Locals Hope to Purchase Camden Training Center

A group of Camden, S.C., residents have secured pledges worth more than $1 million in the hope of purchasing the Camden Training Center from William S. Farish.

Farish notified key members of the community last November of his intent to sell the 385-acre facility. Austin Brown is one of Camden's residents who has explored new ownership options ever since.

"I really love this place," Brown said. "It means an awful lot to me and it means an awful lot to the community."

Brown serves as chairman of the Carolina Cup Racing Association, which holds its annual Carolina Cup steeplechase races in November at the town's other training center, Springdale. Both were once owned by Marion du Pont Scott, but after her death in 1983, Springdale went to the state of South Carolina and Farish purchased the Camden Training Center.

Brown said since last year's Carolina Cup, he and Camden residents John Cushman, Nancy Davis, Dale Thiel, and Max and Sibby Wood have been meeting to consider who could help and how the training center could be preserved. George Strawbridge also is involved in the effort.

Ideally, one interested and wealthy individual would purchase the property, but Brown said that isn't as feasible as in years past. "The land trust approach seems to be the (idea) making the most headway," he said. "We have some good supporters that are willing to make contributions."

If enough money is raised, and the land is able to be placed in a trust, Brown said easements to prevent future development would be established on the property.

Brown, at one time general manager of Delaware Park, has spoken with Farish regularly about the group's efforts. He estimated pledges at just over $1 million, and said the pricetag on the center is $1.5 million to $2.5 million. A tentative deadline for a decision, or an offer, is May 15.

"(Farish) desperately wants it to stay as a training center, but his problem is, he needs to get rid of it," Brown said.