NLC News: NLC wins Camp Richard land protection case

Nantucket Land Council, Civic League and Camp Richards Association successful in its legal case to confirm local ownership and control

The Nantucket Land Council, the Nantucket Civic League, and the Camp Richards Campers Association are thrilled to announce their victory in preserving local ownership of Camp Richards, the Nantucket Boy Scout camp. Culminating a six year legal battle, Judge Gary Nickerson on July 16 declared that the Camp Richards Campers Association is the just and proper Trustee of the property.

The Nantucket Boy Scouts have run a Boy Scout camp near the Town Forest since 1955.  Over the years, the local Boy Scouts have hosted hundreds of Boy Scout troops from all over Massachusetts, New England, and beyond, in overnight wilderness camping experiences on their 100 acres of pristine forest. The land was donated to the local Boy Scouts by the Nantucket Civic League in 3 grants, beginning with 16 acres in 1955, and then added to the early 1970’s. The local Boy Scouts founded the non-profit Camp Richards Campers Association in 1973 to run the camp, all with local volunteer help and donations, and they have invested thousands of hours in running the camp.  The Land Council and the Civic League supported the local scouts because of the critical importance of the site as open space, and the importance of maintaining local control by people who have proven to be good stewards of the land. Nantucket Land Council Executive Director Cormac Collier said:

“This is an amazing win for the people that put so many years of hard work into the camp and to all Nantucketers for years to come. The Land Council was proud to fight for local control and invested significant resources to insure that this land remained as open space.”

In 2013, the regional Boy Scouts entity, the Cape & Islands Council of the Boy Scouts of America, tried to assert ownership of the site, ignoring the rights of the local Boy Scouts and of the Civic League, and then sell off a substantial portion of it to a real estate developer. When the local scouts defied their plans, the Cape & Islands Council preemptively went to court in Barnstable, without notice to the local Boy Scout Committee, claiming that it owned the land, despite the long history of local control and ownership, and it obtained an ex parte injunction from Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson awarding it possession and barring the local Nantucket scout leaders from the camp.  The Civic League, which retained a right to have the land revert to it if it was no longer used by the local scouts, and the Nantucket Land Council joined forces with Camp Richards in order to support the local scouts and protect the area.  The injunction was modified, the Civic League’s right of reversion was confirmed, and the immanent sale to the developer was stymied, but the Court also ordered that the local scouts and the Cape & Islands Council jointly run the camp, and made the Cape & Islands Council the trustee of the camp.  Losing local control to an off Island entity that had already shown its propensities was unacceptable, so the Nantucket parties successfully appealed that part of the Judge Nickerson’s decision to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, claiming that the Judge had appointed the Cape & Islands Council as trustee without having first heard any evidence as to whether that appointment was appropriate.  This past winter, the Appeals Court agreed, and the case was remanded back to the Superior Court for a determination of who should be the permanent trustee, the Camp Richards Campers Association or the Cape & Islands Council.

Peter Fenn, the Land Council’s long-time attorney, said:

“I’ve been counsel to the Land Council for over 35 years, and for me personally, this may be the most significant case I’ve ever worked on.  The way the entire Island community has come together to support their local institutions has been incredible.  The Island has changed a lot since my first Land Council case in 1982, but the sense of a tight knit, mutually supportive community is still present. This is what makes Nantucket such a special place.”

The Land Council will be working with the Camp Richards Campers Association to secure a permanent conservation restriction on the property.  See the July 19, 2018 Inquirer & Mirror story here.

To date, the Nantucket Land Council spent over $300,000 in legal fees to fight for Camp Richard land to remain with the Camp Richard Campers Association.  Please consider a donation to the Nantucket Land Council to help replenish our legal defense fund, which made this outcome possible.