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To qualify for the Gold Award in Girl Scouts, Olivia Downs prepared four sites for hammock camping at Camp Trico, a Girl Scout camp on Lake Guntersville. CONTRIBUTED

Olivia Downs earns Girl Scouts’ Gold Award with work at Camp Trico

MADISON – Olivia Downs earned the Gold Award, the pinnacle of honor in Girl Scouts, by improving Camp Trico, which holds great sentimental and educational value to Olivia and her peers.

“Going to Girl Scout camp with my troop has always been the best thing for me about being a Girl Scout,” Downs said. “We’ve been camping since kindergarten and first grade. Now, we’re in high school or have graduated.” In Troop 926, leaders are Jean Downs and Andrea Johnson.

Downs’ project has given a safe environment for outdoor progression, an important facet of Scouting.

She started work when COVID-19 restrictions limited capacity for sleeping areas at Scout camps. Occupancy basically was cut in half, but her project helped increase capacity. The Girl Scout Council wanted hammock sites near existing camping for easy access to bathhouses, cook shelters and cabins.

In addition, Downs taught classes on advanced camping, like backpacking and hammock camping. “I like to share my experiences so they can have as much fun as I did learning to try new things,” Downs said.

Luckily, a small team of relatives working with Downs avoided most COVID-19 constraints. Downs created four designated hammock sites at Camp Trico on Lake Guntersville. “The new sites added at least 60 places to safely hang hammocks,” Downs said.

Downs also prepared packets of educational materials: “Hammock Camping Basics,” “Backpacking Hygiene” and “Leave No Trace.” She successfully recruited three troops to create hammock sites at other properties.

The project required 101.2 hours, with most time needed for site clearing and developing educational materials. “We used lots of hand tools and chainsaws to clear sites. I marked each tree (for) hammocks and added signage,” Downs said.

“Girl Scouts now (can) try new camping experiences in a safe environment,” Downs said. Many girls are using the hammocks or “just hanging out. (The sites) will be enjoyed for a long time.”

A junior at James Clemens High School, Downs previously earned Bronze and Silver Awards; 60-plus skill badges and leadership pins; and Gold Level of Presidential Volunteer Service Award three times.

She is a member of James Clemens Competition Marching Band and American Legion Auxiliary, Post 229. She works at Toyota Field for the Trash Pandas. “I love doing anything with my troop and (boating) with my family,” Downs said.

Planning to attend Ole Miss, Downs wants to study engineering.

Olivia’s parents are Jeff and Jean Downs. He is a Director at Teledyne Brown Engineering. Jean is Vice President of Operations at SCI.

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