State to Purchase, Preserve Boy Scouts’ Land in Burrillville
September 20, 2023
BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — The state Department of Environmental Management will acquire more than 900 acres of land in town from the local Boy Scouts of America chapter for $1.61 million, according to a purchase and sale agreement approved by the State Properties Committee.
The parcel on Buck Hill Road sits between the George Washington and Buck Hill Management areas and conservation land in Connecticut.
“Once acquired, it will result in a total contiguous protected area of over 7,000 acres,” DEM’s chief public affairs officer Michael Healey wrote in a statement to ecoRI News.
The land will be incorporated into the Buck Hill Management Area and managed by DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife for recreational purposes.
“For Scouts, the outdoors is an essential part of our heritage and we were careful, thoughtful stewards of this land in Burrillville for decades,” Tim McCandless, Scout executive and CEO of the Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement to ecoRI News. “That’s why we are very pleased to be able to transfer the ownership and care of this open space to the public, so that everyone can continue to enjoy it for years to come.”
About $1.2 million of the purchasing price was paid for by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Restoration Program, with the remaining money coming from a Rhode Island open space bond, according to Healey.
The purchase and sale agreement shows the assessed value of the land is $3,498,100.
Before the state stepped in to buy the property, some local residents and environmentalists expressed concerns about its future following a class-action lawsuit directed at and bankruptcy filing from the national Boy Scouts organization, ecoRI News previously reported.
The Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America — which includes troops in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts — had previously planned to sell about 200 acres to Getaway, a “glamping” — glamourous camping — company, which had proposed building 65 cabins on the property. But those plans fell through earlier this year after the company withdrew its proposal, citing concerns about financial viability.
This is not the first time the state has purchased land from the Boy Scouts. DEM, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, bought 189 acres of land in Burrillville, also near the Buck Hill and George Washington Management areas, from the Boy Scouts of America Narragansett Council in 2012.
“The property consists of high-quality forested upland, mostly oak and maple, and an important cedar swamp,” Healey wrote about the 900 acres, adding that it “presents a unique opportunity to significantly increase the acreage of protected forestland in R.I.”
Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust, had called the land particularly valuable from an environmental perspective, and had sought a conservation easement when the Getaway plan was being discussed “so the property is never, ‘never’ with a big ‘N’, Never broken up into house lots and developed into single-family residences. Never,” he said at the time.