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Future of Deer Lake Scout Reservation is Uncertain

Submitted by Clark Judge.

The future of the Deer Lake Scout Reservation is uncertain, with its owner – the Connecticut Yankee Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) – unsure what it does next with the 255-acre property. It plans to sell. That much we know. But the question remains: To whom and when?

Nobody, including the Scouts, has an answer.

With that in mind, state and local politicians – including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) – will step forward Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 at a news conference in support of preserving Deer Lake as an open space that is part of the Connecticut greenway.

The event is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on the Deer Lake campus.

Among those expected to join Sen. Blumenthal are State Sen. Christine Cohen, State Rep. Christine Goupil, Killingworth First Selectwoman Nancy Gorski, former First Selectwoman Cathy Iino and representatives from the Audubon Society, Save the Sound, the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, Save Deer Lake and the Trust for Public Land.

Their support comes at a critical time. Deer Lake has been for sale since the fall, with two offers reportedly on the table. One, according to the Boy Scouts, is from a private developer. The other is from the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a non-profit organization designed to preserve and protect land.

TPL is working in cooperation with Pathfinders, Inc., a local non-profit steering committee to benefit outdoor education programs. In fact, it was Pathfinders that reached out to Sen Blumenthal earlier this month, asking for his support to keep Deer Lake an open space.

He agreed.

“Senator Blumenthal’s message is that we need to preserve this historic camp as an open space,” said Chris Collibee, Sen. Blumenthal’s communications director. “It is clearly very important to the people of Killingworth, as well as the surrounding communities, to ensure this is not turned into a private development. Whatever assistance he can bring to this, he wants to do in support of the people of Killingworth.”

Collibee, who has been a staff member at summer camps in central Maine, toured the property two weeks ago with Iino and longtime Deer Lake Camp directors Mark and Patty Clifton. He was impressed.

“It really is spectacular,” he said.

Blumenthal is not the only one expected to speak Thursday. So is Gorski, who has voiced support for the preservation of the property since her election in November as First Selectwoman. She plans to read a letter that the Board of Selectmen sent this month to the Connecticut Yankee Council on behalf of the town’s Open Space Committee.

“The Killingworth Open Space Committee finds that the Deer Lake Scout Reservation is a crucial part of the state greenway that runs through town,” it reads. “As such, it should be a priority for preservation as open space, in keeping with Killingworth’s Plan of Conservation and Development.”

The Deer Lake saga stretches back to last summer when the Boy Scouts decided to sell all but two of its 15 properties within Connecticut, including Deer Lake. Within the property is a summer youth camp that has been in existence for decades and last year had its most productive … and best attended … season. The Council last week concluded negotiations to turn the summer camp over to Pathfinders for this summer.

Where that leaves the remainder of Deer Lake is unknown. A decision was expected to be made at the Connecticut Yankee Council’s board-of-directors’ meeting in December, but that meeting was postponed until January. Then it was moved again, this time to February.

In the meantime, politicians gather to support the property’s preservation as an open space, the Trust for Public Land awaits a reply on its offer and the clock keeps ticking.

“I hope,” said Gorski, “that the offer from TPL has been accepted by the Yankee Council. In that way, I can ask the residents of Killingworth what they would like to invest in the property.”

Photos by Clark Judge. 

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