BRIGHTON — Rabbi Eli Hersch was surprised by the crowd that gathered to hear his plans for Camp Hamachane.
The auditorium at the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center was about two-thirds full.
“In all honesty, I thought there would be five people,” Hersch said.
“I hope we would have a great working relationship together. We do have a very ambitious goal — to be able to get into Camp Gabriels this summer.”
Neighbors and residents offered comments and asked a few dozen questions about the camp, its goals and its rules.
Dan Whitson, first assistant chief for the Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department, welcomed the new neighbor.
“I’m glad (Camp Gabriels reuse) is moving forward,” he said. “We will meet with you any time. We’re here for you.”
‘BOOST TO ECONOMY’
Brian McManus of Keene said he had looked into buying the property.
At one time, 115 people were employed there, he said, suggesting the vision for the camp be broadened.
“A seven-week program isn’t going to hire year-round, full-time help,” he said.
If used as a corporate retreat in the other seasons, he suggested, “I would think you would use a more secular name for it … and upgrade it (the camp).”
Hersch said that if they opt to establish a corporate or business retreat, they would likely create another sign for the different focus.
And he said he believes the camp use planned is a pretty good one, especially since it doesn’t require changing the historic property too much.
“Yes, we’re going to try to do what we can to help the economy here,” he said.
They will need to hire local builders and groundskeepers, along with purchasing for the camp, he said.
In addition, the campers — expected to number about 250 — would be able to shop in nearby stores and visit local attractions.