Amazing opportunity with purchase of Camp Shepard

Amazing opportunity with purchase of Camp Shepard

The town of Smithfield has purchased Camp Shepard, 114 acres of land to be preserved and protected, from the YMCA of Greater Providence. The property surrounds the Sprague Upper Reservoir.

SMITHFIELD – The town has taken advantage of what Town Council President Suzy Alba calls a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the purchase of the Camp Shepard property, which includes 114 acres of natural resources previously used by the YMCA of Greater Providence.

The Town Council, during a special meeting last week, unanimously agreed to purchase the property for $1,225,000 from the YMCA of Greater Providence. The new park immediately becomes the town’s largest, according to officials.

Alba said this chance to preserve Smithfield’s environment represents a tremendous boon for the town.

“When the opportunity to purchase this site was recently presented, we did not hesitate in order to preserve this land for future generations,” she said.

Alba said she brought the proposal to the council immediately, including Town Manager Randy Rossi’s plan for financing the acquisition.

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Rossi said that the purchase will be handled as a lease from the town’s Capital Lease Fund, which allows the town to borrow from itself and budget repayment over time.

Once a 45-day period is over to finalize the purchase agreement, Alba said the council will form a committee to study and plan for future use. She said it will be a multi-year, multi-phase plan that will need funding.

“Camp Shepard is truly a gem and the possibilities are endless for the recreational opportunities and enjoyment this land can provide residents for all ages,” she said.

The town is actively looking for funding and grant opportunities at local, state, federal and private sectors for open space and recreational projects.

Smithfield and the YMCA worked together over the past two years with hopes to bring the Camp Shepard property back to life. Last July, the Smithfield Fire Department teamed up with the YMCA of Greater Providence to raze an old caretaker’s home on the property at 71 Colwell Road in Greenville.

The training activity was meant to reignite a partnership between the YMCA of Greater Providence and Camp Shepard.

Camp Shepard was built in 1970 after being gifted to the YMCA of Greater Providence from Brown University for $1 in the 1960s. The camp opened summers teaching children camping, archery, boating, arts and crafts and many other skills until its closure in 2008.

Alba said the land has “so much possibility,” including environmental education programs, hiking, biking, boating, swimming, camping, a picnic area, outdoor events such as a farmers market, and even a dog park.

She said as an abutter to Camp Shepard, she and neighbors would not want another development here, but she would not be opposed to adding a dog park.

The camp remained closed, with on-site gazebos and boathouse falling into disrepair, until talks of a partnership with Smithfield led the YMCA to conduct cleanup efforts and repairs.

According to Rossi, the YMCA has been hit hard by COVID-19, and has been looking to sell assets to make ends meet.

“Due to COVID, (the) financial need of the Y changed, and they had to look at opportunities to sell assets around the state in order to recoup some funds and keep things moving,” Rossi said.

Rossi added that the town hopes to partner with the Smithfield YMCA to create community programs, though it is not a term of the purchase agreement.

Rossi said the property is contained in Smithfield’s Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the Planning Board and Town Council in 2016, as an area for recreational open space that will maintain the character of the town.

He said when news came that the YMCA was looking to sell the property, developers expressed interest in the land, which surrounds the upper Sprague Reservoir.

For Smithfield, the additional land will connect two pieces of town property and create a continuous piece of conservation land.

He said the town intends to put a conservation easement on the property to prevent future development and will maintain the property for public use.


But the town can't find the money to refurbish the High School athletic fields??