Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida

Camp Mahachee and World Domination, One Cookie at a Time… 

It can’t be here. That was my first thought after driving past Matheson Hammock Park on Old Cutler Road. Checking my GPS again for what was supposed to be an 11 1⁄2 acre campground, I finally found my turn. Down a long unpaved road and through the hammocks I went, through a passage of time. 

My tour began at the lodge house, where pictures on the wall capture that past. The campground remains identical to how it looked seventy-three years ago when the girls took over. That sounded like girl power to me, and it was indeed an epic start funded by their iconic cookies – $3,337 in cookie sales to be exact – which allowed the Girl Scouts in 1945 to purchase Camp Mahachee from the Arthur Curtis James estate. On November 7, 1948, it would be dedicated for sole use of the Girl Scouts. 

The first Girl Scout troopin Florida began in Monroe County in 1921, followed by Miami-Dade’s Tropical troop in 1923 – and the movement has been growing ever since. The mission of Girl Scouting is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, to make the world a better place. Walking around the eight cabins, multiple pathways, fire pit, and common areas I realized that wherever I stepped lay a cache of cherished memories. 

Girl Scouts in 1948
In 1948 Camp Mahachee was Dedicated for the sole use of The Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts 1970
Girl Scouts raising the flag during the 1970’s.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Angelica “Kiki” Zayas is one “lifer” who began as a camper, became a counselor, then a troop leader, then a lifeguard; she still volunteers as an adult. “I earned my first paycheck at Camp Mahachee. My last job before I went to law school was as a lifeguard there,” she says. “Of course, I remember the campfires, the songs, the friend- ships, and ‘Rock City’ with great fondness. But what I remember best are the hikes to the sink hole and the thrill of crawling through the caves created by the sink hole on the property.” 

Adventures extend beyond the campground, and a big part of that beyond is Girl Scout Cookies©, the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world. Cookie sales from 12 different varieties help fund their programs, and you can now buy them online as well as in person. The result is 200 million boxes sold each year for $850 million. According to Forbes magazine, that tops the annual sales for Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Milanos combined. And to think it all started in July 1922 when American Girl magazine published a recipe for basic sugar cookies, intended for troop sales.

To meet the demand today we now have cookie pre-sales which begin this November22 and go through December 3. Direct cookie sales go from January 8 through February 21. Fortunately, you don’t have to eat through your New Year’s resolutions to support the Girl Scouts. This November 13th Girl Scout Troop Leader and Coral Gables resident Patricia Cruz chairs their 2021 Campfires to Cocktails fundraiser at Camp Mahachee. 

Girl Scouts
Today the Girl Scout tradition continues at Camp Mahachee.

“We continue to be stewards of this incredible property where girls are able to get outdoors safely, connect with hardwood hammock, see stars at night, hear night noises,” Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of the Tropical troop, recently told the City Commission. “Many of our girls in Coral Gables and across our jurisdiction don’t have opportunities to be outdoors after dark [but] they can go to a magical place like Camp Mahachee and it opens the world for them.” 

“When I’m at Mahachee,
I don’t feel like I’m in Miami,” says Girl Scout cadette Lucy Dwyer. “It feels special, being in the woods. Whenever I’m there, I feel like I never want to leave.” 

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