Deer Lake Scout Reservation Up For Sale
Access to a section of Killingworth’s Blue-Blazed Chatfield Trail that includes the rugged area around “Fatman’s Squeeze” is threatened. The “Squeeze,” with its multitude of interesting geological formations, beckons to be explored, and over the years, innumerable hikers have delighted in scrambling up and down its gneiss ledges, under its imposing overhangs, and through its tight cave-like chasms.
The owners, The Connecticut Yankee Council chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, recently decided to sell their Deer Lake Scout Reservation. The Reservation’s 240 acres has served as a beloved Boy Scout and youth camp for decades and hosts over a mile of the 4.5-mile Chatfield Trail. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Town of Killingworth, State of Connecticut, and conservation groups including CFPA, immediately sprang to try to preserve the property’s picturesque forestland and youth camp facilities. TPL was able to quickly put together a fair market value offer of over $2 million but was outbid by a private developer who bid over twice the property’s appraised value.
Despite an outpouring of community advocacy for protecting the property, which included the support of Senator Richard Blumenthal, who spoke to the public during a January press conference at Deer Lake that also included Town and State leaders and conservation partners, the odds that the property can be conserved appear bleak. There is a glimmer of hope, however, as the Yankee Council declared that they will consider any offer superior to the developer’s if received by March 31st. The clock is ticking, so please help us spread the word about what’s being done and what needs to happen to save this amazing land and camp. Update (3/31/22): The Yankee Council has postponed their decision until May 1 but the future of the property remains uncertain and the fight to save Deer Lake is not over. Update (4/5/22): The Yankee Council has rejected a purchase offer by Pathfinders, a non-profit organization that is seeking to protect Deer Lake as open space. The May 1st deadline remains in effect.
While we hold out hope that this story ends with the preservation of the property, we will continue to do everything we can to maintain public access to the Chatfield Trail corridor so that generations of Connecticut hikers and trail users can continue to trek through its rugged and beautiful trailscape. View a map of the Chatfield Trail and the Deer Lake Scout Reservation HERE. View some photos of the Chatfield Trail HERE.
The Challenge of Preserving Public Access to the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail Corridors
Since their inception in 1929, the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails have traversed a patchwork of public and private lands. Like the Chatfield Trail, many of our most popular trails, including the New England National Scenic Trail, Nipmuck, and Shenipsit, are not hosted on a continuous corridor of conserved land. The fact is, ongoing public access to the portions of our trail network on privately-owned properties is not guaranteed, and our trails can be vulnerable to closure wherever they cross private land. That’s why working with landowners to protect trail corridors is a top priority for CFPA every year. Today, approximately 1,000+ private landowners (our heroes!) allow our trails to cross their property.
Trail corridors are often most vulnerable to being closed to public use when the ownership of a property changes. After all, any landowner can always decide to put up “No Trespassing” signs and disallow trail access. CFPA works closely with landowners on an ongoing basis to keep trails in good condition and access open for all trail users.