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Connecticut Boy Scouts are facing conservationist barriers while trying to sell land


The Connecticut Yankee Council are attempting to sell their 252-acre Boy Scout reservation in Killingworth to a land developer. Environmentalists and public officials would rather see the land preserved.

WSHU’s Ebong Udoma spoke with CT Mirror’s Tom Condon to discuss his article, “Deer Lake: Another round in the battle between conservation and sprawl,” as part of the collaborative podcast Long Story Short.

WSHU: Tom, could you tell us about Deer Lake, the 252-acres owned by the Boy Scouts that is up for sale?

TC: Yeah, Deer Lake is a Boy Scout reservation, a wooded area that's been used for hiking and camping and mountain climbing for years. And the Boy Scouts are in the process of selling it. They're facing sexual abuse claims across the country and need to sell family jewels, like Deer Lake, to pay the awards. I mean, this is a terrible situation, but there it is. So this beautiful pristine wilderness area is now on the market. And at the moment, a developer is the highest bidder. So this open land may be sold for development.

WSHU: So Tom, conservation groups are against this?

TC: Yes, you're right. Two conservation groups have bid on the property. But at the moment the developer's bid is higher.

WSHU: Could you also tell us about funds that the state has set aside for conservation?

Well, they have not entered the picture yet. The state has not bid on the property yet. And the price may be prohibitive. The state funds are somewhat limited and they have to be apportioned to a budget. So the state hasn't stepped in yet. Although Senator Blumenthal is looking into a federal intervention, which might swing the thing in favor of conservation. We'll see — it's kind of up in the air right now.

WSHU: Now, the developer, has he made any specific plans?

TC: The New York developer? No, no plans have been announced.

WSHU: But the fear of conservationists is that it will be developed into housing.

TC: Exactly. This piece of land in Killingworth is a rural area. And it connects with two other state preserves, the state forests and another open space area, and connected areas are important. They're important for a number of reasons, you know: wildlife habitat, wildlife corridors, protection of core forest. Core forests are very important for the environment — for protecting water supply, for carbon sequestration, cleaning the air, so core forests are important. And this 252-acre area connects to other areas. So that's one really key reason to preserve it.

WSHU: And where do we stand now? What's the situation as far as this property is concerned? Because I understand that there are some lawsuits also in the works.

TC: Yes, there is a lawsuit pending. Interestingly, there is a bird sanctuary on the property. And the lawsuit asks the court to preserve the bird sanctuary. How that would affect the development is not clear, but it would probably inhibit it. It's a waiting game right now. The Boy Scouts put the property on the market. There have been three bids.

So the question now is whether at the 11th hour, the conservationists can come in with a competitive bid and then the question is whether the Boy Scouts will sell it to them.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.