Efforts Intensify to Preserve Deer Lake
The 250-plus acre Deer Lake Scout Reservation in Killingworth is now receiving focused attention from town and state officials who are seeking federal funding to prevent private development of the ecologically unique parcel.
According town records, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has owned the property for more than six decades and currently has two offers on the property, one via a private proposal and another from a non-profit consulting with the town.
State and town officials gathered on the property last week to seek support and funding for the property’s preservation.
The current effort centers on brokering a deal by which the property could be purchased by a partnership of state, town, and/or non-profit entities that would preserve the parcel and also commit to keeping the camp functioning.
First Selectwoman Nancy Gorski spoke of the property’s heritage and the community’s affection and dedication to the parcel at a press conference at Deer Lake last week.
“The Killingworth Open Space Committee finds that the Deer Lake Scout Reservation is a crucial part of the State Greenway that runs through our town. As such, it should be a priority for preservation as open space, in keeping with Killingworth’s Plan of Conservation and Development,” Gorski told the group. “We, the residents of Killingworth, strongly support efforts to work with the current property owner, the Trust for Public Land and other environmental organizations, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental protection, and other local, state, and national entities to ensure that Deer Lake is protected from development in perpetuity.”
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has become a vocal supporter for the preservation of the parcel, spoke at the press conference last week as well.
“For decades, Deer Lake has been a magical haven, a precious and pristine treasure. This 250 acres must be preserved as open space,” said Blumenthal. “To allow it to go the way of development would be unconscionable because it has been such a wonderful resource, and not just for the campers, but for all of us it represents the best of Connecticut…It is the ecological life blood of this region and if we lose it there is no way to recover it.”
The senator also told spectators that he is committed to taking his advocacy effort before colleagues in Washington to seek federal funding support.
“Open space is not something you lose and then you recover somehow. Once it’s lost, once it’s developed, it’s gone and gone forever. This place is magical and truly is a treasure for the whole state. That’s why I will be going to the Water and Land Conservation Fund of the Great Outdoors Act seeking whatever resources we can find…I join you in the plea to private donors, and to the federal government and the to the state, to make sure that we preserve Deer Lake and the land, water and streams that are here,” Blumenthal said. “The people that are going to make this happen are you. I am going to go to the federal government and I am going to pound on doors, and go to public officials, and make the case that this 255 acres is not just about Connecticut, but about the ecological system that it supports.”
State Senator Christine Cohen (D-12) also spoke of the importance of the property to her constituents, and of the need to keep it undeveloped.
“‘Magical haven’ is the perfect way to describe this special place,” said Cohen. “I was here recently to walk the grounds with a forester and saw all of the beautiful work they are doing to save certain species of trees. This important work is going on right now in these trees behind us. This is very important work of conservation. When we talk about climate change, conservation and preservation is absolutely key. I am not anti-development, but I am anti-developing this property. We absolutely need to make sure that we preserve this beautiful land, preserve these trees, and preserve all of this space.”
This past October, the Connecticut Yankee Council of the BSA put the property on the market, according to town records. That council has been motivated to conclude a deal quickly after supplying a $1.2 million payment to the Boy Scouts of America as part of the BSA’s national bankruptcy settlement, making preservation efforts even more time sensitive, according to volunteers working on preservation.
The parcel is critical, according to officials and members of the various entities urging the town to purchase the parcel, because it could become another component of the Greenway Trail that stretches from Middletown to the shore, including part of the renowned Blue Trail. There are two endangered species that are found on the property, according to experts: American chestnut, of which mature specimens are virtual extinct in the northeast, and carnivorous plants called sun dew, which are a species of special concern in the state.