A summer camp in Killingworth has been saved by a grassroots effort.
Thanks to donors, two private lenders, and the non-profit Pathfinders, Inc., Camp Deer Lake can continue to operate as a summer camp and recreational space.
"I'm holding back tears because this has been a very important moment for all of us who have worked so hard," said Pathfinders Inc. member Cat Harris.
Camp Deer Lake has been Cat Harris' home away from home. A summer tradition that began for her in the fourth grade and continued throughout her adulthood. She shares this love for the camp with her daughter.
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"It's freedom for a lot of kids. It's straight out of the past. Not very much technology," said Katrina Harris.
Like Cat and Katrina, those with childhood and family memories tied to the 253-acre camp worked to keep it operating.
"Oh, I've been here a couple times this summer. It's an absolute treasure. Beautiful hiking, great fishing, it's dead silent," said Brian Glenn of Middletown.
The property, previously owned by the Connecticut Yankee Council of Boy Scouts, was put on the market following the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case.
In February, the council released a statement on their website: "Simply put, we own too many properties for the membership we have today." That same month, they tentatively accepted a $4.6 million offer from developers.
But in just seven weeks, the non-profit Pathfinders, Inc. was able to offer $4.75 million and purchase the land.
"We started our own campaign and hit a nerve with the community. They really wanted us to succeed, and they showed it," said Pathfinders, Inc. President Ted Langevine.
Langevine's campaign "Save Deer Lake" was backed by many state leaders and environmentalists. Many of whom went to Deer Lake themselves or understand it's importance.
"I'm a former scout," said AG William Tong. "My son who is eleven is a member of Troop 15 based in Stamford. We know personally, and so many families across Connecticut know personally, what places like this mean."
"It really is a legacy, which nature should be. There is nothing wrong with development in the right places. People need housing. But not here," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
With their advocacy and donations from 87 Connecticut towns, 34 states, and a few countries, the camp and wilderness school is here to stay. Langevine says the next steps include paying back a loan of $1.8 million over the next 10 years.