When Christina Forristall walks the land at Deer Lake Scout Reservation in Killingworth, she feels calm.
"I love this space. It brings so many memories from childhood. My kids have great memories here," said Forristall. "It is definitely more than just a piece of property. It's just a magical place for kids from all over the shoreline."
The 253 acre reservation has been an important part of Forristall's family for generations. Now, she is part of a grass-roots effort to save it.
"It would be devastating to have it lost for the community," said Forristall.
The Boy Scouts of America Connecticut Yankee Council announced in February that they would be selling the reservation and were already pursuing a buyer.
"Simply put, we own too many properties for the membership we have today," Mark Kraus, scout executive, wrote in a statement published on the council's website in February of this year. "This decision wasn’t taken lightly and was done with the Scouts of today and tomorrow in mind. While we are divesting from Deer Lake Scout Reservation, the buyer is allowing the Council to lease the property for at least the next three years to operate it as a camp."
Kraus did not respond to an interview request for this story.
Shortly after the Connecticut Yankee Council (CYC) made that announcement, a non-profit stepped in and started fundraising. Pathfinders Inc. launched a "Save Deer Lake" campaign. They are hoping to raise enough money to make a competitive offer and purchase the reservation.
"To try and preserve the land. That's really the first goal. That land is priceless," said Ted Langevin, president of Pathfinders Inc. "Preserve the property in its natural state and also be able to open it up for recreation and educational programming."
According to Langevin, the CYC said it would take $5 million to make a competitive offer. So far, they have raised approximately $4.2 million.
Attorney General William Tong is currently reviewing questions regarding the legal status of the property and a potential sale. According to Tong, at his request, the CYC agreed to postpone consideration of proposals for the purchase of Deer Lake until May 1.
Pathfinders is working to raise $800,000 before they have to submit their proposal at the end of the week to meet the May 1 deadline.
"It's crunch-time," said Langevin.
Their effort has garnered support from lawmakers and environmental groups.
"It is properties like this that we really need to be trying to preserve as open space. Not only to protect wild life, but also to mitigate the effects of climate change," said David Anderson, land campaigns manager with Save the Sound.
"Save Deer Lake" signs are posted throughout Killingworth and people from across the country have donated to the cause.
Matt Albrecht grew up in Killingworth and used to fish at the lake with his dad. He lives in Maine now, but drove back to Connecticut to sell barrels as a fundraiser for the camp. He raised more than $5,000.
"I just donated every single penny that we raised to the camp so that way hopefully we can make a difference," said Albrecht.
Maeve, a third grader, was approved to host a pajama day fundraiser at her school to raise funds. Her fundraiser is due to take place this week, but so far she has raised $935, according to her mom.
"The outpouring from the community is just amazing," said Langevin.
To learn more about the fundraising efforts, click here.
"Nobody wants to see this get developed," said Forristall.