KILLINGWORTH, Conn. (WTNH) — Visitors to Deer Lake often see a variety of birds, so they may not be surprised it has been designated as the Richard English Bird Sanctuary by the Connecticut Yankee Council, which owns the Boy Scout Camp in Killingworth. It is now looking to sell the 255-acre property to the highest bidder.
David Stephenson from Madison hopes to keep that sanctuary protected no matter who buys it and has filed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Yankee Council, which is a non-profit.
The lawsuit states the Boy Scouts “…declared the Richard English Bird Sanctuary through publication and the installation of signage proclaiming the use,” and claims that established a public trust and the bird sanctuary must be maintained.
“That’s even more so the case where you have a non-profit that has a charitable purpose,” Attorney Keith Ainsworth said.
Ainsworth represents Stephenson, who declined to be interviewed. Ainsworth said the sanctuary was established after Richard English, an ornithologist and philanthropist, donated a significant amount of money to the Boy Scouts in the mid-1908s and continues to provide support after his death in 2011.
“About a hundred thousand dollars a year have been designated for the Boy Scouts,” Ainsworth said.
The lawsuit, among other things, seeks “a declaratory judgment that the Deer Lake reservation was dedicated as a bird sanctuary…”
The Connecticut Yankee Council has until May 24 to respond to the lawsuit, which wouldn’t necessarily stop the sale of the property. However, the new owner may have to deal with the lawsuit and the possibility that part of the property may have to remain undeveloped if that new owner has to maintain the bird sanctuary.
The Boy Scouts have set a May 1 deadline for bidding on the property. This effort comes as a non-profit group, Pathfinders, is hoping to raise $5 million to outbid developer Margaret Streicker by then, which is just a few days away.