, Newburyport, MA

September 23, 2013

Rowley officials pursue purchase of Girl Scout property

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall

---- — ROWLEY – After completing a walk-through of the Girl Scout property on Wethersfield Street, which spans nearly 200 acres and is currently up for sale, selectmen said they want to look into how to purchase the property with Community Preservation Committee funds.

A sale price has not yet been set for the property but according to town records, the property is valued at $1,363,900. CPC funds are earmarked for projects related to recreation, historic preservation and conservation projects in the town, among other areas.

“We would be negligent if we didn’t try to preserve this property,” Selectman Bob Merry said. “I don’t know the number of houses that could be built there, but I imagine it would be at least 100 if a developer acquired the property.”

The Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts announced in July that they are selling the parcel at 390 Wethersfield St., which they have owned for more than 50 years. The property had been in operation as a camp since the early 1960s by the organization, which serves more than 40,000 young girls across the state and in New Hampshire in 178 communities.

The Wethersfield location has not been used for Girl Scout activities for more than three years because “the usage was off,” said Barbara Fortier, chief operations officer for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. Fortier added that the organization was looking to have some or all of the property declared as conservation land.

Since the sale was announced, several organizations have stepped forward and expressed an interest in sharing use of the property. This includes the YMCA of Ipswich, who would operate a summer camp on the property, a camp based in Newburyport, and two partners, Ericka Keefe and Erin Terry, who would like to utilize part of the property for a camp for children and teens with medical or mental health issues, such as cystic fibrosis, autism, anxiety and diabetes.

“We would like to work as partners with the town and maintain the beauty and usefulness of the property, while simultaneously providing additional income for the town,” they wrote in a letter to the town. “We are hopeful that the people of Rowley would use this land for cross-country skiing, hiking, biking and other outdoor activities.”

Selectmen said they are in favor of a collaborative use of the land – some for conservation, some for active use by a camp and some for passive use for residents – and hopeful that it will work out that way.

“This is an unbelievably valuable piece of land…and we should start looking into how we could acquire this property,” Selectman Dave Petersen said.

Town administrator Deborah Eagan was asked by the selectmen to look into the options for this possibility during a recent meeting.