In the last six decades, the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn’s summer day camp in Middleton has provided thousands of mostly underserved children a refuge to swim, fish, hike, and experience the natural world.
Now through an innovative partnership, the Camp Creighton property has been permanently protected and the club has gained new resources to invest in the 121-acre site, which was donated to the club in 1959 by Albert and Margaret Creighton.
Essex County Greenbelt raised $2.7 million to purchase a conservation restriction on the Essex Street property, helped by a $559,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, according to Cathy Lanois, Greenbelt’s director of development and community engagement.
Greenbelt and DCR will co-hold the legal restriction, which bars any development on the site except for construction the club might undertake to enhance programming on the 13.5-acre core area of the camp.
The remainder of the site encompasses Creighton Pond and a wooded area with trails. Under the restriction, the club retains ownership of the site.
“This enables us to protect a beautiful landscape rich in ecological value,” Lanois said, noting that since the site is within the Ipswich River Watershed, its conservation also protects the drinking water of communities drawing from the river.
As part of the agreement, the club is making its trails available for public use, according to Lanois, whose organization will work with DCR to upgrade those pathways.
Beyond those benefits, “It’s a wonderful way to help ensure the future of this camp that the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn has operated since the 1960s,” she added.
“It was a great opportunity for the club to keep this land,” Brian Theirrien, the club’s executive director said, “and to allow kids — especially kids from the city — to continue to experience what this camp has to offer.”
He said the club has never considered selling the property, but the restriction assures that will remain the case for the long term — while also generating funds to modernize the camp.
Over the next two years, the club plans to use the $2.7 million restriction proceeds to renovate an inground pool and a multi-purpose field, add basketball courts and a new playground and obstacle course, and upgrade the septic system. Those enhancements could potentially lead the club to expand programming at the site beyond the summer months, Theirrien said.
Open from mid-June to late August, the camp daily serves about 300 area children ages 6 to 14 — the vast majority from Lynn and 90 percent from low-income families. The weekly cost is $210 per child, but the club provides about $75,000 in financial aid through the summer.
“It’s a place for kids to run around safely, meet new friends, learn how to swim, boat, and just have a summer of fun,” Theirrien said, noting that children also participate in field games like soccer and capture the flag.
While Greenbelt and the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn had not partnered previously, their common connection to the Creighton family made it natural for them to work together, the two groups said.
The late Albert Creighton, Jr., a Manchester-by-the-Sea resident and son of Albert and Margaret Creighton, was a strong supporter of both Greenbelt and the club.
Creighton Jr., who died in 2018, was well known locally for his commitment to land conservation, which included co-founding the Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust. Those efforts led Greenbelt to establish the Al Creighton Conservation Award in 2011, and the Essex National Heritage Commission to present him an Essex Heritage Hero Award in 2015.
When the Creighton family donated the land, “they had every intention that this camp would be here for the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn forever,” Theirrien said. “By our partnering with Greenbelt, this dream has now become a reality.”
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.