WESTWOOD — Today, Hale is best known for its day camp programs and its leadership in outdoor education but that is not exactly how the organization got its start.
It began as a gift from a man whose vision was to have children outside and active and connecting with nature. March 11 marked 100 years since Robert Sever Hale wrote to the district commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America to invite troops to “use my land in Dover for scouting, camping, etc.”
Robert Sever Hale gave the land with the intention of helping the scouting movement by allowing them use the then 17 acres to explore, farm and build shelters and lookout towers. By 1926, the property, then known as Scoutland, had acquired nearly 1,000 acres spreading into neighboring Westwood. For years, troops from towns as close as Dedham and Medfield and as far as Dorchester and Roxbury were using the land as it was originally intended.
Sometime after Robert Sever Hale’s death in 1941, the property was renamed The Robert Sever Hale Camping Reservation in his honor. Respecting Hale’s original intention, the Board of Managers worked to maintain the property building a new Trading Post and purchasing camping equipment which could be rented to visiting scouts.
In the 1950s, with fewer and fewer scouts returning and the organization falling on hard times financially, small parcels of land were sold off to neighbors. The Board of Managers, hoping to avoid liquidation of the corporation, reorganized and agreed to extend the scope of service to the community.
By the 1960s, six major agencies were using Hale for camping and recreation. With this renewed interest from the public, management decided to clear the Red Cedar Swamp and build a dam creating Noanet Pond and the subsequent “Sustaining Membership” beach began. A few years later, the organization opened its gates to the general public for hiking, biking and general recreation.
Today, the organization boasts more than 1,100 acres and is known as Hale. It prides itself on being one of the largest day camp facilities in the United States, serving more than 4,400 children each summer with camp partners including the Parkway YMCA, South Shore Stars and Mass General Hospital’s Aspire program. Additionally, the organization has its own programs including Hale Day Camp and Hale Outdoor Learning Adventures, a collaboration with the Boston Public Schools offering a hybrid school/camp program which is curtailing the adverse effects of summer learning loss.
For information: http://halereservation.org.