Pathfinders Retires All Deer Lake Debts

When a local non-profit determined to preserve Deer Lake purchased the property in 2022 for $4.75 million, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal hailed the move as “a profoundly important moment.” But there was a catch: Nearly 40 percent of the cost was backed by loans, and skeptics warned it could take years to repay them.

They were wrong. It took 18 months.

Thanks to generous donations, Pathfinders, Inc. — the non-profit that bought Deer Lake from the Scouts – has accomplished the improbable: It retired a debt of $1.8 million. In doing so, it not only protected the 253-acre property from private development; it is now the sole proprietor – thus ensuring the nature reserve remains a green space in perpetuity.

“At one time, this was difficult to predict,” said state Sen. Christine Cohen, who supported Pathfinders’ efforts from the outset. “But, boy, how incredible and wonderful this news is.”

To celebrate the occasion, Pathfinders scheduled a news conference for Tuesday, April 2, at 1:30 p.m. at Deer Lake, with Blumenthal, Cohen and state Atty. Gen. William Tong expected to attend.

When Pathfinders first acquired Deer Lake in September, 2022, there was a celebration, too. But it was tempered by the knowledge that outstanding loans had to be satisfied before Pathfinders could gain complete ownership of the property. That happened when David Knapp, a lifelong Boy Scout who passed away last summer, this month made such a significant donation that, along with innumerable other contributions, it retired what was left of the remaining debt.

“We are hugely grateful to David Knapp and all the wonderful donors who got us to this day,” said Ted Langevin, president of Pathfinders. “When we signed the contract to purchase the land, we thought it could take many years to repay the loans that followed us to meet the seller’s deadline. Today, we are ready to move on to the next chapter of the Deer Lake story.

“Two main efforts remain ahead of us. To protect Deer Lake from development in perpetuity, we will now establish a permanent easement on the land. And, to ensure that no one is excluded from enjoying and learning from this precious open space, we will continue to enhance our facilities and expand our programming to accommodate and encourage broad use of this unique resource.”

Pathfinders’ announcement drops the curtain on a two-and-a-half year drama that began in September, 2021, when the Connecticut Yankee Council of the BSA announced its intention to sell the property. Then, in February, 2022, the CYC tentatively accepted an offer of $4.625 million from a developer to purchase the land … but set a March 31 deadline for interested buyers to supersede the figure.

That’s when Pathfinders jumped into action, launching an aggressive fundraising effort that included over 1,400 donors and spanned 87 Connecticut towns, 34 states and five countries with a “Save Deer Lake” campaign that led to its purchase.

“This wasn’t just a come from behind victory for Deer Lake and this community,” Tong said at a September, 2022, new conference “This was a Hail Mary.”

But that was then. And now? Now Deer Lake has been saved.

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