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New England News

Richmond Enters Sale Agreement For Girl Scout Camp

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Berkshire Regional Planning Commission
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Camp Marion White

The town of Richmond, Massachusetts has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the Girl Scouts for a camp the organization has owned since 1952.Camp Marion White encompasses 50 acres on Swamp Road in Richmond, which borders Pittsfield to the north and New York to the west. For the past year the town has been talking with the Girl Scouts, having put together a working group under the direction of town administrator Matt Kerwood.

“We very quickly came to the conclusion that we should honor what the property has historically been, a day camp, with hiking trails, a lodge and other structures and keep it in that spirit and look to turn it into a park.”

Now the two parties have settled on a $1.375 million price tag. The Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts cover 4,500 square miles and serve 8,500 girls. With area population declining, only 200 of those girls are from Berkshire County, which is also home to Bonnie Brae in East Otis, the longest continuously running Girl Scout camp in the country. It’s been open since 1919, according to Suzanne Smiley, COO of the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts.

“We found that the participation and use of that camp was much higher than it was at Marion White,” Smiley said. “We were in a position where we couldn’t maintain at the level we needed or wanted to.”

Smiley says Camp Marion White averaged 35 to 50 girls a year and more non-Girl Scouts were using the property through organizations who rented it. Smiley says there were many interested buyers who wanted to ensure the space is protected and open to the public, but selling to Richmond was the right fit.

“We are really thrilled to be working with the town because their plans would keep the property open to the general public and the Girl Scouts who had been using the property,” said Smiley.

Kerwood says the town envisions biking, hiking, snowshoeing and other recreational activities on the land. Other ideas include renting out some of its buildings for private functions, creating grass playing fields for team sports and swimming and non-motorized boating along more than 1,300 feet of shoreline on Richmond Pond. The property’s beaver pond is already a popular fishing spot. The town is asking its voters to approve borrowing $1.5 million via a 10-year bond to cover the purchase and immediate improvement projects at a special town meeting November 18th. Kerwood says that brings a tax increase of about $195 for the average home valued at roughly $405,500. He points out the tax amount would decrease as the debt lowers.

“And have the town invest in itself,” Kerwood said. “The fundamental difference is that rather than being a private facility for the Girls Scouts it will be open to the public. That’s the goal her – to open that property up for public access and use.” 

That vote requires a two-thirds majority. On November 21st, voters will then decide via a simple majority to exclude the borrowing from Richmond’s levy limit. Voters will also decide whether Richmond should apply for a $50,000 state grant, which would permanently protect the property.

Kerwood says 90 percent of people who responded to a survey on the town’s open spaces said Camp Marion White should be protected and supported town ownership. A community forum to explain the town’s plans and how it will impact taxpayers is set for November 5th. In addition, tours of the land are scheduled for November 1st, 7th, 18th and 21st.

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