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Camp Lion in Salem, MA Saved by Volunteers… and the Economy

On Thursday, October 20th, 2011, it was announced that the developer with  plans to build a Lowe’s Home Improvement Center at the site of Camp Fire on the property of Camp Lion in Salem, MA is not going forward with the project.  Lowe’s also announced last week that it was closing several “underperforming” stores and scaling back on opening new stores. 

“I’m sure that is one of the reasons for the developer’s decision, but I also believe it also was the outcry of opposition from citizens and the lawsuit filed by the City of Lynn,” writes Leslie Courtemanche in a letter to savecamps.org. “Of course I, along with many other citizens are happy about this–but it does not insure protection of the camp or the land as open space.”

“We are looking for volunteers to help us preserve this wonderful area for the camp children and for others who use the area AND for the wildlife,” explains Courtemanche. “The Camp Lion Board and Salem Planning Board have drastically under-estimated how much people care about this camp. They love this area and are willing to fight for it.”

The Salem Planning Board had previously approved this massive project, despite public outcry against it. Three or more concerned citizens have filed a Complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office against the seller of the property (a non-profit organization, Camp Lion) and the City of Lynn has filed a lawsuit against the City of Salem (Planning Board) and the developer.

“Ironically,” Courtemanche continues “the Articles of Organization for Camp Lion of Lynn, Mass, Inc., a non-profit organization, registered with The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, states: “to maintain a tract or tracts of wild woodland for the purpose of providing ample opportunity for recreation in the open air;” Also, according to a state map source OLIVER, Camp Lion is mapped as a Non-profit Open Space, under Conservation/ Recreation layer.”

In spite of this, the camp was placed under a purchase and sale agreement to turn a portion of the land into retail stores for Lowe’s and a Super Wal-mart expansion. Both retail stores would have had to acquire the wild wooded area and blast the ledge, in proximity to wetlands that reach Spring Pond, the City of Peabody’s water supply.

“Children NEED to explore nature in order to appreciate and preserve it,” Courtemanche writes in closing. “Please visit www.springpondwoods.com for further information.”

SaveCamps.org has written before about the possibility of protecting this camp through a conservation easement. I hope the dropped plans for the Lowe’s store will make the board members of Camp Lion more agreeable to exploring this option. For now Camp Lion is saved and it would seem we have the economy and a lot of dedicated volunteers to thanks. Thanks and good luck with your continued efforts in Salem.

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