SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 11, 2014

City might buy Girl Scouts camp

Beverly would apply for state grant to help purchase 12-acre property

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY— The city is interested in buying Camp Paradise, a 12-acre Girl Scouts camp on Cole Street.

Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Doig has toured the property, and city officials are scheduled to meet Thursday with officials from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, which owns the camp.

“It’s an interesting opportunity,” Mayor Mike Cahill said. “That’s why we’re exploring it.”

The board of directors of the Girl Scouts of Massachusetts voted last June to sell Camp Paradise, which the organization has owned since 1963. The organization said the camp was one of the least used of its 27 properties in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Doig told the City Council last week that the property would cost an estimated $1.4 million. He said the city plans to apply for a $500,000 grant from the Massachusetts Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) Program to assist with buying the property.

Doig said the city might also apply for money from the Community Preservation Act, which Beverly voters adopted in 2012. The law sets aside money from a 1 percent property tax surcharge to support open-space acquisition, historic preservation, recreation and affordable housing.

Jan Goldstein, the chief marketing officer for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, said the organization is looking forward to talking with Beverly officials about a possible sale.

She said the Girl Scouts are also talking to Rowley officials about selling one of their properties in that town.

“That’s our top priority if we can do it, to make sure the properties can stay for use by the community,” Goldstein said.

The Camp Paradise property includes a lodge, a pond, wetlands and a small field for sports. The lodge, which is the only building on the property, has a wraparound deck, hardwood floors, a full industrial kitchen and two handicapped-accessible bathrooms, Doig said.

“It’s just a tremendous building,” he said. “It’s a place where you could have not only educational programs for kids, but you could have family events and church picnics and all kinds of events going on there.”

Cahill said buying the property would provide a great resource for the community and for Parks and Recreation Department programs. It would also benefit the neighborhood by preserving the area as open space, he said.

Doig said the city could possibly lease the property for a year and generate revenue that could be used toward the sales price.

“They’re willing to be creative on the pricing to have the space preserved,” he told city councilors.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.