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Abandoned Girl Scout Camp Beech-Wood

July 21st, 2014

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
My buddies Chris Clemens and Luke Myer (from the Burned Over District external link blog) recently shared these photos with me. Chris and Luke were on their way to Sodus on an unrelated exploration trip when they recalled stories of a nearby abandoned Girl Scout camp and decided to stop and check it out [map external link].

Luke says his mother camped here when she was a little girl. In fact, many Girl Scouts earned a badge or two here over its 60+ year history. This was camp Beech-Wood and the following is an excerpt from NYfalls.com external link about its history…

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
The Girl Scouts of America purchased a parcel of land along the west side of Maxwell Bay and the Rochester division then built and operated Camp Beechwood here starting in 1929.

Beech-Wood was named for the American Beech trees that grew along the lakeside bluff.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
The camp was successful for many decades, but several factors led to its decline in the 1990s. For one thing, taxes on lakefront property in NY State increased dramatically over the years.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
Secondly, Scout membership was on the decline (a national trend).

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
Third, camp maintenance demands grew out of control as rising waters and storms caused uncontrollable erosion, landslides and fallen trees along the shore.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
The lake waters were filled with downed trees just below the surface, making for a creepy and somewhat dangerous swimming environment for the campers.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
The bay, which pulled agricultural runoff into the two mile stretch of Maxwell Creek (then called Salmon Creek) suffered from algae blooms and poor water quality.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
As problems compounded, the operating costs became just too much for the Scouts and they decided to put the land up for sale in 1995.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
Recognizing the importance of the Maxwell Creek watershed to Lake Ontario’s health, and fearing commercial development or agricultural use of this important property, the State become interested in its acquisition. With the land already connected to utilities, and the existence of modern cabins, lodges, and recreation facilities, the state looked at the acquisition and conversion to a family park as an easy task. There was some resistance to the purchase using taxpayer funds, but with the help of the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act the state was able to buy the land in 1996 for $600,000.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
Unfortunately, before the State could upgrade and open the newly acquired park, a budget crisis got in the way and no money was allocated for improvements. The park’s purpose was then shifted more towards a manageable “preserve” and it opened with no improvements in 1999.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
Since then the buildings have fallen into decay and only the occasional mowing is done down the access road and around the main lot containing the mess hall and swimming pool.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
Recently, the Town of Sodus has been given permission by the state for use of the park as they see fit. An effort by the Boy Scouts of America is underway to help recondition some structures within the park, while the Trail Works organization has spent some time mapping the existing trails.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
The SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry has taken some interest in the property as of 2010, walking the grounds to take inventory for a recommended management plan. As of the writing of this article, the park has only seen a minor effort to preserve and restore the existing major buildings.

Beechwood Park in Sodus, NY is a former Girl Scouts of America summer camp. The property has been left as it was abandoned in 1996. [PHOTO: Chris Clemens and Luke Myer]
Today Beechwood State Park external link is a great place to hike and explore. There is a gravel parking area on Lake Road near the bridge for Maxwell Creek, which includes a canoe/kayak access point as well as fishing access. Take the well worn path to explore the main camp. There are no marked trails, but at times some paths are mowed and there are old dirt roads (now grassy roads) that can be hiked as well.

• • •


Related Video:


Go for a hike through Camp Beech-Wood with Ed and Scrappy.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 21st, 2014 at 7:28 am and is filed under Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester Images, Urban Exploration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Abandoned Girl Scout Camp Beech-Wood”

  1. Denise Speicher says:

    Thank you for this great article. Our family camped there in the 90’s and it was beautiful.

  2. Martin Edic says:

    But be aware of deer ticks that can cause Limes disease. They are now prevalent in wooded areas near the lake’s microclimate. Cool place.

  3. mary anita says:

    Camp Beechwood was a great place …camped there for 10 years as a girl , worked 2 yrs and can say my daughters were the 4th generation to camp there. As a family we returned just last year and it broke my heart to see what shape that camp was in . Thumbs up to the Boy Scouts and other community groups that have worked to improve it .

  4. Matt says:

    The assertion that higher taxes contributed to the Girl Scouts unloading this property is a dubious one. The GSA is a not-for-profit and not required to pay any taxes, be they local, state, or federal.

