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As a potential sale looms, Connecticut conservationists try to save Deer Lake campground

Adirondack lean-to shelters at one of the camp sites at Deer Lake Scout Reservation in Killingworth, Connecticut.
Wikimedia Commons
Adirondack lean-to shelters at one of the camp sites at Deer Lake Scout Reservation in Killingworth, Connecticut.

Conservationists are running out of time to stop the sale of Deer Lake Scout Reservation in Killingworth, Connecticut.

The Connecticut Yankee Council decided to sell the campground as local Boy Scouts organizations have struggled financially over the last two decades. Mark Kraus, scout executive and CEO of the council, said membership has dwindled from a high of 20,000 scouts.

“The membership had dipped down to 5,500 youth but they still owned all five camps,” Kraus said. “So, one of the things I did when I first got here was to ask our property committee to do an in-depth study of all of our properties in regards to usage, in relationship to our membership, in relationship to financial viability.”

The council has accepted a bid from a private developer for the 255-acre site and has given other interested parties until the end of March to make a higher bid.

Killingworth First Selectwoman Nancy Gorski said despite the town and a public land trust putting a bid on the campground, she’s disappointed the council is selling the land, and the price they’re asking for.

“The Boy Scouts are looking, the $4.6 million is too high. I do know that in speaking with the Trust for Public Land that we’re looking at options to see whether or not we can have it re-appraised. Is there a way though we could potentially raise the bid we’re putting together?”

In a statement, the Trust for Public Land called Deer Lake “an incredible geological wonder.”

Even U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has thrown his support behind saving the campground at Deer Lake. He said he is deeply concerned that it will be sold to a private developer and will no longer be accessible to the public.

The property connects with Connecticut state forest; it forms an important part of a greenway and includes a portion of the Blue Trail.

“The Deer Lake Camp itself has been a beloved summer camp for decades, with multiple generations of families attending the camp,” he said in a January statement.

The Council said they are selling the property due to dwindling membership and the economic challenges they face as a property owner. They said the scouts will use the money to bolster two other camps in the state that have higher attendance.

In a separate matter, the council will have to hand over some property and assets to the Boy Scouts of America’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings as part of the $2.7 billion national settlement of 80,000 child abuse claims. The sale of Deer Lake is not part of the national settlement of the abuse claims.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.