BREWSTER — Archery, sailing, water skiing, wind surfing, kayaking, riflery, soccer, lacrosse, and tennis, as well as ceramics, copper enameling, woodworking, cooking, and science workshops — the list of sports and other activities that campers and counselors once enjoyed at the Cape Cod Sea Camps (CCSC) is almost endless.
“When we had staff from the U.K., we would play things like cricket and quidditch,” said Daniella Garran, who was a camper, counselor, and administrator there. “We would even invent games, too.”
For now, these are just memories. Last November, the Delahanty family, which owns the camps, announced it would be closing them for good. After camping was suspended during the pandemic, the family said, it concluded there was no financially sustainable way to reopen.
“It’s like a death in the family,” Garran said. Alumni and staff were informed of the closing in a letter, after the fact, and have had no communication from the Delahantys since.
The 99-year-old institution sits on a 60-acre property off Route 6A in Brewster that includes an Olympic-size swimming pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, several sport fields, archery ranges, and a private beach. According to the Cape Cod Times, the property was assessed by Brewster this year at $8.76 million and a separate site on Long Pond, used for sailing lessons, was assessed at $1.15 million.
There was an auction to sell memorabilia such as plaques and signs from the camps. “It was basically good friends that got pitted against one another for things we all cherish,” Garran said. “A good friend of mine paid $1,200 for a trophy with her name on it.”
Garran first started as a camper at the CCSC in 1984, when she lived in Baltimore, Md. She later moved to the Cape and became a head counselor, program head, department specialist, and, ultimately, assistant director.
“The Sea Camps have been the most influential experience in my life,” said Garran, who now lives in Barnstable and works as a teacher at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School.
“I think what has been most difficult in all of this is a real lack of communication [between the owners and] former staff, campers, families, and alumni,” she said. “I’m confident that, had alumni been asked, the camps could have been saved.”
“Camps have folded across the Cape for 75 years and, after this one, there isn’t another one,” said Jim Fay, a former counselor at the CCSC.
Fay, who lives in Western Mass. but summers in Brewster, is leading the Brewster Flats Foundation (BFF), a nonprofit group of alumni and former staff who are attempting to raise enough money to purchase the CCSC property and run it as a camp.
Another auction, to sell physical assets such as bunk beds, boats, and archery equipment, is expected to take place, but, Fay said, the BFF is trying to stop it. According to the CCSC website, sales from the auctions are going to the Grant W. Koch Fund, which has helped children attend the CCSC and other camps.
“This is a really unique and special location, and the things that have been able to happen at the camp are far more valuable than any real estate development that can find its way to be a temptation of this place,” Fay said. “This has the capacity to affect thousands of kids.”
As of April 26, the BFF has raised $24,320 of its $50,000 goal, according to its website.
The Sea Camps were founded by Robert and Emma Delahanty in 1922, along with Robert’s Worcester Academy colleague Herriman Dodd, as a boys’ camp called Camp Monomoy on a six-acre property in West Harwich. Three years later, the camp expanded to an area in Brewster that is now a part of Nickerson State Park.
After the Delahantys had three daughters, they decided to start a girls’ camp, Camp Wono, at the current Brewster site, in 1938. In the 1970s, the CCSC moved its entire operation to the Brewster site and became a coed day and overnight camp that has welcomed thousands of children from across the country.
Jim Fleet, senior managing director at Phoenix Management Services in Boston, is representing the Delahanty family as it goes forward with a potential sale of the property.
In an email last week, Fleet said there is “really nothing to share at this time” as far as when the property may be listed for sale, adding that the family is “still working through a variety of considerations.”
Garran said the Delahanty family is in its third generation of ownership, and the current owners are grandchildren of Robert and Emma Delahanty. They include Jean Collins, Paula Collins McGlarry, Nancy Garran, Carol Austin, and Bobby Richardson.
Daniella Garran is related to the family through marriage — her husband, Jeff, is cousins with Nancy Garran. Both Daniella Garran and Jim Fay met their spouses at the CCSC. Daniella and Jeff Garran were married there.
Fay said the BFF wants not only to continue the CCSC as a summer camp but to offer recreational activities for local children and families during the off-season.
“There’s an overwhelming need for the Cape community to stand up and say we need this,” he said. “There’s a desire and real benefit to opening up these facilities on a year-round basis.”
He hopes the BFF can work in collaboration with Brewster and neighboring towns.
The Brewster Select Board released a statement in late November about its interest in the future of the property.
“The Sea Camps provided several generations of campers and their families with valuable experiences, and the camps are recognized as an important part of the community,” the statement read. “The Brewster Select Board and Town Administration recognize the potential opportunities ahead and are committed to playing a role in shaping the future of the camp properties.”
Garran agreed. “There’s so much potential,” she said.