SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 8, 2014

Beverly agrees to buy Camp Paradise

$950,000 sale hinges on state, CPA funding

Paul Leighton
Staff writer

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BEVERLY — The city has reached an agreement in principle to buy the Camp Paradise Girls Scouts camp for $950,000.
Mayor Mike Cahill said the agreement with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts is contingent on the city getting funding from a state grant and from the city’s Community Preservation Committee.
“It would be a great resource for the city,” Cahill said.
Camp Paradise is a 12-acre wooded site on Cole Street that includes a lodge building and a pond. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts has owned the camp since 1963 but decided last June to sell it, saying it is one of the least used of its 27 properties.
Cahill said the city appraised the property at $550,000, and the Girls Scouts appraised it at $1.4 million. The two sides agreed to a third appraisal, which came in at $950,000.
A spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts confirmed that the organization has agreed on the sale price and is waiting for the city to come up with the funding.
The city is hoping to pay for the property with a $500,000 state grant and $450,000 in Community Preservation Act money. The CPA, which Beverly voters approved in 2012, imposes a 1 percent surcharge on property taxes to create a fund for open space, recreation, historic preservation and affordable housing projects.
The city’s Community Preservation Committee last week received 14 final applications for funding, including the request by the city for Camp Paradise. Cahill said the city would borrow the $450,000 and pay off the bond with money that the committee would agree to set aside each year.
The city also requested CPA funding for five smaller projects, including upgrades to the carriage house and restrooms at Lynch Park, a new spray park at Lynch Park, repairs to the Dane Street Beach bathhouse and restoration of historical records at City Hall.
Two of the larger requests came from Harborlight Community Partners for $300,000 to upgrade the Harborlight House and from Beverly Main Streets for $177,663 to redesign Ellis Square.
Others applications seek funding for repairs at First Parish Church, Hale House, Hastings House, Beverly Housing Authority and Obear Park.
Community Preservation Committee Chairwoman Wendy Pearl said the committee will start considering the applications at its next meeting on May 15. The committee, an all-volunteer group, can award up to $570,000 this year, subject to approval by the City Council.
Cahill said the city is also planning to apply for a maximum $500,000 grant through the Massachusetts Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) Program to assist with buying Camp Paradise. It’s the same program the city used to help pay for the artificial turf field at Beverly High School.
In its CPA application, the city said Camp Paradise would be used for many youth and adult programs through the Beverly Recreation Department, including hiking, biking, backyard poultry, wilderness survival skills and beekeeping. The property would also be open to the public and could be reserved for family picnics, birthday parties and other events.
The one-story camp building has a wraparound porch on three sides and a large meeting room with a cathedral ceiling and fireplace. The building also has two small offices, two multi-stall bathrooms, a shower and a kitchen.
“The City of Beverly does not own another wooded area that has a support building like Camp Paradise,” the application said. “This property and building will greatly enhance the programs and open space that we can offer citizens of Beverly.”
The application said the property is being sought after for a development of five to seven houses. If the city buys the site, it would seek a conservation restriction to protect it from any future development, the application said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.