  5. Ruth Nederlk says:

    I remember it well. When I was in girl scouts we went and had our camp on Mrs. Palmers Astate Beautiful area and you wouldn’t believe the Lake Ontario was so clean and clear to swim in. .What a terrible change in the water today. We were in that camp in the 30’s. Much fun and happy days. Thanks to Mrs. Palmers generous permission to camp there
    GOOD OLD DAYS!

  6. @Matt, the question about property taxes is a good one. It may be that the property wasn’t used 100% of the time for the charity. I’ll have to look into this.

  7. Carol Howard says:

    Went here for girlscout camp in the 60s. Heartbreaking to see the shape it is in. I have wonderful memories of Camp Beechwood

  8. Mary Jung says:

    Back when two of my sisters were early teens and their Girl Scout Troop was without a leader, I volunteered for the “position”. I took the girls winter camping at Beechwood, that winter. It just happened to be the coldest weekend of that entire winter – maybe 1964 or 1965. I had my sister-in-law, and 3 of my friends with me to help with the 15 or so Girl Scouts that were there with us.

    We 5 friends had a great time with the girls on Saturday. Went hiking, built snowmen, ice skated and just enjoyed what on Saturday was a beautiful winter day. When bedtime came, we all snuggled down into our sleeping bags and promptly fell asleep.

    I woke up around 5:30 am and our fire had gone out, the building was as cold as if we were sleeping outside. I woke my friends and we did get the fire re-started but it took the building forever to warm up.

    Breakfast was served by the “adults” (we were 20-21 years old and the kids were 11-12 years old) in bed. We made an adventure out of it. I remember the orange juice was frozen so we put that nearer to the fire and once it melted we served orange juice slushies and pancakes for everyone.

    I think because we weren’t all that much older than the girls, it was a fun adventure for all of us.

    To add to my grief, it had snowed a considerable amount overnight. I prayed that someone would come soon to plow us out. I remember it was noon before someone showed up to plow us out. Remember this was before cell phones.

    All these years later, that weekend is still one of my favorite memories.

  9. Dawn Ellen says:

    @Mary Anita, is it really you? Camp Beechwood in the 70’s and 80’s. I would have been there 1976-1984, with 85′ being my CIT year at Pinewood. If it is you I know we were in Wayfare together one year and on the canoe trip to Long Lake in the Adirondacks. Oh gosh I hope it is you and you see it. We made quite the pair.
    It pained me to see this property be abandoned by the state. It could have been such a great outdoor learning center. I did hear that the whole lakefront area including our great camp fire circle was destroyed by storms and high water. I live far away now with no family in the area but I will come back to that place and walk around. I can still see and walk down its paths and roads as if it were yesterday. They were very special times.

  10. I grew up at Camp Beechwood. My father was the Ranger for the last 20 or so years of Beechwood’s existence as a Girl Scout Camp. He kept that camp clean and meticulously maintained it. It’s sad to see the state of it today. Hopefully, groups/people will see the benifit from improving it once again and maintaining it. It was truly a beautiful place. I am fortunate to have from up there

  11. Kathy Layburn Vassar says:

    camped there in the late 50’s in the Ashgrove – beautiful area.

  12. Sheila Broderick Brown says:

    Have many great memories of camping with the Fairport Girl Scouts in the early 70’s!! Our Leader was Mrs. Schmeider and it was one of my first leadership and camping experiences. We all had such a wonderful time. I’m sorry to see Camp Beechwood in such disrepair…

  13. Annmarie OConnor says:

    I was a day camp counselor at Beechwood from when we moved to Rocester in1989 until it closed. It was truly a special place and so much fun. We also troop camped there. The place had everything- the lake, a pool, hiking trails and an outdoor shower. I remember the ranger, “Stubby” was always there keeping everything ship shape and taking such pride in the property. It is heartbreaking to see the state of it now. I know many adults and campers who would have gladly donated time and expertise to solve the erosion problems and keep the camp in working order. It was a gem that provided many happy memories and I still miss it.

