Construction has been completed on the Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council’s (GSACPC) Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women at Camp South Mountain, an $18 million year-round urban program center with camp appeal.

Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women
There are raised walkways at the camp to protect the desert landscape. (Photo courtesy of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council)

The center, which is located on 14.5 acres in the South Mountain community at 1611 E. Dobbins Rd. in Phoenix, increases the local council’s capacity to serve more girls with relevant programming, from aquatics to STEM, all year long. The center is also fully ADA accessible.

“Our decision to transform our almost 70-year-old camp property in South Mountain into a leadership center emerged from our desire to expand our capacity to serve more girls, especially underserved populations, and better serve our existing members, of whom 85% live in the metro-Phoenix area,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of GSACPC. “This is extremely important to our mission, as three in four girls who participate in Girl Scouts say they became a leader in other parts of their lives because of Girl Scouting.”

The Parsons Leadership Center offers spaces for large and small meetings and trainings, tent and cabin camping, a demonstration kitchen and kitchen garden, two pools, a Girl Scout museum and shop, staff offices, a playing field and archery range, campfire circle, and labyrinths.

Adult leaders and volunteers will also benefit from the leadership and skill-building training offered at the center, and the local council sees it helping to facilitate partnerships with surrounding community groups, local organizations and schools.

“We are grateful for the many donors who have invested in this project to date, particularly The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation whose support has been instrumental in making this project a reality. Their $5 million donation – in fact – is the largest in the 105-year history of Girl Scouts of the USA,” said Christina Spicer, senior associate of Fund Development at GSACPC.

Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women
The v-shaped roofs at the camp will direct rain water to flow into basins beneath to provide water to plants in the area. (Photo courtesy of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council)

Other notable gifts include those from The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation, and the Girl Scouts themselves, who raised over $1 million through their cookie sales. The Emerald Foundation provided the first gift to ensure the campus would be ADA accessible.

“Bob and I are passionate about giving support to organizations making a lasting difference in the community, and that’s what the Girls Scouts are doing here,” Renee Parsons said. “The lessons these young girls are learning will empower them to grow into confident women and future leaders.”

Marlene Imirzian, the lead architect and founder of Marlene Imirzian & Associates, was a Girl Scout in her youth and understands the impact Girl Scouting has on girls’ lives.

“The leadership center is designed to honor the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert and remains true to the Girl Scout values of protecting the environment and using resources wisely. Raised walkways protect the fragile desert floor and allow the water from South Mountain to flow through the natural arroyos unimpeded and into an underground water management system,” said Imirzian. “The v-shaped roofs of the cabins, which are raised on caissons, direct rain water to flow into basins beneath them and provide water for surrounding plants.”

According to Imirzian, recycled building materials, the conservation of the native trees and plants on the property, xeriscaping, low water use fixtures, along with abundant natural lighting from windows and skylights add to the sustainable design of the project.

“These same design features also promote a sustainable community, fostering connections, integration and engagement,” said Imirzian, noting that LEED certification is being pursued.

The Weitz Company served as the construction partner on the project and supported GSACPC in other ways.

“Prior to construction, Weitz hosted two golf tournaments raising nearly $50,000 for the building fund,” said Weitz Executive Vice President and General Manager Chris Harrison. “Once construction began, we continued to support their fundraising efforts including on-site tours throughout construction with current and potential donors to see first-hand the impact of their investment.”

“The Parsons Leadership Center will have a lasting positive impact on Girl Scouts and the greater community for today and future generations.” adds Harrison.