Renaissance role-players take over Chesterfield Scout camp

  • Old benches made by Boy Scouts are stacked in the dining hall, above, Tuesday on the 186-acre property formerly used as the Chesterfield Scout Reservation. The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America sold the property this week to Tolgy Wood. Below, the property also includes an amphitheater and a pond. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY PHOTOS

  • Doug Johnson, grounds caretaker for Tolgy Wood, builds a water bar to prevent road erosion July 24, 2018 on the 186-acre property formerly used as the Chesterfield Scout Reservation. Behind him is Magee Lodge, which was once used as a trading post and dining area and now serves as lodging. The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America recently sold the property to Tolgy Wood. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Sunlight sparkles on a waterfall Tuesday on the 186-acre property formerly used as the Chesterfield Scout Reservation. The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America sold the property this week to Tolgy Wood. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The amphitheater at Tolgy Wood is shown July 24, 2018 on the 186-acre property formerly used as the Chesterfield Scout Reservation. The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America recently sold the property to Tolgy Wood. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The swimming area at Tolgy Wood is shown July 24, 2018 on the 186-acre property formerly used as the Chesterfield Scout Reservation. The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America recently sold the property to Tolgy Wood. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@BeraDunau
Published: 7/24/2018 8:49:27 PM

CHESTERFIELD — Chesterfield Scout Reservation may no longer be owned by the Boy Scouts, but there’s a good chance it will continue to be providing joy to its visitors for years to come.

The Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America sold the 186-acre Chesterfield Scout Reservation to Tolgy Wood LLC for $1 million on Monday. Tolgy Wood LLC then executed a 26-year lease agreement with Massachusetts Renaissance Faire LLC. The two companies have the same seven partners, but Tolgy Wood is the owning company and Massachusetts Renaissance Faire is the operating company of the site.

Paul Dabkowski, one of the partners in Tolgy Wood and Massachusetts Renaissance Faire, said the plan is for the facility to host live action role-playing games, as well as other events such as weddings.

The property includes an outdoor amphitheater, a large dining hall, eight cabins with electricity, adirondack shelters, and a large, modern kitchen, along with a pond and waterfall.

David Kruse, chief executive officer for the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the two organizations have a long-running relationship.

“They’ve been renting the property from us for many, many, many years,” Kruse said.

He also said that most of the people taking over the camp are either Eagle Scouts or had past involvement in scouting themselves.

The new name of the camp will be Tolgy Wood: Chesterfield Camp.

Dabkowski said he and others involved in Tolgy Wood have been renting Chesterfield Scout Reservation since 2003 for the live action role-playing Magestry, which is held one weekend a month almost every month. Dabkowski said each Magestry draws 60 to 130 people.

Live action role-playing games, LARPs for short, typically involve people dressing up as fictional characters and engaging in an immersive fantasy world they help to create. Many LARPS, including Magestry, have fantasy settings.

The council made the decision to sell the property in 2014, following an 18-month property study that concluded that the council should focus its efforts on the 1,300-acre Horace A. Moses Scout Reservation instead. The council had owned both the Chesterfield Scout Reservation and the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell since the merger of two area councils in 2008.

Kruse said that the vote to sell the property by the all-volunteer board of the council was unanimous.

“I’m excited that we can move forward,” said Kruse, on the sale.

He said the money would be used to invest in the Moses Scout Reservation, as well as deal with the council’s debt.

Dabkowski said that the group has been trying to purchase the property for four years, in a process that included having a lease-to-own agreement with the Boy Scouts rejected and having another purchaser’s offer being taken over one of their offers before that rival offer fell through.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” he said.

Dabkowski said that the decision to purchase the camp was made because of the effort of breaking down and taking away all the different items associated with Magestry.

“The game kept acquiring more and more stuff,” he said.

He said the camp will now primarily cater to LARP groups, renting to not only Magestry but to other games as well. He noted that LARP groups have become major customers for summer camps of all kinds in New England.

“They’ve become their biggest renter,” he said.

Dabkowski and his wife, Angela, another partner in Tolgy Wood and Massachusetts Renaissance Faire, were married at the camp site, and he said that the site will be available for rental for weddings as well. He also said that it will continue to be available for rental by scouting groups.

“The rates are going to go up,” he said, noting that the camp will now be paying property taxes and a mortgage.

The Boy Scouts of America is a tax-exempt organization.

Nevertheless, Dabkowski did express a desire to keep it affordable for scouting.

The group also runs the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire, whose second weekend of 2018 is taking place this weekend at the Cummington Fairgrounds. Patrons of the fair can also purchase the ability to camp at Tolgy Wood: Chesterfield Camp over the weekend.

“Tell people to come to the Ren Faire,” Dabkowski said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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