Former St. Vincent’s Camp has bright future
‘for generations to come’


By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor
davejolivet@anchornews.org

WESTPORT, Mass. — February 26 was a day of reawakening in the town of Westport. On that day the Diocese of Fall River closed on the sale of the former St. Vincent de Paul Camp on Adamsville Road, handing it over to the Westport Land Conservation Trust.

For nearly one-half century, the land was the summer home to countless children of all backgrounds, who enjoyed all the beautiful property had to offer — fresh air, open space, nature, fun, food and friends.

Opened in 1958, the camp remained active until 2008, at which time the diocese ceased operations there. For the last 10 years, the land on the southern-most mainland community in the diocese remained dormant.

Two years ago the WLCT expressed an interest in the property and it and the diocese have been in negotiations.

It was important to the diocese that such pristine property shouldn’t be designated for development, but rather, in the spirit of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. sought to ensure the land would be conserved and remain a haven for people to enjoy, not destroy.

According to WLCT executive director Ross Moran, “Since its founding in 1972, the Westport Land Conservation Trust has assisted landowners in protecting more than 4,500 acres in Westport. WLCT is a private non-governmental organization dedicated to local land conservation on behalf of the Westport community. The organization accepts gifts of land and conservation restrictions on land, and assists farm-owners in preserving farmland with agricultural preservation restrictions.”

“Since the diocese closed St. Vincent’s Camp, the property has not been used for many years,” Bishop da Cunha said. “When the Westport Land Preservation Trust showed interest in purchasing the property, we were very glad to negotiate with them, which led to this happy conclusion of the transfer of this beautiful piece of land to be preserved and used for generations to come.” 

Moran told The Anchor, “The diocese played a significant role in conserving the St. Vincent de Paul Camp and Richmond Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. Iconic community conservation projects require a willing landowner, robust support from the community at-large, and investment from the local municipality — all of which came together during the protection of the St. Vincent de Paul Camp.

“The diocese’s willingness to work with the land trust to conserve the property and the patience to allow the process to happen over an extended period of time were instrumental in this project’s success.”

In November of 2016, the diocese sold to the WLCT the Richmond Pond property in Westport, a short distance from the camp, where campers used to go to enjoy the beach area on Buzzards Bay.

Today that property is a sanctuary where wildlife and nature are the key inhabitants.

A press release from Moran indicated, “In the next year, WLCT will enter phase two of this project as it continues to plan for the future of the property and transforms it into a community open space with more than two miles of new trails in the woodland section of the property. That transformation will include removing many of the former camp buildings and creating walking paths, open fields and meadows.”

“The Westport Land Conservation Trust and the Town of Westport seek to honor this legacy of connecting people to the land by protecting this property and making it available for the community’s use and enjoyment for generations to come. The plan is to open the property with public access to the 60-acre forest with nature trails complemented by a 20-acre open space in the heart of the property.”

At a gathering at the camp prior to signing over the property, Bishop da Cunha said this was “a win-win situation.”

He later told The Anchor, “Besides the benefit it will provide to the community, it will also mean considerable savings to the diocese, since we no longer have to pay taxes and insurance on the property. We feel it is a blessing that this property will continue being used for the benefit of the community of Westport and for the preservation of natural environment.

“We are happy to be partners with the Westport Land Conservation Trust in offering to the community a place where people of all ages will enjoy the beauty and gift of nature right in their neighborhood.”

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In a collaborative effort, the Town of Westport agreed to the purchase of two conservation restrictions protecting the property in perpetuity. “These restrictions will protect the property’s significant resources and ensure that it remains open for passive recreation,” said Moran.

Chairman of the WLCT’s board of directors, Trip Millikin said, “WLCT is enormously proud of this acquisition. This project is our largest endeavor to date and I am excited for the many future generations that will now get to enjoy the beauty of this iconic landscape.”

Westport Board of Selectmen chairman Steve Ouellette added, “I’m happy to preserve a piece of Westport history. Many of us in town attended camp there as children. I hope to see the property flourish with outdoor and recreational activity as it did back in the day. I appreciate the efforts of all who made this happen and look forward to working on its future usage and preservation.”   

Westport residents were largely in favor of the transaction. The WLCT press release said, “The property is an iconic piece of Westport’s landscape as evidenced by the over 140 families, individuals, and foundations that contributed to the purchase of the property. The former camp boasts a number of important resources for protection, including significant open space, rare species habitat, wetlands in the watershed of the west branch of the Westport River, and a variety of features illustrating Westport’s rural character.”

“Today’s closing brings to an end a very positive and cooperative endeavor between the Fall River Diocese and the Westport Land Conservation Trust,” said Bishop da Cunha. “The trust was able to expand its holdings with a mostly wooded, undeveloped track of land in which the Fall River Diocese no longer had interest. The sale makes it possible for current and future residents of the town to enjoy a pristine piece of God’s creation for years to come.” 


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