BEVERLY — One venture has come to an end for Project Adventure, which closed its 26-year-old operation in Georgia last week, and is selling the conference center at its Moraine Farm headquarters in Beverly.

"We reluctantly had to close the programs, and will focus more locally," said executive director Dick Prouty.

The decision to scale back stems from a flagging economy in Georgia that's made it more difficult to operate down South than in New England, Prouty said.

"The economy in Georgia is just terrible," he said.

The conference center in Beverly — a 6,000-square-foot mansion used to house guests when they come for training programs and workshops — is on the market for $3.5 million. The sale is intended to help the nonprofit reduce it's debt, he said.

The organization is still in good health, however, and the programs in Beverly will continue unchanged, he said.

"We're going to keep plenty of acreage and space to keep our programs going," he said.

Project Adventure, launched in Beverly in 1972, is a teaching nonprofit that teams with schools and youth organizations around the world to build leadership through adventure training. The 72 acres on Moraine Farm include a wide range of courses with challenges like rock walls and tree climbing, drawing in about 5,000 people a year, Prouty said.

They also hold workshops across the country, and in 1984 opened a second location in Georgia. Until about two years ago there were at least 125 students enrolled in those programs in Georgia, he said. But with a declining economy, many schools stopped recommending students in an effort to save money, and by last month, when the offices closed, there were just 40 students.

"The rates of referrals kept going down," he said. "We had to close the programs."

Putting the conference center in Beverly on the market was also a difficult decision, but the organization decided it was necessary. Prouty wouldn't disclose the amount of debt the sale will help pay off, but said the operating budget went from $10 million last year to $6 million this year.

The conference center serves primarily as a place for guests to stay when they're participating in Project Adventure programs. While it's great to offer that amenity right on campus, they know from hosting workshops around the country that it's not necessary.

"We'll have to use local hotels and motels, which we do in other locations, and it works out fine," he said.

The building will likely be sold to either another nonprofit, or for use as a residential home, which are the two purposes allowed under the zoning, he said.

Prouty said he's not concerned about the organization as a whole, and refocusing on the core programs will be good for Beverly.

"We're very positive about the future," he said. "A lot of people want to work with us."

Staff writer Cate Lecuyer can be reached at clecuyer@salemnews.com

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