NLC News: Nantucket Boy Scouts Refuse to Keep Their Promise to Protect Camp Richard

The Nantucket Land Council (NLC) is extremely disappointed by the recent decision of the Camp Richard Campers Association (CRCA), acting on behalf of the Nantucket scouting program, breaking their agreement with the Land Council to protect a portion of the Camp Richard property with a permanent conservation restriction (CR). The NLC Board and Staff stood by the local scouting association board members in a protracted and difficult legal battle to protect the property from development and to keep it in the hands of the local scouts. We followed through with our commitment, and we succeeded. We were counting on the local scouts to follow through with their commitment to permanently protect the property.

Members of the CRCA were sued individually and collectively, in 2013, by the Cape Cod & Islands Council, Boy Scouts of America, Inc., who tried to seize the property and sell a portion of it to a developer.  The NLC’s interest in defending the Camp Richard property was two-fold. As a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Nantucket’s natural resources, we recognized the incredible value of the property as habitat and open space in the mid-island area.  No one had foreseen the attempt by the Cape and Islands regional scouting authority to attempt a land grab, sell portions of the property to a developer, and then use the proceeds for their own purposes. We wanted to preserve the integrity of this critical habitat and open space for the island in perpetuity. The NLC also recognized the incredible stewardship of the local volunteer scouts over the years in preserving the property ever since it was granted to them by the Civic League back in 1955. Our partnership with the local Scouts was formed around our common goals of helping them retain local control of the property, continue their low impact use as a wilderness camp in perpetuity, as well as permanently protecting the integrity of the land’s conservation values.

When the local scout leaders were personally sued and shut out of the Camp in 2013, we acted immediately, retaining counsel for them and for the Civic League. Over the course of the following five years of litigation, the Camp Richard Campers Association had ample opportunity to reconsider their commitment to protecting the property with a conservation restriction and find their own alternative to defending the property. During the years of expensive litigation, they did not do that, but instead acted as our partners. Ultimately, the case went to trial in Barnstable Superior Court. Only when the battle was over, and the Judge finally ruled that the CRCA were the rightful trustees of the property, did they decide that they would simply not honor their commitment.

The NLC and CRCA originally recorded a formal Option to protect the full 100 acres with a conservation restriction, with a projected financial contribution of 1.5 Million dollars to the CRCA. This option was later rescinded, following Judge Nickerson’s order that it violated an injunction he had granted at the start of the case. Notwithstanding his order requiring rescission of the formal option, the NLC proceeded to fund the legal defense in good faith, and in reliance that the substance of the agreement would be upheld, if we won the case. The CRCA had agreed to permanently protect the property with a CR if we were successful. The NLC ultimately spent approximately $450,000 in funds and other resources to achieve the victory.

Following our win to not only protect the property from the threat of a land-grab, but also our win declaring the CRCA as the rightful trustees of the property, the NLC attempted to work with them on the CR. A majority of the CRCA board members have now made it clear that they will not fulfill the agreement, and have refused to place a conservation restriction on any portion of the property. The NLC has made every effort to come up with a revised proposal that would address any concerns they have expressed, and to work with them to protect a reasonable portion of the property in exchange for a substantial additional financial contribution. Unfortunately the CRCA has been completely unwilling to come to the table to negotiate protection of any portion of the property.

Said Emily Molden, Executive Director of the NLC: “We have made proposal after proposal, trying to work with the local scouts, to tailor a restriction that will allow their historic use of the property, allow future uses as their needs may change, and get them substantial funds, while protecting the significant conservation values of the site.  We always viewed our agreement as a “win-win” for the local boy scouts and for the Island.  The agreement as contemplated would not interfere with their use of the site, and it would protect invaluable and rare open space habitat while getting the local scouts a substantial endowment. Unfortunately, they just won’t work with us.”

While the Camp Richard property is limited by the terms of the original Civic League grant to be used only “for scouting purposes” (or it reverts to Civic League’s ownership), it is unclear how “for scouting purposes” could be interpreted. The NLC has always been very concerned about protecting the integrity of the open space throughout the Camp Richard property as well as the incredible habitat it contains, while preserving the Scouts’ ability to continue to use the property for scouting. As it stands now, significant structures and buildings and other alterations could be constructed throughout the entire 100 acres, and it is not protected from a conservation perspective. A CR could preserve a legacy of “wilderness” that is clearly important for the scouting program, while allowing further growth and development of camp uses in a more concentrated area.

Lucy S. Dillon, The Land Council President, said: “ We are sorry to have this partnership, that worked together so successfully to achieve a common goal, fall apart for no apparent reason. All we are asking is for them to work with us to protect portions of the property in a way that preserves their future use, as they agreed to. It can be done in a way that benefits the CRCA, the NLC and the entire island community. It is just so sad to see an organization that purports to teach honesty and trust to our youth acting this way.”

For more information, please email Read more about our Conservation Restriction program HERE.