Beverly completes Camp Paradise sale

DAVID LE/Staff photo. 7/28/15. Camp Paradise, located at 44 Cole Street in Beverly, was sold to the City yesterday.

BEVERLY — Paradise now belongs to the city. Camp Paradise, that is.

The former Girl Scout camp was officially sold to the city Monday for $950,000. The funding came through a culmination of grants and city money.

The city intends to use the camp — 12 acres with a recreation building and pond — for various educational and camp programs as well as allowing groups to rent it. Camp management will be handled by the city's Parks and Recreation Department, according to Mayor Michael Cahill.

The land is also under a permanent restriction to remain open space by the Essex County Greenbelt, Cahill said.

The sale has been underway since last December when City Council voted to buy the camp and have it remain open space.

"We will look for ways to fully utilize the property," Cahill said.

Money for the purchase came from $450,000 in city Community Preservation Act money — collected through property taxes to invest in community projects — as well as a state grant for $400,000 and $100,000 out of the Park and Recreation Department's budget, according to Cahill's Chief of Staff Kevin Hartunian.

"It's a great outcome for the community as a whole," the mayor said.

Having the camp remain a green, wooded area is a welcome alternative, according to Bruce Doig, city Parks and Recreation director, and Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts Chief Executive Officer Patricia A. Parcellin.

"It's great open space," Doig said. "It's close to other open spaces."

Parcellin said the Girl Scouts have been working with the city for around two years on the sale, adding that conservation and "making sure we had continued access for the Girl Scouts" were the central issues.

"The wonderful news is the property is protected from residential and commercial development, so I think it's a great outcome," she said.

An appraisal of the property prior to sale suggested that the camp could accommodate a new housing development, Parcellin said, but she added, "that's not what we wanted to have happen."

The camp can be rented out to the Girl Scouts and other groups, Doig said, adding that there's been interest from Boy Scout Troops, too.

The city's been having programs at Paradise since last summer, and summer camps typically stationed in Lynch Park sometimes are sent there, he said. Compared with the open area at Lynch, the camp offers hiking, and an arts and crafts area in its indoor space.

In addition, programs for adults may soon be in the works, Doig said. Archery classes have already taken place there as well as environmental education. Future classes may include raising chickens and backyard gardening.

Working with the school district on outdoor education classes may also be options, Doig said.

For now, the mayor said the park will remain as it is; no changes will be made in the near future. 

The recreation building, around 20 years old, includes a large, open room with hardwood floors, a kitchen and restrooms with handicap accessibility.

"We're excited to have it," Doig said of the camp.

Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at amacneill@salemnews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill. 

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