  14. Jen detemple says:

    I was a camper and counselor there as well. My camp name was spaz. I worked there until it closed. It’s so so sad to see these photos. The arts and crafts shelter should have tye dye shirts hanging up not look so dischelveld. I’d love to hear from some alumni. I’m on Facebook if anyone is interested.

  15. Mary Jung says:

    Loved going their as a Girl Scout and as a Leader for my younger sisters. Very sad to look at these pictures.

  16. Jake Kasperek says:

    Hey, I was wondering if there was an address for this place. Or can someone tell me how to get there; I’m from Fairport

  17. There is a link to Google maps in the first paragraph.

  18. Celia Holder says:

    I was so sad to see the pictures of camp Beechwood, I have only just found these pictures as I thought I would try looking for the camp on my computer. I worked here two summers in 1977 and 1978 in July and August. I am from the UK and live in Brighton, Sussex and I went to the camp through Camp America. I loved it and met many people while I was there. I worked on the water front teaching swimming and boating and also ran the craft lodge, I also spent some time working in the units. Nancy Preston was the Camp Director then.

  19. Ruth Nederlk says:

    It was around 1940 that we had our girlscout camp on the Palmer residence . We had permission from them aand took care to keep area clean . Beautiful area. I don’t know how the State took over the Palmer property in some years after and made it part of Webster camping grounds. That was ashame that they could take it for it was I was told to be always used for Scout camping . But like all things good they take whatever they want with a greed for tax money.

  20. Gerry says:

    Anyone know if it’s for sale???

  21. Sarah says:

    Are there any reported deaths here?

  22. S says:

    I visited here with my family back in June this year. The property is huge, I was there for hours and still didn’t see it all. While coming upon a group of yellow A-frames I discovered that a family was camping there. The site was covered in confederate flags, towels, and grills. I got out of there fast (I don’t mess with confederate flag bearing white people). The pool is full of graffiti now, which is pretty cool to look at. There are also a few houses on the property that consist of one or two rooms and a bathroom. If you have the chance to visit here, definitely visit!

  23. Nancy bee says:

    I worked there in the early 70s. I was a teenager. My mom ( Barbara Baumeister) was the camp cook and her friend Jodie Wyand was the camp director. I remember the pool and the beach. And the wonderful woods. And the two young men who worked maintenance. Like I said. I was a teenager.

  24. I camped there for many years with my troop from sacred heart in Rochester ny untill I moved in 1990. I also went to summer camp. There for 3 years 2 before the pool was there and the last the first year it was open. All consecutive years I don’t remember the dates but I loved that place so vary much. I gained my polar bear club pach there from jumping in the lake early in the morning while the water was so cold, went fishing off the dock, tubing in the lake in giant black inner tubes, made many crafts, went hours back riding, there were thick metal wires between the trees we balenced and climbed on, there were 2 lake swimming areas. We hiked one year all the way to stony brook with our counselor spent the day and hiked back. I missed the bus the last year to go home and got to spend a few hours there after it closed with some counselors in the office and they drove me back from camp to the meet up at MCC. One year while telling ghost story’s sitting under the covered picnic table area I breathed in realy hard and ended up swallowing a gypsy moth, I was coughing u math parts for a while lol. We usto tell story’s to each other about. A man that lived in the woods and when you used the latrines late at night alone he would pull you don in and take you away to kill you. It was a camp story every year I was ever there. We would sneak up to the door and scratch on it while somone was in it. They would scream then we would all run back to the tents laughing. The person inside included it was fun. We would take turns ackiting like bear at night scratching on tents and trying to scare the camp counsels, but it nev re worked and they always got us back for it by scaring us. I may even have a pic or 2 of that place somwere. I miss it so vary much. 8 made many friend there. One I remember most was a Victoria as well but called Tory and I was Vicki and that Sumer together we were vickitory! I miss her and lost tough when camp ended I was so sad. I loved making tie die and candles there. We did so vary many things I can’t remember them all. I wish I could find somone from when I was there eather camper or counselor that remembers me. I live in WA state now so I can’t go there and hike the camp but I realy wish I could. Camp Beach Wood was the only reason I stayed in Girl Scouts as long as I did after I moved my new troop did nothing but book work we all hated it we never went anywhere or did anything together but I had camp beach wood in the summer.


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