Richmond looks to buy Camp Marion White and open to public

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RICHMOND — A once vibrant girl scout campground on Richmond Pond would be transformed into a municipal recreational area should Richmond voters later this month agree to buy and upgrade the private property for $1.5 million.

Town officials on Nov. 18 will ask a special town meeting to support borrowing the money to buy the 50 acre Camp Marion White currently owned by the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. Since a loan is involved, a two-thirds majority approval is needed and three days later on Nov. 21, an town-wide election will be held to exempt the bond from the tax levy limits of Proposition 2 1/2. Only a simple majority is needed for the second approval.

As for the property tax impact of borrowing $1.5 million, a single-family homeowner with property assessed at $405,000 as of June 30 would pay an extra $195 for the loan's first year, according to town officials.

A public forum to review the project is scheduled for Thursday, 7 p.m. at Richmond Consolidated School.

If approved, municipal officials would finalize a pending $1.375 million purchase-and-sale agreement with the Girl Scouts, possibly by Dec. 31, according to Town Administrator Matthew Kerwood. He said the remaining funds would be used to pay for removal of half of the 19 structures at the camp, make improvements to others and upgrade the trails and expand the parking.

Kerwood noted the camp would be for day use only, exclusive of swimming as the town already has a beach across the pond from the camp.

The town wants to at least retain the 3,000 square foot lodge, boat house, open-air picnic pavilion, outhouse facilities providing a year-round recreational area for both residents and visitors to the community.

"I liken the use to Controy Pavilion [at Onota Lake] in Pittsfield as an example of how to use the lodge and the trail network being similar, but on a smaller scale, to Kennedy Park [in Lenox,]" Kerwood said in a recent Eagle interview.

The camp itself consists of two parcels totaling 29 acres off Swamp Road near the Pittsfield city line. The remaining 21 acres across the road, known as the Beaver Dam parcel, would remain as hiking only, according to Richmond Conservation Agent Ryan Aylesworth.

"Because we're talking about wetlands, there's not much opportunity for development [at Beaver Dam,]" he said. "There are a lot of trails and potential for environmental education, such as having a kiosk."

All 50 acres would be placed under a conservation restriction, a necessary requirement is Richmond is to receive a $50,000 state grant toward the purchase of the property and be eligible for future state grants for the upkeep of the camp.

Camp Marion White became available about a year ago, when the Girl Scouts decided to divest itself of several properties no longer used or in declining usage in recent years.

Chief operating officer for the regional council, Suzanne Smiley told The Eagle few local girl scout troops have used the camp within the past decade and the council stopped hosting programs and outings there about five years ago. There are some 200 scouts in the Berkshires among the 8,000 served by the council with efforts underway to boost the local numbers, she said.

The Girl Scouts bought the camp in 1952 from the Pittsfield Women's Club after having used the facility since 1939 when it was a girls day camp run by Marion White.

The council supports Richmond's future use of the scouting campsite.

"We absolutely want to keep the spirit of the camp, and open to all," Smiley said. "We think it's a good use of the property."

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.

• Public forum to discuss Richmond buying Camp Marion White, Thursday, 7 p.m., Richmond Consolidated School.

• Special town meeting to vote on loan toward purchase of the camp, Nov. 18, 7;30 p.m. at the school.

• Special election to exempt loan from Prop. 2 1/2, Nov. 21, 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., Richmond Town Hall


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