouts, leaders, family members, park staff and representatives from American Legion Post 42 and American Legion Samuel W. Southard Post 35 in Waitsburg attended the flagpole dedication on June 8 when the American and Washington state flags went up the pole for the first time. The timing was perfect as the scouts were in the park for their 2019 Service Unit 492 Summer Camp group campout that weekend.
By having summer camp there, the youngest girls who aren’t ready to camp over can go for the day and head home at night, Sue said. The 36-acre state park is on the Touchet River in Columbia County with old-growth forest and 1,333 feet of river shoreline. Remarkably, long-leafed ponderosa pine trees grow there, the same trees Lewis and Clark wrote about in their journals when passing through that area on their Corps of Discovery Expedition. Old-growth ponderosa and cottonwood trees abound in the park.
There are eight troops in the area with girls in kindergarten-eighth grades and several individually registered girls in high school. They meet in different locations at varying times depending on what works for leaders and families in individual troops.
The girls help the American Legion place flags and crosses on veterans’ graves and help with other activities on Veterans and Memorial days. They also camp, hike, visit the fire and police departments and do other community trips and do crafts. Most recently, some of the girls helped with a taco feed for a local family whose dad was injured in a motorcycle accident.
Service Unit 492 also has an annual winter camp at Fields Spring State Park four miles south of Anatone, Wash., to snowshoe, sled and play in the snow.
Sue’s longtime passion for scouts goes back to her membership as a girl in an aerospace family that moved frequently.
“Girl Scouts was the place I made friends and had fun in new communities,” she said.
She said her love of the outdoors and “guts to major in forestry in the pre-Title IX era when I was the only woman in some of my classes” stems from her years in Girl Scouts. She earned a degree in forestry. She returned to scouting to lead her daughter’s Daisy troop. Now she leads multi-troop outdoor activities and helps train leaders to take girls outdoors.
For more information about scouts, call the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho office in Spokane.